Freedom has meant many different things to me over the years.
First it meant freedom from living at home with my parents – being out on my own.
As I got older, it meant financial freedom – the ability to always have enough money to do whatever I wanted.
In my spiritual journey, it meant realizing the ultimate freedom – experiencing myself as an eternal soul or consciousness.
But now I’m taking freedom to a whole new level in my life. And it’s actually deeper and more satisfying than any of these other forms of freedom I’ve experienced thus far.
The real freedom for me now is this: releasing myself from believing I am responsible for someone else’s emotions and life.
To put it another way, I’m letting go of trying to please others.
Words cannot convey how huge this is for me. And how liberating.
As females, many of us are brought up to be caregivers for others, to always be looking out for how someone else feels. To be the “nice” girl that is always sweet, kind, and sensitive to others needs.
This is what we are told and shown by example from the other women in our lives of the “right” way to be. That’s how it looks like to be a “good” person, a “good” woman – to cater to everyone else’s needs at the expense of your own. As a society, we worship selflessness.
And this is fine. This is a valid way to live. I’m not judging it. But what happens when you live your life so overly concerned for other people and their emotional experience?
You suffocate yourself.
You shut yourself down in order to please others.
A part of you dies.
And you are now in a prison of your own making.
I’m realizing more and more that this way of being, shutting myself down for others comfort is not really being compassionate, loving, or even helpful. It’s not loving for me or the other people in my life.
Because any time I shut myself down or hold myself back for fear of what other people will think or feel, I am not being true to myself. I’m keeping myself in a prison of “what other people will think.”
And how does it help anyone to keep yourself in a prison? To shut down the magnificent light of your own being so someone else is more comfortable?
I’m also realizing more and more that what people need, myself included, is not to have people please me or for me to try to please others and cater to what I think they need from me.
What people actually really need is an example. They need to see what it looks like to love yourself completely and unconditionally, which means, breaking yourself out of that prison.
It means being true to yourself. It means speaking the truth about your life when it’s appropriate. It means letting go of trying to be responsible for someone else’s emotional experience or life circumstances.
Because once someone sees an example of what it looks like to be fully yourself, you give them permission to do the same. You show them the potential of what freedom looks like.
They now have the option to free themselves as well.
At the root of this behavior of pleasing others and trying to fulfill other people’s needs is fear. We are afraid that if we don’t please others we will not be loved. We believe that love is conditional.
But when you already love and validate yourself unconditionally that fear evaporates. You can no longer compromise yourself or shut down who you are because there are no longer any negative consequences.
You are already whole and complete. You unconditionally love yourself. Therefore, how anyone else responds to you has no bearing on how you feel about yourself. You are free to fully be who you are.
The other day I was faced with a choice: Speak the truth about my life or do what I had always done in the past, which was to keep quiet because I was afraid of making others uncomfortable or causing them to experience negative emotions.
And I was afraid of being judged. Or in other words, losing someone else’s love.
This time though, I shared the truth about my life. I told my extended family that my partner and I were now separated. I shared it without shame or guilt. I shared how my former partner and I actually felt about it: happy and excited. We see it as a good thing. There is nothing to feel sad about here.
In my sharing this, others were uncomfortable. It brought up a lot of negative emotions for them. Some were angry at me for speaking so honestly. Others felt sad for me.
But what I felt was freedom.
Not freedom from my partner or anything like that but the freedom to actually share what was going on in my life without shame or guilt. The freedom to fully and completely be/express myself without worrying about what others would think or feel because of it.
I believe this is what mastery is.
It was challenging to not get sucked into how I “should” feel about my life and my current situation. I got many of my old beliefs reflected back to me that day, the main one being the belief that I’m doing something wrong somehow because of who I am or how I’m living.
In this sharing experience I gave myself the opportunity to remember who I really am, that I’m not doing anything wrong, that I can choose to experience a life of freedom where I’m not holding myself responsible for anyone else’s emotional experience anymore, and that I really can fully be myself at all times.
I gave myself the chance to continue to love and validate myself unconditionally, no matter what anyone else feels about me or judges me for.
I alone am responsible for how I feel. And I’m choosing full and complete self-love. No matter what.
As a modern woman living in the sometimes oppressive social and societal framework of what and how a woman is supposed to be, I cannot tell you how huge this feels. How groundbreaking and paradigm shifting this is for me.
I’m breaking centuries of rules about the role of a woman in a family and society at large.
I’m breaking the “caretaker” rules. I’m letting go of being responsible for others. AND IT FEELS AMAZING! (And occasionally scary too. There’s not very many women out there doing this but some of us have to go first, right?)
I’m finally giving myself FULL and COMPLETE permission to live for myself. 100%. I am no longer holding myself responsible for anyone else’s experience.
And I feel the weight of the world coming off my shoulders. A huge self-imposed burden is being released.
I should mention that this doesn’t mean I don’t want to help others. That’s not the case at all. But since I’m now extracting myself from these old dynamics of pleasing others at the expense of myself, I have more energy to serve in the ways I really want to.
My real and true passion for service is coming out in full force. It’s my writing, the sessions I hold for others, and I’m sure many more ways I haven’t even realized yet. My passion is helping others love and free themselves.
But it starts with me. I have to do it for myself first.
So for all you women (and men too) reading this article, ask yourself this:
How freeing would it feel to come out of hiding and be your true self? To share with the world who you authentically are?
How liberating would it feel to not hold yourself back anymore in any way?
How good would it feel to release yourself from the burden of trying to be responsible for everyone else’s emotions and life experiences?
Because the truth is, you really can’t be responsible for anyone else. You can try to and believe you’re being nice, empathetic, and compassionate, but no matter what you do, you CANNOT control how someone else feels.
The ONLY thing you can ever really do is be an example. You can show the other people in your life what it looks like to take full and complete responsibility for your experience and emotions and no one else’s.
If they come to you for help with how to do that, you can offer it. Otherwise, let go. You are not responsible for how they feel.
The only person responsible for your emotions is you. This goes for everyone else in your life as well. Only they are responsible for how they feel. No matter how much they try to convince you otherwise.
So…are you ready to be free?
This story was also published on Elephant Journal.
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