The elusiveness of ‘being empowered’. What does it really mean?

When looking for empowerment, most people look externally for inspiration. While there is a lot of good advice to be found, it is often of little use if we are already disempowered through inauthenticity to ourselves. In this article, Wayne Stickel, a leadership coach who is passionate about empowering people living with disability, explains how being your authentic self and having a healthy relationship with empowerment can support you and help build confidence to make positive changes in your life.

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Oct 18, 2022

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7 mins read

We all want the power and ability to navigate the direction of our life. We want to be confident in being able to see and fulfil a vision for ourselves, our families and our communities. We want to be able to influence others in a way that provides opportunities, nurtures growth and solves problems, all while experiencing fulfilment and relieving suffering.

Getting ‘unstuck’ regardless of circumstances

Being empowered while living with a disability can be challenging. “Will I be able to?” and “how am I going to?” are questions I frequently ask myself, as do many clients I work with, as these are important questions to ask when you are on a mission to accomplish a life vision. I know that when I am authentically present to what I deeply care for and choose to be committed to accomplishing my purpose, the answer to these questions is yes; I will give it a shot and do my best. This empowering viewpoint looks toward the future, provides the freedom to see new possibilities and supports the courage required to move forward regardless of circumstances. Regret looks back, frustration looks around, but hope always looks forward, and hope in the future is always empowering in the present.

How empowerment is being drastically misused

The nature of empowerment is often misunderstood. The most significant proof of this is people looking outwards, towards external resources, to empower themselves. Empowerment has lost its true meaning and become a buzzword, creating an environment where people stop looking inwards to find it. This has led to an unlimited number of tips, tricks, advice, books, slogans and more that want to try and empower us. A search on the Internet of “how do I empower myself” revealed the following list of seven tips that claim to guide you in achieving self-empowerment.

  1. Develop a positive attitude

  2. Set reasonable goals

  3. Surround yourself with positive people

  4. Practise self-care

  5. Use positive self-talk

  6. Be assertive

  7. Create an action list

While these are useful ideas, whether you are being empowered or not before you apply yourself to these tasks will make a difference. What this means is you will, naturally and with ease, take powerful actions when you are being empowered. It’s impossible to ‘develop a positive attitude’, for example, if you are being disempowered. You will look at the task before you and literally say, “I can't”. On the other hand, being empowered (“I can”) is a positive attitude in itself. 

Many people offer advice, beliefs and opinions about empowerment, but what is the real source of our power?

The power of your authentic self

The primary thing we all want, more than anything else, is to have the power to be our authentic selves. The minute we stop being our authentic selves, we start being unhappy. And because we may have spent most of our lives comparing ourselves to, pleasing or attempting to please, impressing, and competing with others, we try to conform to and mimic the behaviour of these others or even believe that everyone thinks the way we do. No matter what we achieve in life, we won't feel any satisfaction or fulfilment if we have achieved it while not being our authentic selves. This is a lesson I learned firsthand. Having ‘made it’ in my corporate sales career, I found that giving away my power to please others led to disillusionment, hopelessness and a heavy leaning on vices that all led to my marriage and career collapsing. When did I sell out on my authentic life's vision?

Determining what you authentically want to accomplish in your business, relationship, career or life is critical because it is an expression of your power to move in the direction you want. This authentic self-expression of our unique being cannot settle for something else; there is only one path. When you are on that path, life is a joy. When you get what you want and know that you are being your authentic self, there is fulfilment beyond imagination.

Getting real: the transcendent nature of empowerment

As a leadership coach and the founder of Mighty Ability, I am on a mission to empower people with disabilities to fulfil their vision. The tools and methodology I use are critical in being effective in this endeavour. In my role, I believe it is vital to first apply these tools and methodology to my life and see their benefits, and only then encourage my clients or the community around me to take them on too. The key body of work that has made a difference to me in this regard is the Being Framework, formulated by Ashkan Tashvir. Let me share with you the following excerpt from Ashkan’s best-selling book, Human Being. This excerpt highlights the distinction of empowerment, one of thirty-one qualities or Aspects of Being intrinsic to all human beings:

Empowerment is living life from the viewpoint of being able to fulfil your intentions while enabling and inspiring others to fulfil theirs. Empowerment is how you relate to your power, capabilities and real or perceived limitations.


