By the time I was twenty-two, I had two young children. Our family lived below the poverty line. My husband expected me to be obedient and to go along with whatever decisions he made for our lives. I felt powerless and could not speak up for myself.
Eventually, I discovered that where I came from wasn’t as important as where I was going. Anyone can be empowered. No one has to feel powerless.
Growing Up Powerless
I grew up during a time when gendered roles were very rigid. Girls were expected to be domestic, pure, and obedient. What little I learned about domestic skills, I discovered on my own. My mother battled mental illness and was periodically hospitalized when she lost touch with reality. My father struggled with alcoholism and vented his frustrations by yelling and occasionally whipping my sisters and me with a belt.
I learned to compensate for difficulties at home by secretly snacking on comfort food. As the pounds piled on, so did the bullying. By the time I was 13, I had replaced snacking with smoking. I thought smoking would make me look tough enough so some of the kids in our poor neighborhood wouldn’t dare mess with me.
Like so many other women have shared through the #MeToo Movement, I was sexually abused as a child and later violently assaulted as a young teenager. Because I was female, it was easy to shame and blame me into silence. By the time I was sixteen, I was pregnant and again shamed into silence. I was forced to give up my child and told to pretend as though nothing ever happened.
When I married two months after high school to almost a complete stranger, I felt so powerless, that I was willing to do whatever I was told. I couldn’t speak for myself and didn’t even know if I could think for myself.
Learning to Become Empowered
It wasn’t until I started taking classes at a community college did I realize I could think for myself and had the ability to speak up.I started taking classes when my children started school. I soon realized I just needed support and guidance. In spite of my “then” husband’s objections, I continued my education and went on to graduate school. I am currently an associate professor of speech communication studies at a community college. I want to help others like I was helped when I started college. Education is power. All women need to know that they have power!
My Challenge to for You: It is Never Too Late to Live Your Best Life
Because I had become empowered, I realized getting help dealing with my past didn’t make me weak, it actually made me stronger. Yes, I know that each of us can be profoundly affected by things that happen to us that are out of our control. Yet as adults, we do have choices for our future.
I challenge each of you to think about the future you really want. Get the tools you need. If you are not ready to start with a vision-map to chart your next steps, seek appropriate help to get started. Trust me, it is never, never too late to live your best life!
How have you discovered your own power? Who or what helped you? What makes you feel empowered? Please share so others will find encouragement.