For accessibility and ease, you can listen to this post narrated by Mike:
I’ve had a fraught relationship with freedom.
For a long time, I thought freedom was the same as giving up. As quitting.
I wanted to be free from the stress of everything—from stress at work, at home, on my body during exercise, even writing. I told myself that stress was the antithesis of freedom. And so, if I felt stress, I had to stop and quit. Because I wanted to be free.
I convinced myself that it was good self-care to always stop when things got hard. When I came up to resistance. When I felt stuck or stressed. Because I wasn’t feeling free.
And, ironically, that often made me feel trapped. Like I couldn’t make headway on the things I cared about in the world. Reinforcing old stories that I was “too sensitive” and “too fragile” to do the things I actually wanted to do.
And I became trapped by my own quest for freedom.
It never occurred to me that freedom isn’t the escape from stress; freedom is the agency to choose what we most love. And spoiler alert—sometimes that brings us head-to-head with stress.
Choosing love—choosing our genius—isn’t always easy. In fact, most times it’s what forces us to grow most. Sometimes it asks us to challenge an old belief or story that is no longer relevant. Sometimes it asks us to step outside of our comfort zone and be courageous. Sometimes it even asks us to be vulnerable and air our deepest shame.
All of that is pretty damn stressful. But it’s not stress for the sake of stress. It’s stress for the sake of growth. It’s productive stress. Like the stress of a plant growing inside a seed that finally cracks the seed.
The irony is that most of us would call that moment a seed sprouts true freedom. But, in our own lives, we might give up before we ever grow to the point of cracking our own seeds—all in an effort to feel “free.”
I’ve had days where I thought I couldn’t do this work anymore. It was too hard. It asked for too much. It asked for serious emotional and financial commitments from me. And felt like anything but freedom. Until—bam—it opened me up to no longer being afraid to go after what I want.
And I don’t know that a morning goes by that I don’t want to sleep in and not exercise. But I always feel infinitely freer the moment I finish my last plank.
Because freedom isn’t about choosing what’s convenient. It’s about choosing the deeper thing we really want—even when it’s not convenient.
And that requires self-trust. It requires that we trust ourselves enough to know the difference. To know what we really want. To know who we really are. And to know our genius.
For us visionaries, self-trust is a hard thing. It’s been eroding since the moment of our birth. Every time someone told us we were “too sensitive” about that joke or “too emotional” about that work situation, we subtly learned not to trust ourselves.
That our emotions are wrong. That they can’t be trusted. And so we bury them down. We bury our genius deep within ourselves where it can hopefully not wreak havoc.
And, then, like anything suppressed, it unconsciously rises up in subverted ways. Maybe we’re unconsciously passive-aggressive or manipulative—even without our own conscious knowing. Because a huge part of us—our genius—just wants to be expressed.
And now we definitely can’t trust ourselves. Because maybe we’re being manipulative when we think we’re being altruistic. Maybe we’re only giving in order to get something back in return.
We question everything. And doubt ourselves. And stop trusting that we know what it is we really want in the world. And what’s our Truth versus other people’s conditioning. What’s our genius versus the convenient thing to do.
So, of course, we never feel free. We’re trapped by layers of conditioning and stories and beliefs and lack of self-trust. And we’re shaming ourselves for lacking clarity and not knowing what we really want.
It feels like we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. And freedom is ever more elusive.
In my experience, the only way to true freedom is radical self-acceptance. I’m talking fucking radical.
Beginning to look those areas of deep shame in the eye and reclaim them. Unpacking all of the conditioning that’s been put upon us. Every “too much” and “not enough” statement we’ve ever heard. Every aspect of our genius that’s buried under layers of stories and beliefs.
I’m talking about discovering our genius. Seeing it in every trauma and failure and experience and desire. And fighting for it. Even when it asks us to be bold and courageous and vulnerable. Fighting for love.
Trust is a practice sport. The more we do it, the more we get the hang of it.
When we show up to a coaching call with no idea how we’ll handle this situation and then figure it out, that builds trust. When we show up to an interview with no real plan and let it come out, that builds trust. When we channel a message or a piece of art without any plan, that builds trust.
Whenever we choose something we really want, even if it feels hard or impossible, that builds trust. And, honestly, it doesn’t matter if we succeed or fail. Maybe the biggest shocker for me is that the times I failed I still built trust—so long as I chose the thing I really, really wanted.
Swinging for the fences and whiffing is just as powerful as hitting that home run. Because the trust was never about the result. It was just about getting up to the plate at all.
And the more often we get up to that plate of what we really want, the more we can trust ourselves to know what it is we really want out of life. And let go of other people’s stories and beliefs that were never ours to begin with.
Freedom comes from being all of yourself. Being fully expressed. And choosing your genius every single time.
The only way to free others is to free ourselves fully. From all of it. The bullshit beliefs and conditioning and stories that pull us away from who we truly are.
And that kind of freedom isn’t about quitting. It’s about choosing love.
Questions for Reflection:
*Answer in a journal, in the comments right here, or take it over to the Sacred Branding® Facebook group where we can support one another:
Are you craving freedom?
— Do you want to feel free—in your life, your business, your relationships, with money? Do you ever give up or stop going after what you want because you’d rather feel free from the stress, and sometimes it just feels like too much?
— Do you have trouble trusting yourself about what you really want? Do you get confused if something is coming from your own true voice or someone else’s ideas and conditioning? Do you sometimes judge yourself and over-analyze your own actions or motives?
— What if true freedom can only ever come from self-trust? What if freedom sometimes puts you head-to-head with stress so that you can liberate yourself once-and-for-all? What if the path to freedom is simply choosing your own genius again and again, even when it’s hard, and building your own self-trust again?