Mirror Mirror On The Wall, Who Is Empowered Most Of All?
By Angela Martindale
Empowered. By definition it means to set one free, to claim the right to one’s own life, to be in control of the choices one makes. When I was in my twenties, the definition of being empowered meant freedom to travel, to live where I wanted, make my own money, become an independent woman and be free with my heart in relationships. In my thirties being empowered meant rediscovering my priorities, finding stability, securing a thriving professional career and reassessing my focus on material wealth. Now, as a woman entering her early forties, happily married with an expanding brand and an enhanced sense of self, I understand that empowerment cannot be defined by just one statement. Empowerment is a changeling, morphing and shifting into new definitions as a result of personal experiences. Over the years my life situation has shifted many time and I have learned to be flexible with my perception and understanding of empowerment. I can say with certainty that my understanding of the word and application of its meaning has become layered and ever more multi-dimensional through the experiences of life.
From the time we are little girls, we see pictures in our magazines, live interviews and media clips of female powerhouse figures breaking glass ceilings in business, music, politics and the arts. Growing up, I always believed that to be an empowered woman meant that I had to burn my bra (metaphorically speaking) and fall into a specific category, defined by just a few characteristics; politically active, a cause driven workaholic, an environmental powerhouse, a successful CEO or of course, a Rockstar! It wasn’t until my late-twenties, after a series of events, that I finally realized being empowered meant more than just fitting into a few categories, showcasing superstar powers to change the world and bra-burning to declare my feminist voice be heard!
In my late teens and early twenties, while I was just starting to make my own money, travel for work and build an independent life, my newfound joy at feeling like an empowered woman, faded into a reality of relationships and drama. My life began to look more like a boxing ring, where I had no power to fight my opponent because he was bigger, stronger and his blows literally knocked me down.
I had overcome hurdles knocking my self-worth down in the past, but nothing could prepare me for being the victim of both physical and mental abuse at the hands of someone who I believed I was in love with. Being in an abusive relationship is definitely the point in my life that I felt the least empowered, and yet it was the most significant motivating experience leading me on a path to real self-awareness and mindful living.
Because I was never treated differently by my family in childhood, I happily lived with the port wine stain birthmark that covers my entire face, ear, neck, hairline, eye and inside of my throat. As I got to be a little older, I was medically diagnosed with a host of un-treatable digestive issues which impacted my overall health. Starting in middle school, (typically a difficult time in adolescence for most people), my peers began calling me “ugly” along with other cruel nicknames, and although I had loving parents who tried to help me, the negative statements, combined with my physical birthmark and my mysterious digestive situation, took their toll on me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but subconsciously I was slowly spiraling into a self-esteem coma. Despite all of this, I eventually managed to connect myself with amazing wellness mentors that helped my overall health and nutrition, which helped to heal me physically, and allowed me to really connect with my talent as an athlete! Inspired by how these mentors helped me, I became a personal trainer at 18 and learned everything I could from the body builders at the gym to make myself stronger, better and healthier. I studied nutrition at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City and became a nutritionist. I continued to study everything I could about the industry I was majoring in and accomplished it all. I traveled the world as a Fitness Expert and Lifestyle Coach and worked with some of the top A-list celebrities in Hollywood. I was making my own money and I could do whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it. To look at me from the outside and on paper, any woman could say that I was the epitome of empowered. Perhaps due to some unaddressed childhood insecurities or the need to feel validated romantically at the time, I found myself in a domestically abusive relationship in my mid- twenties, and survival became the number one priority.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, my final decision to leave the relationship, was the first step to letting go of all the toxic situations in my past, and reclaiming my right to choose who I wanted to be in the future.
The ongoing journey to reclaim my life, has been nothing short of amazing. I’ve realized over the years that being empowered is not a category, it is the result of trial and error, owning both the good and bad mistakes; the walks of shame and the successes, the goals accomplished and those still on the bucket list, the personal fears overcome, the heartbreaks and the happiness.
