Want to Empower Others? Give Comfort!
I attended the Women Who Empower: are you in? event at Northeastern University this past week. Over 250 women (and a few men) who were either about to be grads, new grads, early stage entrepreneurs, seasoned business leaders, academia etc. were in attendance. We had the privilege of hearing from Cheryl Kaplan who is the Co-Founder and President of M. Gemi, Five Time Olympian Nastia Liukin and the Former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE, Robbie Myers. The stories, the experiences and their insights were moving, meaningful, inspiring and empowering.
One of the most poignant comments of the day was from Nastia Liukin when she stated “Social media is not real life. Despite what one sees on the screen there is no perfect life.” I was so grateful that she shared that sentiment with the attendees, but It also made me wonder how can we be empowered if social media is constantly playing us and putting up walls between human to human comfort and connection.
The meaning of empowerment in the dictionary is to give power or authority to. Today the word empower often refers to helping someone realize their abilities or potential. If the goal is to empower others, then we need to take a hard look at the technology that is being used and created that undermines our personal worth. As a society we have empowered social media at the expense of humans. People worry about future AI technology and its ability to control us – unfortunately it’s already here controlling us in so many ways. It is way too easy to bully, shame and spew anger on social media and impact people at a deep personal level. It empowers ugliness. It has emboldened people to speak to others they don’t know, don’t understand thru a screen in a way they never would in person. If we don’t empower ourselves and make changes to how we use social media and connect with others the ugliness will persist.
I discussed this concept further with a few of the younger women during the break, one in particular a smart and determined sports reporter who has over 10,000 followers on her twitter. She told me it’s so hard. I have to look perfect. I have all these followers who comment, criticize, judge and then you go home at night you have been working so hard, you are lonely, you are crying. From the social media view a perfect life, but she is just like the rest of us dealing with issues and situations that need support from another human.
Beautiful places and happy faces but social media with all its ability to connect is creating an epidemic of loneliness, anxiety and depression. It’s just way too easy to compare yourself to the perfect life online. I will offer up that if we aim to empower the first step is to learn how to give comfort to others and break free from the false traps of comfort and connection hidden in today’s social media. To give comfort is to empower and it has to be done through human to human connection.
So here are four tips on how you can get started to realize the depth and beauty of giving comfort to others which ultimately empowers you to make a difference in someone’s life. The best thing is, you don’t need to be wealthy, famous or powerful. Anyone can give comfort.
1) Start with you - come up with your mantra word or phrase. This is the message you can give to yourself when you need comfort.
2) Look around your immediate circle - pause every day to see who might need your support. Everyone you know has a problem you don’t know about. You never know how a simple phone call or act of support can change someone’s life.
3) Even if you feel awkward about reaching out to someone who has a problem, it’s okay as you are not there to solve their problems or judge, you are there to listen, offer support and let them know you care. Learning how to do this allows you to break through the Awkward Zone™ which is extremely empowering.
4) Finally, continue comforting others by expanding beyond your circle, take a chance on reaching out to someone who might least expect it. By comforting others you help yourself.
At the end of day, your simple act of giving comfort will not only empower you but also those around you.
Jill Bornstein is the Co-Founder and CFO of Inspiring Comfort. You can learn more about their programs at www.Inspiringcomfort.com