Risky Women by Megan Ragsdale – purchase now on Amazon

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3 Keys to Personal Empowerment for Women

When you work to improve yourself in a particular area, it helps you bring to the surface your own thinking about the world around you and about yourself.  For instance, by figuring out your unique needs. This activity uncovers many of your limiting beliefs, because when we believe a story that does not belong to us or no longer represents the direction in which we are moving, that’s just another way we give away our power. 

One misguided belief I come up against regularly is that my role in life is to endure. I think of myself as being forged from fire, able to overcome any setback or challenge. This in turn has led to a belief that anything worth a damn doesn’t come peacefully or easily; it instead requires hard work and pain. If something is effortless, I treat it as highly suspect and likely temporary. That’s why it pisses me off whenever some idiot around me seems to continually fail up and never has to sweat where his next meal is coming from. That belief activates my Reticular Activating System (RAS), and that’s why I still have to learn things the hard way.

True empowerment and growth for me is when I can choose the path of least resistance. Your beliefs are just one of the keys. Here are a few more that can help you learn how to lean into empowerment. 


True empowerment requires vulnerability. I don’t mean making yourself vulnerable to people who are unsafe. I mean being willing to admit what you really need to yourself. Otherwise, you’re simply obfuscating what you want and focusing instead on deploying your defense strategies when it doesn’t happen or covering up the hurt you feel when a setback occurs. Or, even worse, living in resentment because you’re stuck doing work you hate that isn’t getting you any closer to your true purpose. The only thing this vicious cycle of fear, shame, and criticism brings you is self-doubt and more shame. If I can get my clients to tap into their hearts rather than their heads to tell me what they’re missing, the tears almost always come. That’s the moment they realize they have given up and no longer believe they can be brave enough to want something better. When you can express these core desires aloud (especially in front of a caring supporter), change happens. You can no longer ignore these parts of yourself that have been trying to get your attention all along. Vulnerability breeds intuition, which breeds trust, which provides the basis for taking the calculated risks that are best for you.


Learning to set boundaries can help you get in touch with your intuition, and that will lead to empowerment. When I struggled to set boundaries, I gave up my time, energy, and resources to others, so their needs superseded my own. I thought of myself as a “servant leader,” and for a long time that meant I had no boundaries when it came to my teams or my clients. And the more they needed me, the better I felt about myself. But this often left me feeling depleted on weekends, unable to give my family or friends (or myself!) the best of me. I grew numb and regressed into my chief defense mechanisms: anger and resentment. I get destructive when I feel my time is not my own, and this anger starts to spill over in other areas of my life, such as criticizing myself, my husband, or my kids. Once I traced this back to my lack of boundaries, I started making new choices. Setting boundaries requires courage and difficult conversations. Teacher and writer Prentis Hemphill describes boundaries as “the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.” Loving yourself means setting healthy boundaries.


In his poem “La Bégueule” Voltaire said, “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien,” which translates to “The best is the enemy of the good.” Although both men and women can suffer from the weight of perfectionism, women experience a whole additional layer of societal expectations. How should we look, sound, and act? What jobs should we choose, and which ones shouldn’t we choose? How should we feel about sex? Are we qualified to run for office or the PTA? Are we skilled enough to build our businesses, and how should we act if we want to get it funded? Optimization is about getting better than you were yesterday, but perfectionism is feeling like you never actually reach the destination. There’s no actual arrival point for success or even empowerment when you strive to be perfect. 

Empowerment builds on all the previous steps, especially cultivating the skill of intuition through the practice of self-awareness. So much of learning to make empowered decisions has to do with how you feel internally. You know you’re getting close to that place of authentic empowerment when there is less dread, fear, discomfort, and insecurity associated with the process. Making empowered decisions comes with a feeling of peace. Even if it’s a little bit scary, that comes more from excitement than from fear. If you feel like you are forcing the decision, drop the rope.

To reach true empowerment, you must understand your internal state pretty well, or you will continue to second-guess yourself. You do that by matching your intuition with knowing (intellectually and cognitively) the benefit of what you’re striving for. You’ve already done the work to determine what you need to become a whole person. You understand the difference between surface-level wants and true needs. True empowerment comes when you can bring your physical, mental, and emotional selves into alignment. 

Now let’s reevaluate the way you look at risk and realize that it is a skill you can learn like any other skill; it simply requires daily practice.

This is an excerpt from my new book Risky Women: How to Reach the Top Levels of Leadership or Know When It’s Time to Get The Hell Out. Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Porchlight.


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