What makes someone a model of self-empowerment? Words like confidence, strength and determination come to mind, but ultimately it means to chart your own course and command your own destiny.
It’s not such a lofty goal when you consider it all starts with having a dream. What do you want to do, what makes you happy, where do you want to be in 10, 20 or 50 years? Self-empowerment has no meaning if you don’t know what you want, so dream big dreams. Then set a plan in motion. To paraphrase Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see.”
Many examples of self-empowerment and “living the change” can be found in the history of feminism. From the Suffragettes to Gloria Steinem to Oprah, women of all backgrounds have made a difference by choosing to take control.
The following five women have used situations out of their control to propel self-determination, self-confidence and self-reliance. In the process, they have empowered themselves to live how they choose. They are big dreamers who let no person or circumstance shake their resolve.
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As a child, Jeannette Walls dreamed about becoming a writer. It was an escape from her nomadic and often painful childhood. Determined to see her own goals realized, Ms. Walls left home at 17 and eventually did become a writer.
Those childhood experiences are chronicled in her book and movie, The Glass Castle. As she told the New York Times, it was difficult to write about her early life until her husband spoke words into her worries. Sometimes all you need is a little nudge to find self-empowerment.
After the Taliban had taken over young Malala’s village in Pakistan, they declared girls banned from going to school. She responded by blogging for the BBC— under a different name. After winning the country’s first-ever National Youth Peace Prize, the Taliban sought her out.
On October 9, 2012, she was shot three times. She survived the serious injuries and now brings attention to the plight of oppressed women around the world. In 2014, at age 16, she became the youngest recipient ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Three bullets that were meant to silence her only made her voice stronger.
First woman Chancellor of Germany, first woman chairperson of the Christian Democratic Union, she speaks fluent Russian and has a doctorate in physical chemistry. Angela Merkel has broken down barriers and charted her own path. When circumstances presented opportunities that aligned with her own goals, she was prepared.
Soon after the Berlin Wall came down, she got a job with the East German Government. She then joined the CDU in 1990 and a year later became the Minister for Women and Youth for the reunified Germany. In 2000, she was chosen to chair the CDU and then in 2005 she was elected to her first term as Chancellor. Forbes named her the most powerful woman in the world for 2016.
Misty Copeland is the first African-American ballerina to become principle dancer for the American Ballet Theatre. Her story is even more incredible and inspiring when you learn about her background. Like Jeanette Walls, her childhood included an unsettled and occasionally abusive family situation. Dancing was quite literally her escape, as she left home and moved in with her dance instructor’s family at the age of 13.
Ms. Copeland feels the extra responsibility of being a woman of color in a field where African-Americans are rarely featured. Every one of these challenges has served to make her more determined and focused. It certainly paid off. Time Magazine named her one of the most influential people for 2015.
You probably figured that Sheryl Sandberg would be on this list. After all, the mission of her Lean In Foundation is to “empower women to achieve their ambitions.” The Facebook COO is also the first woman to serve on the board of Facebook. She earned her masters from Harvard Business School with high honors.
She worked at the World Bank, the U.S. Treasury Department and Google before tasked with making Facebook profitable. No one just handed these positions to Ms. Sandberg—she earned them by developing her talents, working hard, doing everything in her power to excel in any task that she chose to do and taking responsibility.
All of these women have worked to overcome obstacles and break down barriers. They are living satisfying and productive lives of self-empowerment. If you believe in yourself enough to pursue your hopes, dreams and goals, then add your name to the list! The journey can be just as wonderful as the destination if you’re headed in the right direction – your direction.
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