Yesterday was Independence Day in the U.S., the day the entire country celebrates our so-called freedom. I say “so-called” because even though we live in a wealthy country, sometimes we allow the societal norms and values we have here to impede our personal freedom and happiness.
So much of what we’re brought up to do and be can be summed up this way:
Go to college > Get a job > Get married > Have kids > Buy a house >
Retire Work until you die
With each milestone you reach in the American Dream, you are duly rewarded. You get congratulations from your family and friends. You earn the admiration of society. Each accomplishment makes you feel successful, like you’ve finally “made it.”
Obviously, if this path is the one you truly want, the payoff is great! You get to pursue your goals and at the same time, you get the external validation that comes with your achievements.
But what happens when you don’t want to follow the socially-accepted aspirational path?
You are ridiculed and questioned. If you don’t go to college, you’re doomed. If you don’t get married, you’ll die bitter and lonely. If you don’t want to have kids, people call you selfish. If you quit your job to start your own business, you’re taking a crazy risk in “this economy.” If you cut off all your hair and go natural, your mom tells you that you look like Miss Cleo.
The common denominator in all of these scenarios is the external factor.
What do people say about the choices you make for your life? And how much do you care?
For me, part of personal freedom is being able to do what feels right for you, regardless of what other people think. If it falls in line with the norm, fine. But if it’s outside of the commonly-held ideal, are you strong enough to withstand the pressure to conform?
Clearly, freedom means different things to different people. As it should!
When you care too much about what other people think, you can become imprisoned in their version of what happy looks like for you. But when you realize that you have lots of choices, that you can do anything you want with your life – you become invincible.
What does freedom look like to me?
- Freedom is knowing who I am and what I want.
- Freedom is being able to let go of the pain from my past, enjoy the present and pursue the opportunities I have for my future.
- Freedom is not having to work a job I hate just so I can buy, keep and maintain more “stuff.”
I am free.
Most of us, in fact, are already free. We just don’t know it.
All you have to do now is step out of your imaginary shackles and out into the warmth of the sun. Now is the time to free yourself from everything that does not affirm you. Turn off the channel(s) that tell you, over and over: you are not enough.
1. What does freedom look like to you?
2. Are you free?