6 signs you're disempowering yourself - and what you can do to overcome it.

Image: Muscle-flexing optional (via Youtube)

Here’s a question: in the past week, have you:
(a) felt like “a fraud”
(b) said ‘Yes’ to doing things you didn’t really want to, or
(c) uttered the phrase “I can’t” more times than you can recall?

Maybe you’ve done one of these things; maybe you’ve done all of them. While they seem like normal, harmless behaviours, they could also say a lot about how you’re currently feeling about yourself. More specifically, how empowered you’re feeling.

We hear a lot about empowerment and how to achieve it, but we need to be equally mindful of disempowering ourselves — that is, doing or thinking things that erodes our confidence and self-belief, whether or not we realise it at the time.

“We often think of disempowerment as something that is done by other people to us, however it is also something that we do to ourselves. There are certain automatic thoughts and habitual behaviours that take away our sense of mastery and power,” explains psychologist Victoria Kasunic.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to pick up on these because they happen in such an unconscious way. Kasunic says women tend to be more susceptible to disempowering themselves than men, because they’re often driven to foster connection over autonomy. (Post continues after video.)

However, personality factors also come into it. “Generally, people who are sensitive and empathic to others have more of an issue with this, as their ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes also means that they may struggle to put their needs and desires before those of other people,” Kasunic says.


Somewhat unsurprisingly, those who suffer from Imposter syndrome are also likely to disempower themselves.

The telltale signs

1. You say ‘Yes’ when you mean ‘No’

We’ve all done it before — taken on extra work projects when already under the pump, or agreed to go out to dinner with acquaintances despite desperately needing a night in.

2. You compare yourself to others

You can’t help but see who’s better or worse than you are— and you often find yourself feeling jealous.

3. You put off or avoid having “difficult” conversations with people

4. You worry about what other people think

And what they might say to you. (Post continues after gallery.)

5. You sometimes feel like a fraud

6. You use language like “I can’t” or “I should”

Why can’t you? Who says you should?

Reclaiming your power

If any of those six signs had you nodding your head, don’t despair — there are several ways to go about getting that precious power and confidence back.

Kasunic says self-awareness strategies such as meditation, mindfulness, and regularly writing in a journal are just some of the practical ways you can enhance your ability to feel empowered. There are also some less tangible behaviours you can cultivate to send your self-belief through the roof.

Don't want to go out with your friends? Don't do it.

Kasunic points to a survey of Australian women aged 18-44, conducted earlier this year by Schick Hydro Silk Trimstyle, which found there were several factors that made the respondents feel more empowered. These included resilience, feeling comfortable in their own skin, knowing when to say no, not feeling pressure about their looks, and making life choices that make them happy.

So next time your mates ask you out to dinner and you're truly too exhausted to go, or you'd just rather have a night at home with your book, realise that turning down the invitation could be better for your overall happiness than you know.

How do you make yourself feel empowered?