Empowering Women through Yes and No

Known as the Compassionate Divorce Coach, Cindy Holbrook is so much more. In addition to helping recover from divorce, she also empowers women (single, married or divorce) to live life on their own terms. Jean, Cindy and I had an amazing conversation that started with divorce but ended with some ideas and actions that can truly empower all women.

empoweredWhat does it mean to be empowered? It’s a term heard so often that it has almost become cliché, but it does have meaning and it can and should mean something to all of us.

I found a definition of empowerment that got it right (unlike a lot of definitions that get it technically right but miss the feeling of the word entirely). Empowerment is defined as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights.”

As women, we often give up our strength or have been raised not to embrace our strength. When it comes to confidence, a lot of us abdicate self-confidence and look to gain confidence through other people’s opinions, expectations and ideals. Many times, these leads to giving up control of our own lives to others. We grow up pleasing parents. As adults, we strive to please partners, kids, friends and even bosses and coworkers. Ironically, the one person who we never give full control to is ourselves. A lot of us need of a heavy dosage of empowerment.

I think it begins with removing the rose-colored glasses and seeing ourselves and our circumstances as they really are. There is no nobility in excessive sacrifice. There is no honor in ignoring your own needs. There is no superiority that comes from ignoring your health, your time and your quality of life for everyone else.

I call this Badge of Honor syndrome. We wear our sacrifices and lack of self-care as badges of honor. We collect them just like Girl and Boy Scouts collect badges for mastering certain activities.

badgesSleepless Solider: We love this badge. You have so many things to do and to worry about that you can’t get a good night’s sleep (or even half a night’s sleep). We need caffeine to get us through the day. And, let’s be honest, it makes a good story and we are perfectly willing to share it with everyone.

Motherly Martyr: Yes, kids come first. The problem comes when they come, first, second, third, fourth and fifth. Heck, if you listed your top 10 priorities, you still wouldn’t make it on the list. We think this makes us a better mother. Self-care, even a little bit, is sacrificed. Yet, if kids learn more from what you do than what you say, what is your relentless martyrdom teaching them, especially your daughters? Aren’t you telling them that their inherent value comes from extreme sacrifice and putting their personal needs and desires dead last?

Unhealthy Workhorse: How many of us have worn this badge? We brag about going to work sick or not having the time to eat nutritiously or see a doctor. There is no time to take care of yourself on the most basic level. Exercise? Who has time! Healthy choices take time and attention that we just don’t have.

Dramatic Diva: Some of us are just one small mishap, misstep or mistake from a total meltdown. And I mean a meltdown – tears and raised voices. There are exaggerated claims which usually begin with always and never. Then, there is catastrophic thinking. The negative thinking taken to an extreme. I had a bad day at work which means I’ll probably get fired. In this economy, I won’t be able to find work. I’ll get my house foreclosed on and end up living homeless on the street.

Overwhelmed Officer: It’s just all too much! Work, kids, social obligations, the dog, housework, all the stuff you promised you would do when you knew you were already short on time. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Tired is an understatement. And the tired I’m talking about here isn’t the sleepless Solider kind of sleep. This is a soul tired, mentally tired, kind of tired.

We wear these badges with honor because, after all, we’ve earned them, but at what price? Excessive sleeplessness leads to foggy thinking, confusion and mistakes. Martyrs come across as manipulative guilt trippers at worst and naggers at best. The Workhorse annoys her coworkers (especially the ones who catch your cold after you came to work sick and coughed on everything). Like the martyr, her sacrifices often aren’t appreciated. The Diva is just too much and too much of something no one wants. The Overwhelmed Officer is about as welcome as the actual police officer who pulls you over when you are already running late.

You suffer and the people you care most about suffer. No one benefits and the biggest loser is you. Without checking yourself, life has a way of catching up with you and making you slow down (health scare, employment issues, rebellious children…)

This is where the empowerment comes in. Empowerment begins when you realize that all those badges you are wearing aren’t honorable but actually deceptive. They lead you down a path filled with poor health, poor relationships and low expectations for yourself.

Empowerment removes those false badges and replaces them with strength, purpose and the right to put yourself first (at least some of the time). You see, those pesky Badges of Honor served a purpose at one time but they became too big and too unwieldy.

Now it is time to balance everything out and in the process, reclaim your needs and your wants. It’s time to get some sleep. You need to put yourself back on your list of priorities. Get some balance in your work life. If you stop the overwhelm you will also drastically reduce the appearance of the Dramatic Diva.

Once you have realized the importance of your needs then you are in the place to put yourself first through your actions.

noyesIt’s okay to say “No”. Often, we fear saying no. We say yes to a lot of things we don’t want or need to do. We go along to get along scared of losing a friend or straining a relationship by saying THAT word. Cindy Holbrook (an empowerment coach on this week’s podcast) lets women know it is okay to say no. And not only is it okay to say no but it is okay to just say no and not “No, but …” or “No, and …”

It's okay to make time for you. Get some rest, see a doctor, work out a few times a week. There is no need to feel guilty. The better you feel, the more of an asset you are to yourself and the people around you.

In other words, say “No” when and where you can so you can say “Yes” to the things that matter to you.

Listen here!

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