Empowerment, The New Meaning – WHERE’S THE JUSTICE?

empowerment, where's the justiceI’m a non-conformist, a contrarian. I think I started life that way, having arrived a week late and sliding backwards through the birth canal. Since that day, I’ve had to metaphorically mow down heavy brush and cut fences to make my own path. I didn’t find this in the least bit odd. It made me feel empowered, even as a child.

I’ve been reading a lot of stuff lately, written by mostly Gen-X women, about empowerment. Women who are 20 or 30-something didn’t start this dialogue, but I sure sense a changed meaning.

Empower other women by supporting their business, for example. No mention if it’s a well-run enterprise, or offers a service or product I might find appealing or useful. Just buy something because collectively we need to empower women. We need to help, after all.

Me? I swam through a sea of testosterone in the years I made my bones in a male dominated industry. I relished it, mostly because I had to earn it.

I was lucky to have a mentor in my early career years. But he didn’t hunt me down, and he wasn’t assigned to me, I found him. And when I did, I clung to him like the pinstripes on his navy blue suit. He helped me plenty, but quite often my appeal for support would be met with, “Figure it out.” I learned mostly by watching, listening, and emulating. I learned to ask less often and oddly enough, I achieved more.

My mentor was a true leader who inspired the people who followed by instilling a belief that a shared mission achieved by a collective could only be comprised of strong and self-supporting individuals. And we, as individuals, were vital to achieving success, be it on behalf of a business, an organization, a school, a community or the world.

Shared goals require a constant give and take, and the improvisational ability to read the energy of the people around you and respond flexibly. Delayed gratification was expected. Success is rarely instant.

20 or 30-somethings appear to have an entrenched entitlement mentality. Teaching them to do for OTHERS, while delaying gratification, is a challenging task at best, particularly when they’ve been served a steady diet of affirmation without accomplishment. The result is an appalling lack of leadership ability. They’re waiting to be empowered.

This is why I’ve started to cringe at the use of the word “empowerment,” as much as I support the spirit behind it. The way in which it is being used implies a transfer of power or energy. In other words, somebody else should chop down the heavy brush and cut the fence, assign a mentor and assure success. Being, rather than being great, should be enough. Help from others is expected 24/7.

where's the justice, empowermentI find this shocking because I’m of a generation where I had to earn what I have, and that includes respect. I guarantee you that nobody empowered me. I sought out a mentor who taught me how to empower myself.

I’m not sure change would ever happen if people waited for power to be transferred to them instead of taking it and letting the chips fall. There’s something to be said for trusting yourself and moving forward without the explicit permission of others.

I’d like to take back the word and remind this generation, that if you see a path that has already been cleared before you, honor the ones who did the heavy lifting by achieving more and by being better.

Look from side to side as you travel your road. Surely there is new brush to be mowed. Learn and earn; don’t look to somebody else to empower you.

Understand that if you look to any outside source for your power, you’ve already given it away. And Where’s The Justice in that for any individual, not to mention the collective?

Do you have an empowerment story you’d like to share? And if you like this post, I’d appreciate if you’d share it too.[subscribe2]

26 thoughts on “Empowerment, The New Meaning – WHERE’S THE JUSTICE?

  1. Just catching up on blogs due to … stuff. I will definitely re-post this next week. You hit my frustration with the ’empowered’ Milleniers (as they LOVE to be called now) that they aren’t blazing or even weed whacking the path they were given. Which spins off to the regression of our country’s inability to lose labels like white, black, hispanic, American Indian… women or men. My forefathers and mothers fought for equality. Give me a medal for something I’ve actually earned as a result of the path they cleared for me free of gender or ethnicity! Good job, girl!

  2. Damned straight, Jacquie. Would love to meet more “show me how” folks than “do it for me” folks, to be sure… The show-me crowd is willing to hunker down and make their own success… Happily they’re still out there and those are the ones we want to empower! The rest… well they wouldn’t know empowerment if you presented it to ’em in a gold box (though they’d likely ask you for a bigger gold box next week…)

    • I think that is why you connect to your clients so well Shari. I believe you’re one of the best show me people around…thank heavens for people like you! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. Greeting-hum..empowerment, the ability to make a decision,move forward with that decision. Even though everyone has told you that it will not work, no way can it work,
    but YOU have decided (figured it out) that it will work even in a hostile surrounding.
    Your empowerment is getting rid of the no, noway, who are you kidding and getting it
    done. It usually evolves around the individual……

    Have a great and safe week. Keep the thought process working…

  4. This is a very teaching and impressive blog post, Jacquie. It made me think a lot. Very interesting… and I haven’t been interested in much lately than in going on vacation. 🙂

    • Thanks Raani. Happy vacation! You must need one if you’re thinking about it so much! Don’t forget to take Jake and Charlet with you 🙂

  5. Another excellent post. Those of us who are “indie” authors have run into the situation where we’re expected to support other indie authors — simply because they are self-published or published by a small press. Forget about whether the books have a good plot, interesting characters, or have been properly edited. No thanks!

