Verb: make (someone) more stronger and confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights
The harsh reality of gender inequality hit me in high school. I started realizing that it was assumed that I couldn’t complete certain tasks because of my gender. Suddenly I was aware of the fact that I couldn’t reach to get something from a shelf or put my carry on bag in an overhead compartment on a plane without a man offering to help. I was seen as less capable in STEM classes, and I was assumed to be on my period whenever I was having a particularly emotional or moody day. I was sexualized by men driving by in cars and men at my place of work. In a lot of ways, whether consciously or subconsciously, society suppresses the empowerment of women. Simple actions can make us feel as though we are stripped of our power, it doesn’t build it up and nurture it. This is especially true for women in STEM, as we are entering into what are currently accepted as male-dominated fields. Ever since I have made these realizations, I adopted a strong feminist agenda and have made it a personal goal to promote equality, strength and empowerment for women in whatever I do.
I am the first to admit that college can be a very hard place to feel empowered. Personally, I had a rough time my freshman year. I felt like my test scores were not coming back as high as they should have been and I was struggling with anxiety that was manifesting itself as panic attacks that hit in the middle of exams. I was in denial about my mental health, I wasn’t seeking help. I was self-medicating through tears and venting and ice cream, and while these are all coping mechanisms that should absolutely be used, I should have been doing more for myself. I continually pushed myself and my needs to the back in an attempt to feel “normal”. On top of all that, I was seriously doubting myself in choosing kinesiology as a major because I wasn’t sure in my career goals. I felt like I would not be living up to my goals of being a strong and capable woman if I admitted that I was struggling. I felt like I was isolated in how I was feeling. I was letting life push me around. I didn’t feel empowered, I felt trapped.
The summer after freshman year my mom convinced me to start seeing a therapist even though I resisted with everything that I had. I started coming to terms with and understanding the way my mind worked. I started to feel like I had more control over my life, I started to feel capable again. I took the time to explore a career in physical therapy more seriously and I reached out to local clinics to see if a physical therapist would be willing to meet with me to discuss their life as a PT. One finally agreed to meet with me, and I felt validated and ensured by our conversation and returned to SDSU in the fall more sure about my major than ever. It took a year for me to learn to start standing up and advocating for myself, but once I finally did it I think I finally learned what it meant to empower myself. I learned how to create self-confidence and take charge of my own life.
In my third year of college, it continues to be an active battle for me to feel empowered. I constantly am seeking out things that I love to do to make me feel confident and in control. I am currently empowering myself and others by promoting women’s health and stress reduction in partnership with the Wellbeing and Health Promotion as a Peer Health Educator and am pursuing my love of anatomy as an anatomy UTA. It’s not always easy, but I have never felt more sure of myself, and now I hope to have the honor of helping to empower you throughout this semester.
Always remember to make time and stand up for the the things you love, the things that make you feel good about yourself and the things that make you feel capable. Help to empower your friends and fellow women in STEM, it can be empowering in and of itself. Most importantly, take care of yourself and be your own advocate. Don’t push your issues to the side, you are not alone or weak if you are having a bad day or going through a rough patch. There are people and resources out there who are more than happy to help you. Each and every woman is strong and capable, she just has to take the time to see it within herself.