Being empowered for me after leaving a toxic relationship and regrouping with my inner self, meant owning my future by learning from my past-and that’s exactly what I did. I began again. Having just left my abusive situation, with only $50 in my wallet and a backpack, I sat in the stairwell of one of New York’s most famed apartment buildings and strategically plotted my invisible road to financial independence, physical recovery and mental healing – from the inside out. I studied myself. I learned. I journaled. I became aware of my own thoughts. I continued my fitness regiments and maintained nutritional balance, as I had learned how nutrition and fitness could not only heal me, but also others I had worked with. I made a decision to move home to Utah so I could start over with a clean slate. With only my name and experience to brand me in my hometown, I began to cook organic, nutritious meals for people, help train people locally, and educate those that I worked for in a lifestyle of health and nutrition. I began to train a top race track driver, which led to working with other drivers and their family members, and before I knew it, I was letting go of all the pain, stress and connections in my past, and on a road to being un-categorically, and for the first time in my life, truly empowered. I was creating my own personal brand of control and liberation-the new Angela Martindale brand and it felt GREAT!
Feeling more beautiful both spiritually and physically then I ever had before, I passionately attacked my goals to help others recover their wellness through nutrition and fitness. Eventually my hard work led to the building of my global business brand iamangelamartindale.com where I offer lifestyle coaching services, personalized fitness training, fresh, organic meal delivery services and a specialized Yoga program for health and wellness recovery.
Now at forty years old, I am living proof that being an empowered woman is not a category. The truth is that we as women in the United States, have the luxury of liberating and empowering ourselves through personal experience as a choice. The road to personal freedom and happiness is a step and repeat process. Simply feeling entitled to empowerment does not mean that we are. Personal freedom lies in the joy of the journey and there are steps we can take to avoid empowerment setbacks.
- Envision your vision-set goals for the path you want your life to take
- Reaffirm those goals daily with positive affirmations of self-worth pushing you to accomplish them
- Work hard-hard work opens doors of opportunity for success
- Create and recognize opportunities when they come through self-assertion
- Be flexible-understand that life will throw a curve ball once in a while but that it doesn’t have to set you back. Knowing how you will handle certain choices prior to them presenting themselves, will better prepare you for making smarter decisions socially, romantically and professionally
- Enjoy your successes-patting ourselves on the back for what we have done well can lend perspective to the things we think we have done poorly
- Help other girls and women on the road to self-empowerment define who they are and what they can achieve, by sharing what you have learned. Every woman is a guiding tool to another, and therefore WE are an empowered community of teachers and students.
I have learned that these steps can help women everywhere author a more clear vision of their personal interpretation of empowerment, one that can only be defined by the individual seeking it. Does being empowered mean the same thing to every woman? No. Can we be empowered at 18, 25, 37 and 52? Absolutely. I have found in my experience that empowerment is a changeling and at different stages, it means different things; a mother, a college student, a professional, a fundraiser, a nurse, a caretaker, an entrepreneur, etc. . . Does every empowered woman find themselves changing the world as a political figure, a coveted pop superstar, a CEO, or an acclaimed author, fashion designer, Olympic athlete, filmmaker, blogger or artist? No. But through a series of choices, goals and hard work every woman has the ability to discover not only what empowers them, but what brings them lasting joy. Although we are different women on the road to self-discovery, we can have the same result – an undeniable sense of self-worth, health and happiness.
Looking back over my life now, I more clearly understand that our feminist sisters of the past burned their bras to make more than a political or social statement. They burned their bras as an act of claiming the right to self-discovery, personal development, fulfillment of educational dreams, professional opportunity, and to voice a unified community of strong, happy women, defining womanhood and empowerment for themselves. Because of the grand vision of those sisters, women everywhere can wear Victoria Secret bras while skydiving, traveling, owning a business, being a mother, running for political office, or whatever the hell we want to do – and there’s no burning necessary.
Who are you trying to become?
What life events have made you stronger?
How will you help another woman on her journey today?
What would make you feel more empowered right now?