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Are You An Empowerment Miser?
Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of our core conversation, “Extraordinary Women Change the World.” In our last post, Michael Van Osch shared with us a letter to his young nieces about empowerment. Today, Ericka Hines shares with us how she wrestles with the demons that want to be miserly in supporting others' empowerment.
I spend much of my time being very ready to support the wonderful work of others. To listen, watch and say " good job!" or "of course you can do this" or " come on! You.will.rock.this." And most of the time, I give that support to them freely and generously without a second thought. Because I want those around me to believe that they can do anything. And then there are times--more than I care to admit-- when I have withheld from helping to empower someone. When I have been stingy. Oh yes, there have been times when someone has noticeably needed a pick me up. I gave them a gratuitous nod and said "This is not a big deal, just do it." I could characterize it as being tough love. But it wasn't. It was stinginess. At the time, that stinginess felt good because I thought I had been slighted in some way. Deeper down, I was jealous or mad or frustrated. I wanted to deny them that thing that I believed they wanted. I was consumed by:
the lizard brain (fear and flight)and not the prefrontal cortex (empathy and thoughtfulness)
Me, ME, MEEEEEE and not Them, THEM, THEMMMM
scarcity and not abundance
Shifting My Own Way of Seeing the World
Following the stinginess comes guilt and sadness. And those are the feelings that have led me to the empowerment practice I try to practice today. It starts with accepting the idea that I have these feelings. Then, a conversation in my psyche goes like this: Brain: "Okay, these might be valid." Gut: "Now, what are you going to do with them?" Brain: "Listen, I get that you feel like you want to withhold your applause or support to deny them, but you know you are denying yourself, right?" Gut: "You have a choice here. You can give your support and empower them genuinely. And you will feel great about that." Or "You can deny them that feelings of empowerment and feel not so great." Lizard Brain (making a guest appearance): Boo hiss, boo hiss! Let's be snarky! Brain and Gut (in unison): You! Stop it. Go sit down. Gut: So? Brain: Oh okay, I know that rock star feeling of empowerment. Let's give some of the magic to others. Gut: Yeah, let's rock this!!! Guess which has been winning out lately? The one with the long-term happy-making feeling that helps them to think that anything they want to do is possible. When I feel stingy, I always tell myself it's okay. You are not a monster for feeling this way. You are human. A human who could make choices about how she empowers herself and others. And I choose to give. So, let a girl know if you need some support. About Ericka: Ericka runs a leadership development firm called Social Change Diva. She works mostly with nonprofits, foundations, and social entrepreneurs as a speaker, trainer, facilitator, and organizational consultant to help them build programs that increase their leadership capacity. She is a Maven/ Connector, an INTJ, and her Strengthfinder skills are: Developer, Ideation, Individualization, Learner, and Relator. You can connect with her on twitter @socialchngediva