The textbook definition of self empowerment is to derive strength to act, with the belief that you know what’s best for you. For me, self empowerment is being equipped with confidence, emotional capability and intellect to deliver value and impact. However a dark side to self empowerment exists and usually flies under the radar. Understanding this dark side is vital in maximising benefits of self empowerment and continual growth. 

Dark Side Effect #1:  The Paradox of Inherently Not Being Enough

Addressing the dark side of self empowerment requires acknowledgement of the biggest elephant in the room:

Does the act of continually seeking growth and improvement mean by default we are not good enough?

A second paradox arises from this question and circulates around contentment and complacency:

What is your ‘best’ and what is the difference between doing, achieving and being enough vs. being complacent?

An inherent tension exists within these two questions: the innate human imperative to improve and evolve, and the contentment and higher belief of being enough.

pretty near perfectAll of us amongst philosophers, anthropologists and thought leaders have challenged the answer to these questions for eons of time, and there is no one universal answer. Instead, seeing life as a continuum and adopting a growth mindset is the start to unlocking this.

Relationship psychologist and speaker Esther Perel defines self-esteem as “the ability to see ourselves as flawed individuals and still hold ourselves in high regard. Anything but perfection.” Perfection is a major reason for procrastination and paralysis, howbeit significant change and progress comes from imperfect action. 

Secondly, contentment exists from a place between gratitude and acceptance. It acknowledges our bests efforts and takes accountability for whatever outcomes. The primary difference between contentment is that complacency lacks accountability and takes the perspective of insufficiency.

glass half full

Fostering Self Esteem and Contentment

  • Take time and space to explore your aspects of core confidence 
  • Work on areas of your life that contribute to your core confidence, including things that make you uncomfortable.
  • Celebrate successes and take note of them as much as learning from failure or mishap
  • Restrain yourself from resisting. Life gives you what you need, not necessarily always what you want
  • Do a sense check every so often – are there aspects of your life you’re lacking, or complacent in? What can you do to address this – if you want this to change, do something!

“Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.”  – Tao De Ching

Dark Side Effect #2: Becoming a Soft Target to Others

Any conscious act of change requires a level of vulnerability.  While vulnerability is key to building confidence and a catalyst to growth; it can be exploited by others.

In the last 2 years I have been approached by countless multi-level marketing and change-your-life organisations*. Their offer? The silver bullet to success: a foray of run the world and get rich tactics. Linking hunger with a level of desperation, the problem with these businesses is they bank on people not acting autonomously. Instead they sell you on a system; they help you and in turn you generate income and recruit others.

*I use the term organisation quite loosely.

Fortunately their message was lost much like philosopher Curtis Jackson: #getrichordietryin

How to Build Your Armour

Overcoming attempts to exploit your self-growth is through careful filtering, not shutting down or closing people off:

  • Build genuine, mutually beneficial connections with mentors, colleagues and networks
  • Look for social proof from any course, networking event or gathering you attend
  • Review those who reach out to you, likewise those you reach out to (I knew a company was off when I Googled their early 2000s-looking GeoCities website and saw  flashy waterfront team photos…)
  • Ask yourself “what do I want to achieve?” or “what is the goal?” from each engagement
  • Does this sound too good to be true? If it does, you’re probably right

As I result I:

  • Are more selective about the networking or motivational courses I attend
  • Only attend courses and events with clearly defined objectives and run with a specific topic. Ie. content strategy
  • Am not afraid to say no to people who ask or approach me with something I don’t feel comfortable with or that aligns to the direction I’m going

Dark Side Effect #3: Facing Heightened Failure and Rejection

“Anything worth doing is never easy”. Challenging the status quo, veering off course, taking risks, doing something different and unfamiliar is frightening.

I’ve felt more rejection and failure than ever before. Choosing to leave the relative security of the corporate world and starting a blog in an overly saturated market, means I face this on a daily basis. Employing experiments, hacks, techniques to build Reintention often don’t work. Furthermore, putting myself out there on the market; as a freelancer and in various roles and organisations I’ve been told “no” countless times. Couple that with fear and self doubt and I find myself in a downward spiral.

Oprah in a 2015 Stanford University speech said that there are only two emotions: fear and love. When we’re not in a place of being or feeling love, we’re in a state of fear. Smashing the crippling effects of fear requires understanding that failure and rejection are the cornerstone to growth.


Growth is not defined by success, but from learning and strength with each failure. US President Theodore Roosevelt had a sickly childhood and was told he wouldn’t survive. Refusing to live his fate he dedicated himself to gymnastics and weight lifting, and fought his body to become healthier and stronger. Ultimately this resilience led himself to be one of the greatest and most quoted presidents in US history.

Embracing Failure and Rejection

  • Give yourself the space to feel the negative emotions: allow it to be a measured response, not a reaction
  • Utilise the 4As: awareness, access, accept and act in any situation of failure and loss
  • See the positives from every negative situation. Irrespective of what happens there is always something to be grateful for. For example, being rejected from a recent content creator interview taught me how to better present in interviews and the experience I needed to work on
  • Remember that any failure or rejection is only at the surface level. Core confidence is knowing that you are your greatest asset

 Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. – Theodore Roosevelt

Dark Side Effect #4: Change is Not Universal

good vs evil

The last dark side effect of self empowerment is that change is not universal. Life’s interrelatedness means the ability to act within your best interest touches every facet of life; thus improvement does not occur in isolation.

Through my reinvention I have faced the dark sides mentioned above with different intensities – sometimes all at once. Financial security, family, friends, relationships, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical growth are equally as important. Seeking to grow my intellectual capabilities and expand Reintention have not reached their full potential for me because of personal issues surfacing.

This doesn’t mean we can’t consciously compartmentalise and channel focus into specific components of change; however full benefits of improvement occur at our peak. For me, it is now taking the space to reassess and take action to improve areas of life that I want.

The late Apple pioneer Steve Jobs revolutionised the way we communicate and interact. However he was widely known for his cruel and unfair treatment of others in his autobiography by Walter Issacson. In a different light, Issacson touches on Jobs’ soft side quoting “I wanted my kids to know me” towards the end of his life. It maybe difficult to have everything in order all of the time, but was is necessary is conscious effort. As Maya Angelou said “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maintaining Balance in Life

  • Have an outward routine that works for you: it should contain components of physical exercise, reflection & gratitude and mindfulness
  • You are what you eat
  • Schedule and organise time with loved ones – and time for yourself is equally as important
  • Schedule time to work on creative or intellectual pursuits – the activities that energise you and move you closer to creating value
  • My personal favourite: always seek to challenge and expand your thinking: connect the dots forward by unwiring conditioning, false beliefs and fears you’ve accumulated

What are your experiences with dark effects of improving yourself? If there are any others I’d love to hear what they are.

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