“To be empowered you have to know what you want for your life and why. Without some degree of personal empowerment, your life will live you. Nothing changes unless you change it. No matter what you’re seeking it can only happen if you do something about it” (The Startup)

Some children are lucky enough to grow up with parents who are nurturing and supportive. They teach their children from a young age that they can accomplish their dreams and that success is always in reach. Their children learn self-confidence, learn from their mistakes, and possibly achieve greatness.

However, what about the others? What about the child who is ridiculed and degraded by their parents? What about the spouse who is always made to feel less than, worthless, and useless? Can they achieve success and obtain a positive feeling of self-worth despite their less than ideal environment?

Of course, they can!

Empowerment is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights. One does not become empowered overnight; it is usually a slow process and can be facilitated by the strength and support of others—a trusted friend, colleague, relative, spouse, and/or mental health professional.

The key components of empowerment are education, motivation, determination, belief, and trust.

Although scholastic education can help you go far, the school of hard knocks is invaluable. Street smarts, charisma, and the understanding of others are not to be undervalued. Both formal and informal education can advance one’s career and lifestyle, while earning well-deserved respect

It is difficult to succeed without the motivation to accomplish one’s dreams.  Although achievement starts with goals and objectives, it is important to remember that defeat can certainly be overcome.

Commitment is often needed in the face of adversity. Unfortunately, the most worthwhile results usually do not come easily, as the road to fulfillment is often fraught with detours and setbacks. At times, dogged determination, and commitment to a cause may be needed to overcome any obstacles in the path to success.

Fundamentally, a person should believe and trust in themselves, despite any naysayers or self-defeating inner voices. If this is not initially possible, a trusted friend or confidant can show them their true self-worth.

Jenny was one of 6 children. Her mother was overwhelmed, usually angry, irritable, and irate. Her father was absentee, choosing to stay out of the home, seeking a more comfortable and peaceful environment. She quickly learned to stay quiet and keep her head down, as invisibility was preferred. The attention given was usually negative and at times painful. Although school was a refuge, she was never a scholar as concentration took too much effort. It was easier to sit quietly and enjoy the solace.

As she grew older, she did not make any plans for the future. However, an invested teacher changed that for her. He noticed that she became animated when poems were read, often writing scraps and sentences in her notebook. Despite her initial reticence, he encouraged her to show him her work, giving effusive praise when warranted. Unbeknownst to her, he entered her poem in a contest given by a local magazine. To everyone’s astonishment she won! Slowly, she began to believe in herself, and solidify a hidden ambition to become a writer. With her newfound self-confidence, she began to cultivate a circle of friends, who buoyed and encouraged her.  With the assistance of a teacher and close friends, she was empowered to change her lifestyle, while achieving gradual success.

Jessie always harbored a secret ambition to start her own bookstore. However, she had not graduated from college. Her husband ridiculed her plans, laughed at her endeavors to read self-help books, and degraded her in front of others. Her father died when she was young, and her mother was always critical, often agreeing with Jessie’s husband on her perpetual ineptitude and worthlessness.

One day, Jessie’s daughter wrote an essay, detailing her wish to “help mommy get a divorce to be happy.” Upon reading this heartfelt missive, Jessie decided to seek counselling. Her therapist was able to teach her to correct her cognitive distortions and address her negative self-talk. With her daughter’s encouragement, her best friend’s reliable presence, and the skills learned in therapy, Jessie was soon able to attend a conference of like-minded peers. She was able to effectively network, and eventually able to realize her dream. Her husband, jealous of her success, eventually left, allowing her to seek a fulfilling, loving, and healthy relationship, which allowed her to continue her growth.

Every person has their own past, present, and future, which shape their personality, and influence their decisions. Often, individuals are affected by others, both in a positive and negative manner. Those around us do not typically realize the power they yield. Thus, it would be beneficial for every person to consciously work to empower those around them, both in their professional and personal relationships. A therapist can also be invaluable in helping others to achieve their maximum potential and understand the roots and origins of negativity, both of which will empower them to succeed.

Pamela P. Siller, MD is a board-certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist who provides medication management as well as individual and family therapy to children and adults. She maintains a private practice in Great Neck, New York. Dr. Siller is also the director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Interborough Developmental and Consultation Center in Brooklyn and an assistant professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College. Additionally, she provides psychiatric evaluations for the NYC Department of Education.  Dr. Siller can be reached at 917-841-0663.