    • Hooray for you! I feel exactly the same, but it’s a tough one to own up to as an indie author myself. I applaud you saying it and more so, by living it. Thanks Sandy!

      • I agree. It is tough. I’m always willing to help other indie authors and will probably promote their books on Twitter, but I won’t give 5-star reviews unless they’re deserved. See – I’m not as tough as I sound!

        • Hahaha! I’ve taken to reading indie books but NOT telling the author. Then, if I like it, I will review it and tell them. But if I don’t, I simply never mention it! I’m a real chicken 🙂

  6. This is an interesting take on empowerment, and one that I hadn’t considered. That’s why I love your blog. It’s always thought provoking. I HAVE seen the entitlement mentality, just never linked it to empowerment…truly interesting.
    I’ll probably sound like a cranky cartoon figure but I believe our tech-age has contributed widely to this mentality (as well as questionable parenting). We blazed trails because we HAD to. Throughout our educational careers, how many times did we drag ourselves to the library? We had papers due and research was required…AND SOMETIMES IT WAS HARD. But we toned our muscles, sharpened our teeth and learned HOW to accomplish. With everything just a click away, these skills are rarely needed.
    Now couple the lack of skill with parents who believe their kids DESERVE everything and disaster ensues. Years ago my friend was a substitute teacher. She sent a kid to the office for misbehaving and his parents came to get him with their attorney…Think of the lessons that kid DIDN’T learn in just that one teachable moment!
    I believe in advocacy and empowerment, but as tools to level the playing field, not to give away the game! We all need to bring our best to the game of life and play like it matters, because it does! Each person needs to build their musculature by cutting their own path so they then have the strength to create whatever it is they came here to offer. It takes skills and autonomy build our destiny!
    Thanks for being such a wordsmith and for giving me more to ponder today!

    • Dinah, I appreciate your thumbs up very much. Especially in that you are such a great wordsmith yourself! But I’m surprised that you don’t recognize your very own self-empowerment. YOU are a worthy example of what this blog is about 🙂

  7. Once again, Jacquie, you have spoken well…and right-on. And once again I feel like we come from the same skin, egg, whatever

  8. I enjoyed reading this, as usual. There is some hope. I am not discussing politics. But Edward Snowden appears to run contrary to the entitled 20-30 somethings. I think many of them can’t find their way, at least the ones from the middle class whom I know. That is because the cultural dissonance is so great, it is difficult to know who/what is lying, telling the truth, marketing something, coming in as a shill and hiding behind the mantra of being “charitable” when the organization has set up a PAC to counteract “eco-terrorists” and the like. So it is one thing if these are finding their way; quite the other if they are perpetuating the status quo which would seem to be the case of many who want to “get theirs and take yours with them.” Glenn Greenwald is another exceptional young man along with those younger folks at the Guardian, a paper I always thought was on the right track (I have direct experience with this…having dealt with the NYTimes) and more investigative than the NY Times since the days of Daniel Ellsberg… So in that way, if you know about them, and I have met them in NYC (those like AAron Swaartz and his supporters) these wonderful young people are leaders, in the case of Aaron, a possible martyr, and certainly forging incredible paths. But then, I am into advocacy…and I will be meeting whistleblowers and other advocates and writing about them as I’ve done and will continue to do. It is the season for this…and the old hippies are finally getting their day in the sun and seeing the fruition of their labors, as the Yuppies and their “entitled” children, as you mention, end up wondering “where the yellow” went (Oh, it’s running in stripes down their backs) as they rake in the money from potentially inhumanely profitable deeds.

    • What a wonderful and thoughtful reply! I thank you for this and the rmeinder that there are some in this generation who are ready to swim upstream 🙂

  9. We have Black History Month to remind us at least once a year of the struggles and sacrifices made during the civil rights movement. But the days of “women’s lib” aren’t talked about much, nobody celebrates or even thinks about the well worn path or the women who built it. It’s a shame though. It wouldn’t be there without the ones who forged the way, and if it wasn’t I’m not so sure the little empreses of today would have the fortitude to get it done. Great blog.

    • Thank you kind sir! I appreciate you stopping by to comment and especially for sharing the post! Thanks.

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