You’re about to ask for a promotion at work. You’re about to ask for a raise. You’re about to resign from your 9 to 5 to start your own business. You’re about to take a step toward expanding your business. You’re about to give a speech.
You’re about to have a hard conversation. You’re about to say yes or say no to a significant opportunity. You’re about to advocate for yourself—which is something you’ve actually never done before.
And you need to feel empowered. Because right now you feel anything but empowered or confident or capable.
Maybe there isn’t some big event or situation that requires you to feel up for the task. Maybe you simply need to feel empowered to be productive and get things done every day—like Alyssa Mairanz’s clients, who struggle with self-deprecating and judgmental thoughts.
Either way, there are some fairly simple and effective ways that you can feel empowered. Here are eight tips to try.
Acknowledge your feelings. The first step to empowerment is acknowledging and validating your anxiety, fear, uncertainty and discomfort, said Mairanz, LMHC, a dialectical behavior therapist in New York City providing group and individual psychotherapy to young adults. She specializes in emotion regulation, self-esteem building, life transitions and relationships.
Don’t gloss over your emotions by saying “You’ll be fine,” or “Stop worrying, you’re being silly and ridiculous,” or “You shouldn’t be feeling _______.” Honor whatever negative, confusing, contradictory feelings might arise. Give yourself permission to feel whatever needs to be felt.
Harness your accomplishments. There are two ways you can capitalize on your previous achievements to help you feel empowered. One way is to journal your accomplishments and identify the ones that you considered “unbelievable or shocking,” the ones “you let fear steer you away from until you were just ready,” said Leslie Garcia, LCSW, a psychotherapist and founder of Counseling Space in New York City, which focuses on the mental and emotional wellness of women business leaders and CEOs.
Then ask yourself: What changed within me that prompted my taking action? What specific strengths, skills or tools did I learn and develop to boost my confidence and abilities? And “if appropriate, employ them, again.”
The second way is to add your strengths, positive qualities and anything else you love about yourself to the same list (when you’re already feeling empowered), Mairanz said. Then when you need it, pull out this list and re-read it.
Wish yourself well. Mairanz suggested trying the mindfulness-based practice Loving Kindness, where you send yourself well-wishes: “Sit with your eyes closed, feet flat on the ground, and hands resting comfortably in your lap. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, send a well-wish to yourself.”
You might say something general like: “May I find happiness,” “May I find strength,” “May I find success,” she said. Or you might say statements that are more specific to your situation: May I find strength to have that conversation. Maybe I find success in asking for a raise.
Engage in a mood-enhancing activity. When we feel anxious, we tend to ruminate. We tend to think about the upcoming situation over and over and over and over. And telling ourselves to simply stop ruminating doesn’t work (neither does bashing ourselves for doing it, which is tough to stop, too).
That’s why Mairanz suggested refocusing on activities that help you to feel good. Watching a funny video, talking to a friend, reading a novel are all examples of gaining space from the ruminating cycle and building positive feelings, which is key, she said.
Use empowering visualizations. Both Garcia and Mairanz suggested visualizing yourself achieving your goal and things going the way you want them to. It also can help to use visualization outside of the situation: For several minutes, imagine yourself in a calming space, visualizing what you see, hear, smell, feel and taste, Mairanz said.
According to Garcia, “Mental practices are almost as effective as any physical action you can take, and doing both is undeniably more effective than either alone.”
Have a daily affirmation. “It is helpful to work on feeling empowered every day, not just wait for times when you need the feeling,” Mairanz said. Pick a positive affirmation that speaks to you. “Think about how you want to feel in this moment and about yourself, and create an affirmation that exhibits that.”
For instance, Mairanz said, you might pick: “I am strong and capable,” “I believe in myself,” “I am doing my best and that is enough,” “This is a passing moment that I can get through.” Then review it regularly throughout your day. (You can learn more in Mairanz’s free guide on using positive affirmations.)
Build mastery. This is another way to build your feelings of empowerment on a regular basis. Mairanz noted that dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) includes a skill called “Build Mastery,” which helps us build the foundation of our confidence and empowerment. That is, every day or at least every week, engage in an activity that helps you to feel accomplished, such as sharpening a current skill, learning something new or working on a goal, she said.
Turn to others. “It’s important to have an accountability partner who can support and challenge you to utilize your inner strengths,” Garcia said. Who can you turn to? Maybe it’s your spouse or best friend or colleague (the person you ask, of course, will depend on the specifics of your situation).
Maybe you can share your worries and feelings with them, so they can help you process them. Maybe you can request that they pretend to be your boss, and rehearse what you’d like to say. Maybe you can have them send you a quick text right before you start your speech. Remember that we aren’t meant to go it alone, and when you receive compassionate, constructive support, you just might feel like you can do anything.
As you get ready to do something hard, remind yourself that you’ve already done—likely many—hard things. And you can do this hard thing, too.