Do You Feel Free?By Dr. Margaret Paul
September 15, 2008
How are you limiting your own freedom? What are you doing that you don't want to do, or what are you not doing that you really want to do - to get approval or avoid disapproval?
"...no one ever pushes you toward freedom. You need to take that for yourself."
--Joan Erickson, wife of psychologist Erik Erickson, quoted in Joan Anderson's book, A Walk on the Beach.
Do you believe that someone has to give you your freedom? Do you believe that you can be free only when you have others' approval? Is your sense of freedom dependent upon what others think of you?
If you believe that your freedom is dependent upon another or others, then you will wait forever to be free. You will feel free when you decide that you are going to do what feels right and loving to do for yourself, regardless of what others think.
How do you reach a place where you are willing to trust yourself enough to follow your own inner guidance rather than be limited by others? How do you come to a place where you are willing to experience others' disapproval in order to be true to yourself?
This freedom comes from a deep place within regarding which intention is most important to you:
- To control what others think of you, or
- To support your own highest good.
These two intentions are mutually exclusive. You cannot be focused on trying to control getting others' approval or avoiding their disapproval, while at the same time be focused on lovingly supporting your own freedom and what is in your own highest good. You automatically limit your freedom when your concern over what others think of you is more important to you than your freedom to be yourself and do what feels good and right to you.
Of course, it is challenging to trust your own inner promptings regarding what would bring you joy, and run the risk of losing someone who is important to you. But if that person truly cares about you, he or she will want you to do what brings you joy, unless what you want to do is likely to be harmful to you. For example, in the book quoted at the beginning of this article, Joan Anderson wanted to take a trip to Machu Picchu in Peru, but she was worried that her husband would be upset about her going. This is when her close friend, Joan Erickson, told her, "...no one ever pushes you toward freedom. You need to take that for yourself." She took the trip and it was one of the best things she ever did for herself!
What are you wanting to do that you are not doing because you are afraid of someone else's reaction - your partner's reaction, your parent's reaction, your children's reaction, your friends' reaction? How are you limiting your own freedom to control what others think of you? What are you doing in your attempt to please others that you don't want to be doing? In what ways are you giving yourself up to get others' approval?
How do you feel inside when you make what others think more important to you than your own freedom and joy?
Often resentment, anxiety, anger and depression are the result of not doing what we really want to do, not being who we really want to be - not being ourselves. Giving ourselves up to others may feel safe, but it will never feel joyous.
Right now, think about something you REALLY want to do and are not doing out of fear of disapproval. Or think about something you are doing that you REALLY don't want to continue to do but keep doing to gain approval or avoid disapproval. How do you feel inside when you don't do what you want, or do what you don't want? Is it worth it?
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A sense of entitlement is common these days. People who feel entitled believe that they are more important than others and that their needs should come first. They are the takers. Caretakers support the takers. Caretakers believe they are not as important as others, that their needs should come last. Takers need to practice compassion for others. Caretakers need to practice compassion for themselves.
By Dr. Margaret Paul