The ubiquitous term empowered woman has been flaunted in such a way that I often find myself confused by its meaning. Empowerment (if we're following the old school dictionary definition) simply means "to invest with power." How often do you hear about an empowered man? Not so frequently. Because, generally speaking, men assume their power. They believe it is within their right to be powerful, to be the authority, to be in control. In the last century, women have taken greater control in areas of business, government, entertainment, and academia, but there is still much room for growth. As a society, there needs to be a shift away from the empowered woman mindset into the empowered individual mindset. However, for that shift to occur… we need to continue to empower women. I do not intend to contradict myself, but in this particular circumstance, it is inevitable. So… how do we instill one another, our daughters, our co-workers, our sisters, and our girlfriends with an innate, confident, natural power?
To begin, let’s step away from Webster’s definition and define our own quintessential Empowered Woman. She…
· Is honest. With herself and others.
· Is compassionate and kind. She thinks of others' needs first, and is quick to see circumstances from others' perspectives.
· Is on a mission. She has a clear purpose and knows how to go about accomplishing it. She sets powerful goals.
· Asks for what she wants. She acknowledges that having a voice and using it is one of the most valuable resources a woman has at her disposal.
· Has an open mind. She is willing to listen and to learn.
· Controls her fears. She knows her weaknesses, but works to overcome that which overwhelms or inhibits her.
· Is flexible. She is willing to alter her plans based on what is working and what isn't.
· Does not believe in limiting factors. Obstacles are challenges that must be overcome, not deterrents.
· Takes responsibility and decided action. She knows that success is up to each individual woman herself.
· Is positive. She knows that living in cynicism and negativity will only waste time and energy. Because like attracts like, she will be the positivity she wishes to see in the world.
· Claims her independence. She does not shy away from being alone, for the trendsetters and leaders are often far ahead of the pack.
Let’s also take a look at a few examples of the ultimate empowered women throughout history.
· Empress Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history, was born into nobility and educated from an early age. Her intellect and beauty ultimately led to her rise within the ranks of Emperor Tai Tsung’s concubines. Over the years, Empress Wu Zetian managed to plot and betray her way into the ultimate position of power.* Despite her manipulations, once in power she found the most knowledgeable and qualified people she could to run the government. She was known for her fairness with those she trusted. She reduced the army's size, lowered oppressive taxes, raised agricultural production, and strengthened public works. Women operated as equals, and weren’t required to submit to the men in their lives. Empress Wu Zetian seized power when it was not owed to her, but used her self-made opportunity for the betterment of her sex and her empire. She was empowered through her decisiveness, intelligence, and cunning nature.
· Eliza Hamilton was a mother, a wife, and a philanthropist, but was no less empowered because of her lack of prestigious position. She often helped her husband (founding father Alexander Hamilton) with his writings, and managed a household of eight children. When her husband was killed, she dedicated the next fifty years of her life to honoring his memory. She collected many of his letters and papers, and sought to have a complete biography written to secure his legacy. She also founded orphanages in both New York City and Washington D.C. Eliza lived most of her life in debt and poverty, but was empowered through her common sense, her affections, and her loyalty.
· Coco Chanel revolutionized the fashion industry in the early 1900s. She was a game-changer in eliminating the tight fitting corsets of earlier centuries, and in bringing more breathable fabrics into women’s attire. Some of her signature styles can be found in many American closets today. If you love your little black dress, costume jewelry, or fashionable ballet flats, you have Chanel to thank. She also made relevant tweed blazer and skirt suits for women, as well as bell-bottom pants. Coco Chanel was an excellent businesswoman and a fashion icon, but her life was not always picture perfect. Born into poverty, Chanel was known for her tenacity, versatility, and gumption. Several of her love affairs funded her initial business ventures, but she never married claiming she didn’t want to be a burden to any man. Chanel is a complex woman that knew what she wanted and made a way to achieve her lofty goals. Chanel was empowered by her own efforts and talents, along with some strategic partnerships (both personal and professional).
Being an empowered woman is not a new trend and it is not something that requires innate greatness. Empowering yourself and others begins with the proper mindset. Whether you are destined to be a great leader, a mother, a designer, or something entirely different, know that you are entitled to be the authority of your own life; you are worthy and you are capable.
Until next time,
Kelsey and Emily
*Please note: we do not agree with betraying your friends and family to be empowered or to be in power.