know thyself

Know Thyself: Step 1 to Empowering Yourself

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Welcome to my series on female empowerment

I’m writing this because I’ve used these very steps to help myself.  My life isn’t perfect and I don’t feel empowered ALL the time, but reminding myself of some of these things I’m going to discuss, has really helped me push through and continue on in pursuing my goals, and in growing as a person and as a professional.

So, to begin.  If you look up the definition of “empowerment“, it states it’s

  “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.”

Ok so not only are we talking about feeling confident and strong, we also are talking about control and rights.  A few questions pop into my mind:

  • What do I want control over?
  • What do I need to reclaim for myself?
  • What areas of my life have me feeling unconfident or weak?
  • What areas are my strong suit?

These are very personal questions that will generate very personal answers.  In order to begin, you have to sit down and ask one more question:

Who am I?

I know, I know, a very broad question that is.  There’s not just one answer to it either.  And why would there be? We are complex, multifaceted individuals.  So let’s break it down with some more questions.

What are my likes and dislikes?

What are my pet peeves?

What is my favorite thing to do with my time?

What do I VALUE?

Make a List of Your Values

Writing things down has a way of making us not only think hard but also keep track of everything going on in our heads. It can be time consuming to make these lists, but if you can spare a few minutes each day, or even do this after you wake up and are drinking that first cup of coffee, you’ll be able to start your day off on the right foot.

Which Values?

I learned this in therapy (yep I see a therapist)…when you think about your values, you need to think beyond the big things that automatically come to mind like “oh I value my family, friends, car, dog, kids, etc.”  

But what else? Integrity? Honesty? Think about the principles you abide by and expect from others.

Here’s an example of a list that I made when I started my therapy sessions:

my values.png
List of what I value

Once you see what you value, make additional lists for what you think are your strengths and weaknesses.  Follow that with a list detailing what areas in your life you would like to improve, and why?

I would also jot down another list describing your fears. Much of what holds us back isn’t our inabilities; it’s our fear that we aren’t good enough (hello imposter syndrome!), or that others will label us as “crazy”, or that society, in general, will judge us.


Analyze Those Lists

Now you’ve jotted down everything on these lists, go back and read them.  You will not think of everything the first time you do this, so over time, continue to add and adjust.

Once I had completed mine, I realized that many of my own issues were self-generated. In other words, I’ve never been told that I’m not a valued member of my anesthesia team.  I just kept thinking that way. I’ve never been told that my blog isn’t unique; I just sort of assume that I’m just another doctor out there sharing my thoughts, so I must not stand out.

I was also able to remind myself of what I’m good at (turns out, there’s a lot on that list too :)).

Put the Information to Use

The 7 habits of highly effective people is a great read by Stephen Covey.  It’s not a new book but is timeless in its valuable advice.  One of the life habits it talks about is leading a principle-centered life. In other words, your actions, reactions, how you prioritize your time….all of those decisions should be based on your set of principles.  Principles are constant in life, such as honesty, integrity, family first, following through on promises and giving back to the community.  This is in contrast to leading a life led by caring about what other people think, decision making based on the actions and reactions of other people in your life, or behavior that is selfish and self-centered, or self-serving.

A principle-centered life will never steer you wrong, whereas one that is not, is susceptible to social change, to someone else’s behavior and opinions, or even to your own whims.

Thus, now knowing yourself and your values, you not only are able to truly identify what you need to work on, but you also will find your set of driving principles through which you can focus your decision-making, your path to your goals, and adjust your life to one that is independent of anyone else’s thoughts or influence.

Doesn’t that sound empowering?

So, instead of chasing praise and promotion — chase good, honest work ethic.  Instead of chasing social acceptance or popularity — chase honest thoughts, words and keep your promises.

Want to get started on your list-making? Check out my template above to do just that.

I split the “values” into two different lists: one for life and one for work, as they can be completely separate in regards to what you look for, settle for and in the way you think about yourself.  My hope is that by creating a list for work, you’ll be able to identify some overlap with your “life” list, and if something is lacking, be more motivated to create changes.

If you go across the tabs at the bottom, you’ll see labels for other lists you can use to help you put your thoughts together.  This is just to get you started, but feel free to add more as you see fit! Doing this exercise really helped me, and I hope it helps you too!

I created a spreadsheet in Excel so that it’s easy for you to keep everything in one place and easy for you to continue adding to it. This is meant to be used regularly, not just once. As you continue to grow and evolve, you’ll change, your values may change. By continuing to add to the same lists, you’ll be able to track your progress and see just how far you’ve come.

Share what you value and some of your tricks and tips for really getting to know yourself!

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