03/22/2016 01:34 EDT | Updated 03/23/2017 05:12 EDT

Releasing Your 'Inner Warrior' Combats Self-Doubt

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I think about what it means to be empowered, and what it would be like to feel strong, confident, brave and free. In today's society, where we're lucky enough not to have to fight for our territory, property or survival, being empowered has a very different connotation than it did in past times.

The way I see it, being empowered today means feeling like you have a strong warrior at your core. You could see this "inner warrior" as an aspect of the self that embodies all your strength and courage; the part of your personality that protects you from harm and defends you from attacks, either from the negativity of the "inner critic" or from the hurtful behaviour of people around you.

Internally, the inner warrior is the part of you that recognizes and rejects any negative self-talk. In the world, the inner warrior looks out for you and identifies who's friendly and who's a potential threat.

When you embody this warrior part of the psyche, it enables you to stand up for yourself any time you need to and walk away from a bad situation any time you have to.

Courage is a necessity in life if you want to be successful in relationships, creative projects or your career. The inner warrior is the part of you that lets you be brave, and when it's present, you feel empowered to take risks and try things that might seem scary.

This warrior energy supports you in embarking on a new business venture, starting a new relationship, taking the step to get married or have kids, or making a big career or lifestyle change, for example.

When the inner warrior isn't fully developed, you feel less confident and it could be harder to try new things. In personal and professional relationships, it could be more difficult for you to go after what you want, be assertive or set good limits with others.

Everyone needs to feel empowered if they want to be their best self and live their best life, so the important question is, "How do you come to have a strong inner warrior?"

It's during childhood that the protection, validation and support your parents give you become internalized within your psyche, and form the template for the inner warrior.

All the ways that your parents or guardians cherished you, protected you and defended you from harm eventually become the model for how to be there for yourself as an adult.

If you didn't receive adequate protection or validation as a child, it will be harder to develop a strong inner warrior. You might have interpreted the lack of protection or validation as an indication that you didn't deserve these things, so as an adult, you might not feel entitled to be empowered or capable of doing so.

Interestingly, if you don't have a strong inner warrior it's easy for a vicious circle to be set up, in which your lack of confidence prevents you from standing up for yourself or from taking a risk, and as a result, your confidence plummets.

Each time you need to access your strength, you feel less confident than before. Without some help to strengthen this feeble warrior within you, your sense of empowerment could dissolve completely.

Fortunately, even if you weren't able to develop a strong inner warrior while growing up, you can still do so today. Visualization exercises can be helpful as you begin to imagine the warrior within you, and feel the strength and courage contained in this part of your psyche.

Everyone can cultivate a powerful inner warrior. Whether or not you started life feeling this sense of inner strength, it's possible to begin taking actions that will lead you to feel more empowered today.

If you've ever been there for anyone else; for example, a friend, a child or a pet, you've already been a warrior on their behalf. All you need to do now is recognize that this warrior energy has been lying dormant within you all along, and just needs to be activated.

That being said, the best way for you to develop your inner warrior is by taking concrete action. Whether you do inner work on countering the negativity of the inner critic, or you start by being more assertive in some of your relationships, each small step you take will strengthen this warrior aspect of your psyche.

Every time you assert yourself you'll be building your confidence that much more, until you feel a strong warrior within you. Then, it becomes easier and easier to feel empowered.

Developing the inner warrior parallels the process of physical conditioning. When you first go to the gym and you're out of shape, everything is difficult, it hurts to do the exercises, and afterwards, you feel sore and stiff.

Eventually though, it gets easier and easier to do your workout, and you can challenge yourself more and more. You even start enjoying it, and you begin to feel really strong. Psychological empowerment develops in almost exactly the same way.

Having self-love is as important as being empowered in life, and a strong inner warrior supports self-love. Being assertive makes you value yourself more, because the more you stand up for yourself, the more deserving you feel of love and care.

The more self-love you develop, the less you worry about what others might think or say about you, because your self-regard becomes more important than any potential external opinions or judgments. In this way, having a strong inner warrior sets you free.

The more confidence you build, the more risks you can take (although self-love prevents you from taking foolish risks). Whether the risks pay off or things go pear-shaped, being brave enables your confidence to keep growing. Instead of a vicious circle of decreasing confidence, taking action creates a positive spiral of increasing self-assurance.

Being empowered makes you feel confident, brave, secure in who you are, free from the judgement of other people and free to pursue the relationships and activities that are most meaningful to you. In this way, empowerment leads to happiness and fulfillment in life.

Everyone deserves to be empowered; everyone can cultivate a powerful inner warrior. Whether or not you started life feeling this sense of inner strength, it's possible to begin taking actions that will lead you to feel more empowered today.

Sign up here for my free monthly wellness newsletter. April is all about becoming empowered in life.

And check out my new podcast series. In episode two I talk with filmmaker and activist Matthew McLaughlin about masculinity, authenticity, creativity and self-acceptance.

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