Posted by: silverliningsblog | February 3, 2016

Empowerment – What does it mean?

TYL Nature WalkNot everyone gets the same opportunities, support and access to the knowledge and resources that would help them become all that they can be.

Yet I believe everyone—without exception—has something special to contribute to the world, regardless of their past upbringing, current life situation, or socio-economic conditions.

As an empowerment coach, I often get asked what “empowerment” means. And the truth is, there is no one standard definition. One of the most common definitions I’ve seen is as follows (paraphrased from sources quoted in the United Nations publication, Empowerment: What does it mean to you?):

Empowerment means giving a person the knowledge, skills and confidence to overcome obstacles and make free choices, create change, and achieve their fullest potential.

Another common explanation focuses on the societal aspects of empowerment, seeking to uplift the disadvantaged:

Empowerment means active participation in decision-making, equal opportunity, the right to voice an opinion, economic freedom, and access to resources.

I agree with these definitions. Mostly. The problem I have, however, is that these perspectives on empowerment imply that power is something we can give another—which to me is the opposite of empowerment is.

As an empowerment coach, I do help my clients gain more knowledge, skills and confidence. But their power comes from within—not from me. My job is simply to help people realize it was always there in the first place, and help them tap into it.

So my definition of empowerment more closely resembles what some would call “self-empowerment”:

Empowerment is a person’s inherent ability to think, feel and take action independently, and to freely make choices and choose the direction of their life.
—Karen Strang Allen

Finding power within ourselves

We often associate the word “power” with ideas of control and superiority, thinking that it’s about making others do what we want (regardless of their own will). In other words, traditional definitions of power have been about power over others. But empowerment is about the power within us…to be and achieve all that we can.

And this view of power is expansive. It is not limited to the person who is the smartest/best-looking/richest. In fact, as each individual becomes empowered, he or she uplifts others, sharing the benefit of their newfound power. So empowerment becomes more than just power within…it becomes power between us. It’s the power to collaborate, share, and contribute to a greater world.

So when I work with clients, my goal is to help them discover just how innately powerful they really are so they can take charge of their lives. I don’t make them dependent on me. I help them get clear on what they want, support them in creating limitless beliefs, and teach them techniques and skills to put their dreams into action. My hope is that they will achieve success (whatever that means to them) and inspire others to do the same, creating a ripple effect around the world.

Pillars of empowerment

The five key pillars of empowerment that I teach my clients (and children) are:

  1. Self-knowledge – It’s key to know who you are at your core…what you like (and don’t like), what your values are, what your body is telling you, what your emotions mean.
  2. Self-esteem – This is about how you feel about yourself…what you think you’re worth to the world and how much you believe in yourself, especially when you try something new.
  3. Self-love – Loving yourself is a combination of appreciating your strengths, having compassion for your mistakes, and nurturing yourself to bring out the best in you.
  4. Assertiveness – To be fully empowered, you must assert your boundaries with others, respectfully give voice to your needs and wants (while allowing others to have theirs), and make independent decisions that are in your best interests.
  5. Self-actualization – Continually learning and growing increases your range of options and allows you to make better (conscious) choices, so that you can be the best version of yourself, create a life you love and share your gifts with the world.

Creating a ripple effect

I know that when I help a woman believe in herself and become fully empowered, I am helping to create positive change in that woman’s family and community. Which is why I am always looking to partner with others who have similar goals…because the more people who come together to uplift others, the better a world we create for ourselves, our children and future generations. One empowered person can do a lot to create change. Many empowered people can truly change the world.

While I believe we need to equally empower both men and women, I choose to focus my coaching on women, because women and girls continue to be marginalized and disempowered around the globe. I want to lead a movement that helps to change that…that creates true gender equality, and a world where we respect and value both male and female attributes.

In my next few posts, I will be talking more about different aspects of empowerment… specifically, the importance of setting boundaries and being assertive. In the meantime, I would like to leave you with this “top ten” list of what an empowered woman does, to help you get a real sense of what empowerment looks like.

Empowered woman’s creed

An empowered woman/girl:

  1. Focuses on her strengths.
  2. Loves her flaws, for they make her unique.
  3. Allows herself (and others) to be human and looks at mistakes with compassion.
  4. Knows who she is, what she likes, and what she wants.
  5. Asks respectfully for what she needs.
  6. Teaches people to respect her with every interaction.
  7. Speaks up for what she believes in.
  8. Believes she has tremendous value.
  9. Knows she has something special to contribute.
  10. Uplifts others as she grows stronger.

What does empowerment mean to you? How do you think we can best empower women? I would love to hear your ideas! Please share your thoughts below, or email me at

Empowerment means that a person can chart their own course, no matter where they live, what they look like, or how their brain is wired (e.g. Asperger’s)…It means that opportunities exist for everyone to find out how they fit and belong in the world, to find out where they shine the best, and to contribute to the world and earn a living. It means that we treat each other with respect, we teach each other, we focus on the best qualities that the other person has. It means one can go to school and not be bullied or belittled, work and not be shamed for every error, and honored for our talents, without needing to be perfect.
—Arlene Sobhani, Registered Nurse


Karen Strang AllenKaren Strang Allen is an empowerment coach and speaker who helps women become more assertive and tap into their inner power after a break-up, job loss, or other life change. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Karen helps her clients re-discover their strengths and passions, envision an exciting future, and take action to create amazing lives that inspire others. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at

Ask for a free consult today!


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