All I have to do is say the word "empowerment" and I can feel something sparkle inside of me. Empowerment is the essence of being "ME" and everything that represents me. It is the essence of owning all that is me and giving me a voice.
Disempowered: not having a voice, feeling unheard, not valued, my contributions don't matter, oppressed, invisible, and stifled are the feelings I swarmed in as a child--well into my adult years. These feelings were compounded again and again by trauma and physicians telling me that "there is no cure" for my symptoms or diagnoses. I was a statistic and numbers drove interventions. As I was prescribed antibiotic after antibiotic well into the hundreds by high school, I was getting more and more sick, but I still remained at the mercy of professionals telling me what I needed or should do.
I was introduced to the concept of empowerment when I started my graduate program in social work. Social workers live and breathe empowerment--it is even a part of our ethics and values. Therefore, the idea of giving someone a voice and valuing their contributions, opinions, and choices not only became part of my training, but also part of how I was treated by my peers, supervisors, and mentors. Empowerment isn't linear, it works in both directions--you give it, you receive it.
Suddenly a sparkle inside of me started to grow as I experienced how good it felt to be asked what I needed, what was working or what wasn't, and how my strengths contributed to my life outcomes. I saw how applying empowerment principles when working with my client made them feel--I saw their symptoms and sense of well-being improve by merely giving them a voice in treatment. I was trained to NEVER view myself as more knowledgeable than, better than, or to know more than my clients. After all, they were in charge of their lives and they certainly knew more than I did about what it was like to be them!
If there is one guiding value that I hope everyone takes away in this lifetime it is this:
No one can ever know more about you than you know about yourself. Why then, do we surrender what we know about ourselves--our intuition, gut instincts, known history, and beliefs--to medical institutions, physicians, and statistics?
In my case, empowerment meant taking back ownership of my body, my treatment, the interventions I chose to participate in, my beliefs about health, and the freedom to choose healers and physicians and fire them just the same. I put myself in the driver's seat of my treatment. I am the consumer and I am in need of a service from someone who has studied particular aspects of life more than I have. But as a consumer, I too, have much to contribute to the process. I know what has worked for me in the past, what I fear, what I don't believe is right for my body, what has harmed me, and the life history that is intricately woven into my mind and body to create who I am today--the health and the illness.
I have an Empowerment checklist that guides my treatment with physicians and healers:
Applying the principles of empowerment calls for great responsibility. I must be proactive in my life and this means my true self must show up and guide the way for me. Empowerment and passivity don't work well together. I have to get to know me so that I understand what I need, and I need to pay attention to how I respond to treatments and what feels right or wrong. My SELF must be willing to accept the following actions:
Be willing to open an idea, consider it, and make decisions accordingly. Healing and change begins with empowering yourself to be open to all possibilities