I’ve spent the past two and a half years searching for empowerment. I’ve looked everywhere – self-help books, religion, healthy habits, unhealthy habits, relationships, other people…you name it, I’ve tried it. It’s kind of like diets – I’ve tried just about every kind you could imagine, from cabbage soup to Scarsdale to Atkins to South Beach and everything in between. I’ve taken Dexatrim, fiber pills, Alli, and even Phen-Fen. Nothing worked, until I was ready to take responsibility for making the right choices. Once I admitted I had the power, losing weight was possible. Before that, I might as well have been trying to catch stars in a butterfly net.
So here I am, hanging out in a quiet house and enjoying the silence, reflecting on the fact that this is the two year anniversary of my divorce becoming final. Not to say that I got a divorce so I could be empowered – that is certainly not the case. But self-empowerment was a goal of mine as I left that relationship and entered life on my own. It was a dark time in my life and I was vulnerable, as those of you who read this blog already know. It was easy for me to be deceived and misled. I ended up in a bad relationship that took what self-esteem I had managed to gather and destroyed it just about completely. And that’s the problem with progress that comes from extraneous sources – it is given to us and can be taken from us very easily. It’s a cheap kind of empowerment, the kind that makes a mockery out of the amount of work it took for me to lose 130 pounds. But because I didn’t know what empowerment should look like, I didn’t recognize that what I had was a poor imitation of the real thing.
Yesterday, a friend of mine gifted me with a copy of Tapping the Power Within: A Path to Self-Empowerment for Women. Just the title reminded me of something I had forgotten – or maybe I had never known it in the first place: that empowerment, if it is to mean anything, must come from within. So what does self-empowerment look like? How does it begin?
I’m not really sure, but I think I have an idea about that. I think it starts with love. Not love from an outside source – there’s nothing wrong with being loved, in fact, it’s great, but being loved by another can’t fill the emptiness that exists in the face of self-loathing, and that’s the way I’ve spent the bulk of my life. God adjures us to love our neighbors the same way we love ourselves, but it can also be said this way, “Love yourself the way you love your neighbor.” So, if I am to be good to my neighbor, I should also be good to myself. Please don’t mistake my statement for stupid self-indulgence, because that isn’t how I mean it. I don’t mean I should put myself before everyone else. I am talking about treating myself with kindness and respect. I don’t do that – how many of us really do?
If it is to begin, it must begin in me. I need to find a way to appreciate myself, to be compassionate with myself, to give myself loving kindness. I can’t rely on anyone else for this kind of nurturing. So I am making a pact with myself to learn self-love. I'm going to start by allowing myself to do things that I enjoy; yoga - meditation - prayer. Writing, singing, target-shooting; it may sound contrary to my nature, but I do love to shoot - and gardening. I'm the proud owner of a shovel now, and there are lots of plants out in the yard that need some attention. Wish me luck.