Empowering attitudes are ways of looking at life and the world that are both freeing and confidence-building. What and how we think really matters. That’s because our attitudes predispose our behavior. Accordingly, when we’re stuck in a behavioral rut, it’s usually because we’re thinking in the same old dysfunctional ways.
Some empowering attitudes can carry us through a crisis. Others are necessary to keep us on track. In any case, without adopting the right attitudes, we’re much more likely to make bad choices.
Our Perceptions Can Become Our Reality
How we come to see things and think about things can become our reality. This often happens insidiously. Consider the child who hears only that they are bad, inept, or defective. Soon, they begin to see themselves as flawed. Moreover, already feeling inept, whenever they make a mistake – especially if they get condemned for it – it only confirms for them the “reality” of being inept.
The Road to Empowerment
I wrote In Sheep’s Clothing to help empower victims of covert-aggressors. These disturbed characters are among the most proficient manipulators. (These days, some writers call them covert narcissists.) And in the book, I outlined how to recognize and properly respond to the common tactics they employ for power and control. Seeing what some folks are really like and how they operate has been an eye-opener for many. And learning how to best deal with manipulators’ tactics is inherently empowering. However, there are general rules for empowering oneself that supercede the particular tools the book describes. At heart, all empowerment is really about attitude. And there are some general rules anyone can heed to help cultivate attitudes that can empower for a lifetime.
Some General Rules
Here are some general rules for developing empowering attitudes:
- Trust your gut. Now, there are indeed times when our intuition fails us. But most of the time, our gut is the best barometer. These days, you can’t trust words. Nor can you trust promises. And some characters have the skill and/or charm to appear right even when they’re dead wrong. Your instincts are less likely to betray you. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. (See also: Manipulation and the Gaslighting Effect.)
- Don’t be swayed. Let your values and principles guide your actions. Disturbed characters of all persuasions can be convincing. They love to sow doubt. That way, you’ll see things their way. You don’t have to be rude. Nor do you have to counter their arguments. Expect them to throw tactics at you. But stand on principle.
- Remember, it’s about the love. You can’t love within a relationship unless you know how to love yourself, first. Now, I’m not talking about unhealthy, narcissistic self-adoration. I’m talking about real love, which is sincerely wanting nothing but good, whether for yourself or another. Wishing well for yourself is where it has to start, however. And that requires you to be honest with yourself about your desires and intentions. (I have some weightier things to say about this in Character Disturbance and The Judas Syndrome.)
Reinforcing Empowering Attitudes
Our attitudes predispose our behavior, that’s for sure. But continually acting lovingly also helps reinforce empowering attitudes. So, how do you know if your attitude is right? You know when you feel energized, confident, grateful, creative… full of joy! And how do you know when you’re in need of attitude correction? When you find your energy drained because of fighting the same old losing battles. Then it’s time to reclaim core values and change your way of thinking!
13 thoughts on “Empowering Attitudes for a Lifetime”
It’s interesting how these things all tie together. A big part of our job/responsibility, I believe, it to sort out what false beliefs we have and what our values are.
My parents were raised by folks that held certain beliefs and values and attitudes, they were passed down to them. I think they took many of them at face value and didn’t question them or if they did, they were treated as bad or wrong. The more traditional authoritarian rule and men are superior to women. Children were to be seen and not heard – at least on my father’s side. I also believe that they were taught that to question them – to think for themselves – was disloyal and bad. Coercive control was common. My folks had a limited range of emotions and certainly had limited trust in themselves and their rights as a result. My mom’s mom tried, but her husband was an abusive alcoholic narc, so I’m not sure she could do enough to counteract his influence/damage. I do wonder if grandma accidentally over compensated.
If you are raised in such a household it’s confusing. Trying to figure out if your gut is correct when the adults (your world) are telling you it’s not, and that you’re wrong, and often, bad. The manipulation and gaslighting can wear you down and shut off your self trust and critical thinking. And, depending on how much there is, you can get to the point where you truly believe there is nothing you can do to effect change, so you give up. It takes a lot for someone to come out of that with self confidence and strength to trust themselves.
I learned pretty quickly to take care of my parents to keep the peace. Somehow I managed to keep pieces of myself too. In hindsight, I realized my parents didn’t trust me to know myslef. They didn’t trust anyone to, not even themselves. They also wanted complete control but didn’t want and/or were overwhelmed by their responsibilities and blamed us or took it out on us. Also they used us as pawns in their marital war. It was a no win situation for a child.
I truly believe that if it were not for my grandmother on my mom’s side, I’d have been completely lost – just as my siblings are. She was my enlightened witness. She validated my insights and beliefs. She encouraged and supported me. She was not perfect, but she clearly cared.
As I grew in my voice and convictions, my parents, and other members of my family repeatedly rejected me for staying true to myself and, of course, scapegoated me. To them, I had to be disloyal to myself to be loyal to them. It hurt, but when I was sure of my choices, I was able to hold my own. It was/is a lonely way to live.
It’s a process. I left home at 16. It took me a long time to accept that my parents and family couldn’t love me the way I needed and certainly wouldn’t accept me and respect me as a separate human being with rights. I made a point of respectfully speaking up for myself and my daughter. Once as an an adult (34), I had trouble finding a place where my family was meeting. When I mentioned to my dad that I had trouble finding it, he called me an idiot. I immediately told him that getting lost does not make me an idiot and to never call me that again. The shocked look on his face was something I’d never witnessed before. Stunned silence. My guess is that he was not allowed to make mistakes.
My point is, if you were raised to doubt yourself and to shut down your critical thinking, are brainwashed as a child, it can be incredibly difficult to do the above. First you have to realize that these things have affected your attitudes and your ability to think critically. As a grown man in his 70’s, my father seemed to be coming to understand his limitations and was able to, in brief moments, be vulnerable. He was neglected and abused as a child and as far as I can tell was never really able to fully feel all of his emotions and trust his intuition.
