Woman smilingYes or no? Should you or shouldn’t you? Should you apply for that promotion? Should you have children, or more children, or no children? Go back to school? Buy that house? Get married? Run for office?

Big life choices like these aren’t easy. Since they usually require weighing our own needs against those of others, they can be especially tricky for women. Many of us have trouble even noticing our needs. Most of the time our first instinct is to put others first, even if it means acting against our own best interests.

Big life choices are even tougher when you’re starting from a place of disadvantage. I am constantly amazed by the courageous choices made by the women and girls who attend the programs we fund. I’ve talked to a single mom who was raising two children alone in poverty, yet somehow found the guts and fortitude to learn a skilled trade to give her kids a better life. I’ve met a woman who’d been physically and emotionally abused by her husband for years, brainwashed into believing she was too stupid to live on her own, that no one would ever want her, convinced that he would kill her if she left. Yet somehow one night she found the courage to leave, driving alone for hours in the dark on unfamiliar highways to an uncertain future. I’ve talked to young girls who are willing to risk being bullied and ostracized in order to publicly challenge sexist gender stereotypes, because they decided to step into their power.

Making empowered choices is never easy. There is always a cost. And sometimes they are simply not possible unless we have help. For examples, read about other women’s most empowered decisions, why columnist Heather Mallick keeps choosing to speak her mind even in the face of threats, and the types of supports that help women make one of the most difficult decisions of all: to leave an abusive relationship.

Along the way, I hope you’ll gain insight into making your own empowered decisions and how to say yes to the life you really want.

Empowered decisions poster

This post was originally published in our magazine, SHE.

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