I was a corporate captive.
I tried to maintain the status quo. I was afraid of how others would judge me if I coloured outside the lines.
I worked for a boss that criticized me to make me “better.” I had friends who held me to who I was when I first met them.
I was enslaved by what I felt I ought to be.
Many of us feel trapped.
We dread going to work.
We feel small.
Life passes us by while we are busy working, striving for the next achievement.
Deep down we long to be acknowledged.
Instead we feel undervalued.
We hold ourselves captive in a metaphysical cage of our own design and only we have the key.
It wasn’t until I started looking inward that I began to see how much freedom already existed in my life. I began investing in my freedom bank.
These days, I’m living a life I adore.
Free to choose.
Free to explore.
Free to be me.
So how do we find freedom in our lives? Here are four strategies that helped me.
1. Get Clear About What Matters Most
Values are the things we have a strong emotional commitment to and hold more importance than other things. Values are powerful tools—a compass—that help us navigate life.
When we’re connected with what matters to us most we feel free.
To get clear about what’s most important, try answering these questions: What is a peak experience in your life where you felt at your best? What drives you crazy or makes you frustrated? Who is someone you admire? What qualities/attributes do you admire most in them?
Values live in our answers.
The more clarity we have about what’s important to us the easier it gets to make important decisions. Our behaviour and actions start to align with our beliefs. We start to rule out people, work, experiences that don’t contribute to what is most important.
We are clear about—what’s right for me!
Knowing my values gave me the freedom to choose what worked for me and to let go of what didn’t.
2. Practice Self-love
Freedom comes from believing “I am enough.”
It took me years to understand what this meant. I didn’t really know what it meant to fill my own cup.
After a lot of self-care and introspection I figured out filling my own cup means finding what I need from within rather than from external sources.
I started a self-love practice to help me heal my relationship with myself.
My self-love journey:
• Wrote myself a love letter.
• Started speaking to myself the way I talk to my best friend when I need support.
• Wrote down the things I love about myself and read it every night before bed.
• Made a conscious decision to surround myself with people who lift me up.
• Meditated on holding my heart in my hand, tenderly, with love.
Truth is, when we love ourselves just the way we are we don’t need others to build us up. We stop associating our achievements with our worthiness. We know we’re worthy as we are.
So practice self-love daily. Freedom follows.
3. Practice Radical Honesty
How often have you denied your feelings for the sake of being nice? I’ve done it too many times to count.
Stifling our truth is a major contributor to feeling trapped. This kind of self-denial hurts. We spend our time worrying about others at the cost of ourselves.
The thought of speaking my mind used to make me sweat, sometimes it still does. When we fail to speak up, we lock our true selves away.
I came up with a radical honesty challenge.
I started by paying attention to how often I held back thoughts, feelings, opinions. I asked myself:
What’s going on that makes me feel I can’t be open?
What story am I making up about the other person’s reaction?
I was shocked by how much I locked away.
By noticing and documenting the moments I clammed up, I gained self-awareness.
I started using those moments to take a deep breath.
Notice when something didn’t feel right.
Then used that breath to speak up. Each time I spoke up I gave myself a happy face on my radical honesty tracking chart.
Celebrate the freedom that comes from big, bold moments of honesty!
Most people won’t be offended. They’ll be grateful. We won’t always be eloquent and that’s okay! It’s not about saying the “right” thing.
It’s about being true to ourselves.
Valuing others and ourselves enough to be up front.
Radical honesty is really liberating.
4. Try Something New
For an instant dose of freedom try a new activity.
Sign up for something new. Go in with the mindset that it’s going to be fun! We take life so seriously, but it doesn’t have to be!
Bring a friend.
Or go alone.
Be ready to feel awkward.
Be ready to not be any good.
Try any of these for a good dose of laughter:
• Check out an Improv class
• Join a choir
• Try hip-hop dance class
• Bring a friend along to a Zumba class
If you’re worried about money there’s lots of things you can do for free. Go for a run or hike with a friend. Start a book club. Join a meet-up group.
When we do things that take us outside our comfort zone—whether it’s physical activity, acting or vocal lessons—we get out of our head and into our body.
We’re present only with what we’re learning. Now that’s freedom!
The bottom-line is: We all have more freedom than we believe we do.
Freedom isn’t always about leaving our job and moving to Bali.
It’s about noticing the freedom that already exists.
The freedom that comes from knowing our values, loving ourselves, speaking our truth and trying new things.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Alanna Gillis
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock