In search of happiness

Lesson 2: Empowering yourself.

Graces,’ an artistic rendition of female empowerment (photo credit: MCT)
Graces,’ an artistic rendition of female empowerment
(photo credit: MCT)
As I fly around my kitchen in a frenzy, working on multiple parts of my Shabbat meal at the same time (with each hand skillfully doing something else), while thinking of the plans I have for later in the day with my child, debating when to best call back a client and when to work on a column that is due, I look around and wonder if only a hidden camera could capture me now, racing desperately against the clock.
The imaginary viewers of this scene would think me, and millions of other women like me, crazy – as we work away like little fairies each week to accomplish all that we do, at the speed with which we do it. I actually get some enjoyment out of the entire process, and can laugh at the chaos I leave behind in my wake. It is precisely at times like this that I am reminded that we women really do manage to do it all, even if often we feel like something is suffering in the process, whether that is home or work or family or “me” time.
So whether you are 20 or 80, single, married, divorced or widowed, a career woman or stay-at-home mom, student or grandmother, as a woman, how do you make sure, regardless of what you do to juggle everything, that at the end of the day you like who you are, value yourself as a person and are proud of all that you accomplish? In my capacity as a clinical psychologist, it is only natural that I see many people who are struggling to be happy or to find a way to feel appreciated and valued.
Life involves balance, and while some are looking for an express route to happiness, many know that in order to be content with what they do, they must begin by holding a mirror up and learning to first like – and then love – the person reflected back.
For many, this is no easy task as there are so many extraneous thoughts and doubts, some lingering from many years past, that get in the way. Finding room for self-compassion may sound simple but sadly, many women are chasing illusory goals of “perfection” and looking for something that does not exist. For them, being comfortable with who they are, and in their own skin, is not a given.
Pick up any women’s magazine and the message glaring back at you is one of inadequacy and imperfection: suggesting displeasure with your appearance, your body, your weight, your skin, your hair, your relationships, your mothering, your sex life, your second- rate material possessions, your poor career choice, earning potential, lack of academic accomplishments and your intellect. Since we know that women can run the world, why are we so poorly represented in higher echelons, and why are the media constantly telling us what we are failing at and need to improve? What does it take to enable us to feel like we can actually be “good enough” and accept the person within, the ultimate key to contentment and happiness? Here are a few thoughts on how to get there.
1. Spend some time in getting to know just who you are. In what ways are you special, and what do you like about yourself? If you wrote an advertisement about yourself, what would you say? Did you notice that it doesn’t come naturally to be positive about yourself? This is worth daily practice.
2. What three things do you value the most, and is attaining them a high priority? What do you need to sacrifice in order to attain them, and is it worth it? Where do you see yourself in three, five or 10 years? Focus on what is important to you and go after it. What is Step 1 in achieving those goals? 3. Do you nurture yourself? Are you “your own best friend”? Do you tell yourself the same messages you would tell your best friend? If the answer is yes, that is great. If the answer is no, are your expectations for yourself unrealistic? 4. Who are your role models, and what makes them special? How are you like them? In what way are you a role model to others? 5. How much of the chaos in your life is self-induced, and are you willing to make changes to improve things? Are you happy with the balance you have created and how you spend your time? What would you like to do differently? 6. Happiness is not found through the constant pursuit of hedonistic pleasure, but rather through finding meaning in your life. How happy are you and what gives your life meaning? 7. Are you happy with and do you feel good about who you are and what you do? Can you enjoy what you have been given, or do you always think others have it better and need to compare and compete? 8. One of life’s great secrets is to keep it simple. Life is short. Can you relax, do things you enjoy on a regular basis, take pleasure from each and every little thing, notice the good and especially, laugh? 9. Do you make time for the people you care about? First, work on yourself, then work on relationships that are important to you.
Once you have learned how to feel good about yourself, you will radiate this contentment to others through your actions. So if you really want to empower yourself, and be all that you can be and do all that you can do, take the time to get to know and like the person who resides within.
Empowering yourself doesn’t require being powerful, it is all about feeling powerful!
The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra’anana, and author of the book Life’s Journey: Exploring Relationships – Resolving Conflicts.
She has written about psychology in The Jerusalem Post since 2000. Send correspondence to or visit her website at