The year 2016 has been hard on all of us. After 365 days of disappointing politics, rampant racism, blatant misogyny, and a whole lot of fear, it's easy to feel run down and defeated — but, trust me, things don't have to be that way. There are things you can do today that will make you feel empowered all year long, so you can start fresh and forge ahead into the new year with the strength you need to make a difference in your life. But, what does it mean to be empowered, really?
The magical thing about empowerment is that it means something different for everyone. It has a fluid definition that changes depending on who you are, where you live, what you believe in, and what your culture believes in. To one woman, empowerment can mean having control over her own finances and household, and to another, it can mean asking for equal pay at work. No matter how you define your own empowerment, the important thing is that you believe in it, and believe in your own power to control your life, your future, and your happiness.
Read to reclaim your own empowerment? Then here are 11 things you can do today that will make you feel empowered all year long. Trust me, if 2017 is anything like 2016, you're going to need all the help you can get.
Psst! Check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App for daily tips on how to have an empowering 2017 starting Jan. 1. Right now, tweet @bustle about how you plan to make 2017 the best year yet. Use the hashtag #2017IRL, and your tweet could be featured on our app.
A big part of feeling empowered as a woman and an adult is tied to money. Without financial security, it's hard for anyone, no matter their gender identity, to feel in control of their own life. A great way to feel more empowered right away is to start saving money. Whether it's just pocket change you put in a piggy bank or a more aggressive and formal savings plan, making the daily decision to put money aside for a better, more secure future — or even just to buy stuff you want — has the power to make you feel like you can be a real agent of change in your own life. It doesn't get much more empowering than that.
For so many of us, it's our norm to put the needs of others in front of our own. At home, this means sacrificing self-care for taking care of family, or ignoring our own needs to fulfill the needs of a roommate. At work, it can mean helping others on projects while refusing to ask for help of our own. One of the first, and most basic, steps of being more empowered is advocating for yourself in those kinds of daily situations you so regularly ignore. When you can't get through the home to-do list alone, ask your partner or your family for help. When you aren't being satisfied in bed, tell your partner what they need to do differently. When you think you deserve credit at work, a raise, or a promotion, bring it up with your boss. Learn to put yourself first, and you'll be amazed how much more powerful you actually feel.
Like being in control of your finances, taking charge of your own education can be one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself. Whether that means applying to that graduate program you've always dreamed of, taking a class at a local community college, watching how-to YouTube videos, or simply taking time to read the news everyday, furthering your education and forcing yourself to learn something new everyday will not just make you feel smarter, it will make you feel more empowered.
While it can be difficult, nerve-wracking, and even painful to share your life story with others (or even just with yourself) the benefits of coming clean about yourself far outweigh the uncomfortable disadvantages. Owning your own story gives you power and control over it, instead of leaving the power in the hands of your past. Share your story with your diary or a friend, with a support group, or even with your blog. Once you do, you will find that you are the one of control of how your past defines your future.
Whether you take 15 minutes to meditate everyday, or dedicate one night a week to self-care, taking a break from your hectic life to reset and nourish yourself can be one of the best things you can do for yourself. By allowing yourself to take a break and relax, you're giving your mind, body, and soul the time it needs to reset, refresh, and recharge, meaning that whatever you do next, you will be doing with your whole self.
On the other hand, constantly worrying about yourself and your own life can slowly drain you. When you take time to stop thinking about yourself — whether you'll get that promotion, if your relationship will work out, if your midterms will go well — and focus on others, it gives you a chance to make a real difference in someone else's life. That reassurance that you can make a change by helping will reinforce your own empowerment and remind you of just how capable you really are, even when it comes to others.
When it comes to feeling empowered, all it does is take a little imagination — yes, really. Visualization is one of the most powerful tools our mind has for changing our mood and making us feel more capable. Picturing yourself as a strong, powerful, and empowered person is your mind's way of practicing how to actually be that person. By taking a few moments out of the day to visualize yourself as someone in control, you may find that yourself becoming that person more and more each day.
Change is hard, and many rebel against it and fight to keep things exactly as they are. When our norm does shift into something else, we feel powerless against it. Instead of being stuck in this constant cycle that only drains you of your own power, be a part of it by learning to embrace changes. Whether it be in the workplace or at home, in a professional relationship or a personal one, teach yourself to roll with the punches and instead of putting up a wall in front of the rolling tide of change, learn to go with the flow. If you are a part of the change, you allow yourself to have more power over its outcome, and give yourself better control of your own life.
Want a simple hack for feeling more empowered everyday? Start off small by making a daily "To Do" list featuring all of your regular tasks, chores, and goals. You'll find that crossing item after item off makes you feel not only accomplished, but in control of our own daily life.
Sure, it sounds corny, but keeping a physical (or digital) list of all the things you are thankful for in your life can actually have a lasting change on your mood, energy, and general outlook on like. Gratitude affects you in so many different ways, including lessening your anxiety and depression symptoms and making you more resilient to stress, that it's side effects can also help you feel more empowered. Being thankful for everything you have in your life can lead to you realizing how thankful you are to actually be in control of it, too.
Check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App every day in January for daily tips on how to have an empowering 2017.
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