Four things women today can do to take control and feel empowered

Do you feel like life is happening to you, and that you aren’t really in control? Karen Powell, Lesley Heath and Kate Goodman, co-authors of Woman of Our Time share four things you can do to feel more empowered.

Our research shows that many women lack self-confidence and self-belief as a result of societal conditioning or psychological traits.

The pandemic added to this as it affected women more than men: they were more likely to be furloughed, more likely to be home-schooling, more likely to be caring for elderly parents and, unfortunately, more likely to be consumed with self-doubt.

This article aims to help women reflect, take back their control, feel empowered and regain their self-esteem. So here are four things you can do to get started.

1) Believe in yourself

We think this is great advice for everyone. You have to believe in yourself if you want others to believe in you. Yes, we know it’s easier said than done when you have your phone in one hand, a bread knife in the other and a toddler clinging to your leg.

You’re probably wondering, ‘Believe in what? Who am I, anyway?’, but you do yourself a great disservice by putting off what you want to do, or what you may be good at, by not asserting your opinions.

2) Make positivity a habit

There have been glimmers of positivity emerging from the churned wasteland of the pandemic. Like yin and yang – with every darkness comes light. In other words, something good we want to continue. The important thing is that we focus on the positives and make them a habit in our future lives.

Think about what has happened to you in the past three, six or twelve months (capturing this somewhere like a journal might help you with this) and:

  • Identify a positive thing that happened to you because of something you did. 
  • Write down how this made you feel and what you learnt from this about yourself. 
  • Think about and capture how you are going to use this strength in the future. 
  • Identify a negative thing that happened to you, write down how this made you feel about yourself.
  • Think about what you need to do differently to stop this happening again write this down.

This can be quite an emotional exercise, especially if your confidence is on the floor, but we’ve got you.

You’ve got you. We believe in you. You believe in yourself. If you find it too difficult right now, take a deep breath and try again another time. Which brings us nicely to being present, in the present.

3) Live in the moment

How many of us put things off until another day? How quickly do we find that time is passing us by, and before we know it, we’ve missed out on opportunities or sleep walked through milestones?

This is because we are all too ‘busy’ getting through the day and frantically ticking things off on our ‘to do’ list to stop and reflect on what is important – on what we want to do rather than what we feel we ought to do.

We need to take a deep breath and hit that pause button, even for a moment. Lockdown forced us to do this – to pause our normal lives as we obeyed the ‘stay at home’ instructions from the government. Socialising was out. So was the gym. Work stopped, changed beyond all recognition or sent us to our kitchen tables to manage alongside home-schooling. We connected with our friends and family online and got to know our neighbours as we clapped for carers or helped with shopping. Many of us were suddenly far more present in our own homes and lives than we ever had been before.

Gradually, we emerged from the safe cocoons of our homes for permitted exercise and many of us simultaneously went on a voyage of discovery within our own neighbourhood. Our walks meant we found new places and interesting sights on our doorsteps. Without the tumult of road traffic and air travel, we found we were breathing cleaner air. We could smell the wild garlic in the local woods and really notice the birdsong in a quieter world.

Unintentionally, many of us were getting better at actively listening and at being present in the moment. Being mindful (living in the moment) is all about taking time to notice what’s around us and really capture what we’re experiencing. It’s a great way to gain clarity in our hectic lives: that essential freedom to breathe. It helps us clear our minds and become tuned to our senses and grounds us to our surroundings. It’s a great habit to continue or start. Here’s how.

We have five senses, and we don’t use any of them as much as we could. Taking time to notice what’s around us, to really capture what we’re experiencing, can be a really helpful way of gaining clarity in our hectic lives. Think about, or write down, what you’re sensing at a given moment. Ask yourself:

  • What can I hear?
  • What can I see?
  • What can I smell?
  • What can I taste?
  • What can I feel/touch?

You can do this any time, but be sure to do it at least once every day. We think this is a wonderful tool –one of our favourites – and especially useful if you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, or simply can’t see the wood for the trees.

4) Choose your words carefully

We’ve left perhaps the most important lesson to last. One of the big differences between people with healthy self-esteem and people with low self-esteem is the words they use to describe themselves.

Women, especially, are conditioned to minimise themselves and to compartmentalise their achievements and positive attributes. We end up reinforcing our own stereotypes by using negative language until we get smaller and smaller. We disappear into insignificance and, often, depression.

Bigging ourselves up can seem boastful and not ‘ladylike’. Yet with women still being paid significantly less for equivalent roles than men and holding fewer senior roles, it’s vital that we reclaim our self-worth and use respectful language about ourselves.

This is not necessarily about standing in front of the mirror chanting positive affirmations every morning (although there’s nothing wrong with that). It’s about being aware of the story you’re telling others.

Using small, insidious words that seep into the everyday serves to cunningly undermine you until you are so far removed from what you are, or where you want to be, that you are lost. Little words like ‘just, can’t, sorry, but…, I only…’ Hands up if you’ve ever said, ‘Oh, I’m just a…’ Thought so.

These words and phrases may seem small and insignificant, but they will reinforce others’ opinions of you as being small and insignificant, and unable or incapable of doing anything. By being mindful of the language you use towards yourself and using alternative, more empowering words, and phrases, you may rediscover some of that self-esteem and find yourself again.

It’s time to find new words to tell your story. Try to be really mindful about what you say about yourself, and how you’re portraying yourself to others – whether at work, in your relationships or in friendship groups. It’s time to empower your language and send your self-esteem soaring.

This is an adapted book extract from Woman of Our Time by Karen Powell, Lesley Heath and Kate Goodman.

Karen and Lesley have more than 50 years of experience in senior HR, safety, and executive roles in complex organisations, and are now owners of boutique coaching agency A Matter of Choice. They are on a mission to help one million women be their best and their new book Woman Of Our Time, aims to do just that.

Co-author, Kate Goodman is an award-winning communicator, and owner of The Good Comms Company. She worked closely with Karen and Lesley on the book to bring their vision to life.

Photo by Ryan Moreno