Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of our core conversation, “Extraordinary Women Change the World.” In our last post, Kory McDow shared his story of extraordinary women in his life. Today, Molly Mahar of Stratejoy shares her favorite way to encourage empowerment.
Back in the third grade, Brandi, RaeAnn and I climbed a stage at the state capitol in Helena, Montana. Side ponytails flapping, over-sized one-shouldered silver-starred tee shirts shimmering, and layered socks perfectly scrunched, we let loose with an enthusiastic lip synch and dance for the D.A.R.E. pep rally.
Our song? Knowledge is Power.
Our parents’ video cameras were whirring as we mouthed,
“Knowledge is power
I know what I know.
The more you learn,
the farther you’ll go.”
Those might be the only words I remember (though I’m sure this routine is immortalized on VHS tape somewhere), but the message is still incredibly present in my life.
I’m not preaching a drug-free existence these days, but I am completely pro-knowledge, pro-power.
This doesn’t necessarily mean schooling. I’m talking about exposure. Experience. Library cards. Mentors. Focused research born out of passion. Interviews. Diving in headfirst. Getting messy. Speaking up. Sharing your expertise. Owning your choices.
Knowledge is power.
I know a large piece of my own empowerment has come from seeking my own answers. The world holds an amazing variety of opinions on everything under the sun. I believe it’s my job to decide what’s worth learning about for myself, my calling, my family, and my life.
For so many things in our uncertain world, there is no such thing as the rightway… And that means things large and small are up to us. If there is no right way, what is my way? And more fully, what is my way when I come from a place of informed integrity?
This gets sticky when we have no stories or experiences of our own to make decisions, no natural base of knowledge. And when we have to make decisions or take action lacking a base of knowledge, we get stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.
Take two examples from my own world:
Circa 2008. I’ve never started a business before! Cue intense fear and burying my head in the sand instead of taking things one step at a time. And crying, lots of excited/nervous crying. Maybe I don’t have what it takes to run a successful business… All these people are so far ahead… Where do I start? I don’t know what to do!
Circa present. I’ve never been a mama before! Cue incredible overwhelm and slight panic. Try to comfort self with the idea that no one knows what they are doing when they start out. Try to ignore mean mommy wars. Get freaked out by all the different “I am right” opinions on what is right… Where do I start? I don’t know what to do!
There is no empowerment in those examples. There is no beautiful combination of confidence + freedom to make choices + knowledge.
So how do I turn it around? What do I do to empower myself?
Knowledge is power, baby.
The Right Ingredients
My own recipe for gaining new knowledge looks like this:
- Start by talking to people I trust (even if I don’t know them well) who I imagine have similar philosophies to my own.
- Ask for their recommendations on books, movies, courses, and experts.
- Give myself a limited time to dive into research (on both sides when necessary).
- Talk about my findings with my soul people (my husband, my mentors, my sister).
- Journal about my findings through a lens of personal morality and core values.
- Define the first decisions to make or actions to take.
- Make the decision or take the action without a lot of fanfare.
- Test, measure, and acknowledge mistakes or success when applicable.
- Trust that I will figure out the next step when it arrives because I am a smart, capable, informed woman.
My stress, anxiety, and overwhelm tend to disappear when I can claim my choices under a gorgeous, comforting umbrella of informed integrity. I feel empowered to move forward, to own my opinions, to leave uncertainty and second-guessing behind.
Yes, I started the business. It’s successful.
And yes, I’m a peaceful two weeks out from giving birth, having made all the major decisions that need to be made at this point.
I feel empowered and triumphant and honestly, a little sexy, having giving myself permission and trust to find my way, instead of worrying about the right way.
That said, I’m not claiming perfection in this realm… There are still things in my world that I feel stuck and overwhelmed about. I haven’t really given them priority. I don’t feel empowered because I don’t have the knowledge to make my choices.
Investments and taxes? Natural foods and homeopathic medicine? Cloth diapers? I’m coming for you next!
Me and my side ponytail.
About Molly: Molly Mahar is a coach, speaker, writer, fierce love advocate and joy enthusiast. She is the founder of Stratejoy, a positive corner of the Internet that provides thousands of Gen Y women the tools, strategies and camaraderie to lead authentically joyful lives. Molly’s work is delivered through several live and digital group programs, focused on creating *YOUR* joyful world. She helps women live life on their own terms, celebrate their worth, and value their happiness. With enthusiasm! And action! She also works one-on-one with clients who are ready for true personal alignment and big transitions.