A healthy relationship with empowerment indicates that you mostly experience being able to take powerful actions towards fulfilling your intentions, purpose and goals while encouraging and inspiring others to fulfil theirs. Others may experience you as someone who takes actions that produce meaningful results in many areas of life and you may inspire them to follow you as your actions also make a significant difference to them.



An unhealthy relationship with empowerment indicates that you mostly experience being ineffective or stuck. You may often be unable to act towards fulfilling what matters to you or look beyond the immediate obstacles. You may feel frustration, apathy, resignation or despair. Others may experience you as inconsistent, ineffective, lacking drive or energy and hard work. Alternatively, you may often overestimate your capabilities while acting superior, oblivious to the limitations at hand.

How can we turn our ‘can'ts into ‘cans’?

How do we move from being ineffective or stuck to taking powerful actions toward fulfilling our intentions? How can we turn our ‘can'ts’ into ‘cans’?

Almost every day, I wake up somewhat confronted by my physical and emotional state. I wake up feeling disempowered. Through this daily struggle, I have learned that resistance to my circumstance brings this feeling of disempowerment. Resistance – or telling myself it shouldn't be this way – keeps a story alive, and I’ve found it can make a situation more uncomfortable, with thoughts of being stuck or feelings of hopelessness, essentially becoming a victim at that moment. 

For me, moving from stuck to motivated requires being with discomfort, difficult emotions and feelings, no matter how unpleasant. Being present to these matters and how we relate to them is pivotal. When I am being a victim to my circumstances, I am disempowered. For example, when I am looking for someone or something to blame instead of taking responsibility. Choosing to accept the way things are will generally move me from this immediate resistance and distress over my circumstances to a sense of peace and freedom. It’s a resolution to say, “If that’s what I’m dealing with, then now what?” Possibilities and opportunities come to mind, and hope for the future exists. I am empowered, and action quickly follows. Empowerment is being responsible for the power we do have, regardless of circumstances, and being empowered changes our perspective in an instant. The realisation of options and choices makes ‘I can't’ disappear as though it was never there in the first place.

Build your confidence, proactivity and reliability 

In my twenty-year career in corporate sales, I was aware that being confident, proactive and reliable were desirable virtues. However, because of my lack of understanding and unhealthy ideas about empowerment, I would sometimes fake being confident, tell myself I was proactive when I was reactive, and typically make excuses or blame others for failure in delivering expected outcomes. I see similar patterns with many people that I work with. By developing a healthy relationship with empowerment, we are naturally more confident and can move forward, even with doubts. When we believe we can, we become an active agent; we stop being a victim and begin fulfilling our vision.

My enterprise, Mighty Ability, supports people living with disability, their communities and their partners in effectively creating and realising their goals and vision. As I live with my own chronic medical condition, I am passionate about supporting other people with disabilities in achieving greater independence, building confidence, providing access to new skills, jobs, careers and self-employment opportunities, and experiencing an improved quality of life beyond what is seen as possible. If you are interested in learning more about my expertise and who and how I can help, I invite you to read more of my articles or reach out to me here.

EmpowermentEffectivenessProactivenessAuthenticityProductivity

Wayne Stickel

About The Author

A leadership coach with over 25 years' experience in leadership roles, Wayne knows what it takes to move forward and succeed. Like you, he knows the tough obstacles, challenging circumstances, and financial pressures. Importantly, Wayne has felt the exciting highs that are a result of intensifying your effectiveness. Accelerate your Mission. Wayne, who also has a medical condition - a rare type of Spina Bifida - is renowned for his empathy, compassion, inspiration and honesty. Drawing on his expertise in coaching and business and relationship development, Wayne incorporates The Being Framework, Being Profile® and the Transformational Methodology within his programs. The application of these world-class tools ensure you will expand your influence and impact in whatever you endeavour to accomplish.

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