It can be easy to fall in the trap of thinking we can’t change. But we can! This information is so empowering. In my experience, the more I learn and practice, the more empowered I feel and I get more and more effective at living my life on my terms and in accordance with my values. A large part of that for me was ditching the folks that drain me and do not have my best interest at heart. I’ve spent too much time and energy being loyal to people who weren’t loyal to me and attempting to get them to treat me with dignity and respect. Now I spend that time and energy in ways that empower me and my life. It’s amazing the difference it has made in my life!
“A large part of that for me was ditching the folks that drain me and do not have my best interest at heart. I’ve spent too much time and energy being loyal to people who weren’t loyal to me and attempting to get them to treat me with dignity and respect. Now I spend that time and energy in ways that empower me and my life. It’s amazing the difference it has made in my life!”
Mindful, that’s empowering. Thank you for sharing that.
I am doing the same! So true to let those go that only want to hurt and demean you!
I’ve been having some of my best days ever now that I’ve finally stopped trying to convince my loved ones that I love them and that it’s worth it to love me back!!!
I’m treating myself with love and kindness as God loves me!
I continue to love those in my life who are not mocking God or me.
Mindful, you just described my entire life exactly. And try as I may to read and educate myself for the sake of my sanity, I always seem to fall into the trap again and again. I seem to be a magnet for covert narcs who enjoy their idealize/devalue/discard game. It’s so draining, especially because they ambush others and leave them feeling like they were the ones doing the exploiting. After a most recent interaction of this sort, I realized the clues and crumbs along the way and all the moments I could have paid attention to my gut feeling, and instead dismissed them as me being overly sensitive or judgmental. Then when! I become the passive aggressive perpetrator because I’m fighting against covert manipulation that I’ve seen before and yet rationalize as my own shortcomings. I find myself longing for a reset button as I wallow in self loathing over falling in the trap yet again.
*Then wham! (Not “when”)
In my experience your trust in yourself will get stronger and stronger as you continue practicing paying attention to your feelings around people and what your gut is telling you. Instead of doubting yourself and giving the person the benefit of the doubt – especially if they’ve burned you before – and acting on your feelings/gut instead, you encourage that self trust. On occasion you may get it wrong, that’s okay. You’re human. But, my guess is that it’s more likely than not, that you won’t. Sometimes it takes a little longer for that to reveal itself. You don’t need to prove it to them, fight them or justify your decision to not be in the relationship. Even if they think it’s good for them to be in the relationship. If it’s not right for you in any way, that’s your right (and your responsibility).
Have also learned to call things out quickly now and I’ve noticed that some people respect it and others bail. It’s a pretty handy way to see who’s hanging around just to exploit you/mess with you. I’m calm and matter of fact when I do it.
You’ve got this! Try not to beat yourself up, it just makes it harder. Try to remember this is a learned behavior and it can be unlearned with practice.
Ugh, wise words again. I hate how I have to learn this stuff after the damage is already done. I’d give alot to get the chance to do things differently, then I might still have my dear friend:
“Don’t be swayed. Let your values and principles guide your actions. Disturbed characters of all persuasions can be convincing. They love to sow doubt. That way, you’ll see things their way. You don’t have to be rude. Nor do you have to counter their arguments. Expect them to throw tactics at you. But stand on principle.”
“Nor do you have to counter their arguments. Expect them to throw tactics at you. But stand on principle.”
“And how do you know when you’re in need of attitude correction? When you find your energy drained because of fighting the same old losing battles.”
These are empowering words. Walking away rather than “fighting the same old losing battles” can be empowering. Sometimes the relationship cannot be saved.
I wonder if Dr. Simon can comment on how to walk away effectively. I enjoy helping others, volunteering, and sharing knowledge, etc, but I find it tends to invite attention from covert narcs who will gladly use you then discard you if there is any expectation of reciprocity (regard vs interest). I feel as if I need to pull back and be completely self-absorbed and focused only on myself for a while in order to reset effectively and stop falling into the trap. It feels counterintuitive to do that, which might actually be causing the cycle to repeat. I’m close to giving up on humankind and focusing on helping animals instead.
The best thing I could say is look up Jordon Peterson, on youtube with the best way to walk away.
He uses the analogy of a LIFE GUARD when dealing with Toxic people.
The Thing I changed was my relationship with myself. You have to learn the differance between having a conscience and having empathy.
Only you can do that. Jordon Peterson explains it better than I can
I’m wondering if you are perceiving/thinking/confusing healthy self care (thinking about what you want, need, think, believe, and putting energy into those things first) with being completely self-absorbed. It sounds like your instincts to focus on yourself for a while to reset is right on. If we are trained to focus on making others happy (or to try and save/rescue others) in order to stay safe, or to feel valuable/worthy, it can become habit and we don’t recognize that that is what we are doing. Your attention and energy are focused out there instead of on your life. And abusers want to keep it that way!
I went through a similar stage and focused on myself and my rescue pets. It felt uncomfortable at first (that’s expected when we’re out of our comfort zone), but then started to feel great. The people who want you focused entirely on them and pleasing them will NOT like it of course! That’s okay. That’s an opportunity to practice learning what your boundaries are and practicing setting/enforcing them. You find out pretty quickly who respects them and who doesn’t.
If this sounds like it might be what you are experiencing, you may have to swing too far in the other direction for a while (feeling selfish). You’ll find your balance.
I wonder if this article resonates with you?
Needing to love ourselves before being able to love others is great advice; I also like accepting ourselves first in order to accept others.
Catch22, engaging in a period of self-care in order to reset sounds empowering!