I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is to be free.
Like any true millennial, I turned to the 21st century’s numero uno double-edge sword: The Internet.
Underneath the steady pulse of Instagram yogis, fake tits and giant asses, the Twitterverse, the latest gut-wrenching shooting, murder, terrorist attack and the general never-ending stupidity of politicians, is a hum of individuals who are participating in the self-love movement.
I say movement because it does seem to require a seismic shift swing in the way one sees the world, those around them and their very selves.
A few similarities run between those aboard the self-love train. The list below is purely based on my observations. If you have your own, feel free to comment below:
- An incident occurred that caused great suffering, specifically grief – this could be anything from a heart-shattering break-up, the loss of a loved one, a terrible accident, an illness etc.
- Deep-seated insecurities/painful memories that were formerly shoved in a corner are now at the surface and the only way to move forward is through
- A realization that there is a big difference between selfishness and self-love
- That the only constant thing in life is yourself
I’m sure there more factors but these seem to be the most prominent. They present themselves to broken or near-broken individuals in the form of a maze. Of course, the whole idea is to realize you’re in a maze and then start paying attention to the signs.
But let’s say you manage to get out of it. You beat down grief and self-pity and pain with your sword and emerge from the maze bloodstained, weary and awake. The sun is shining in your face and there is a path moving straight and true. No more circular pointless roads with insurmountable roadblocks. Yippee.
What happens next?
I think most people get stuck here. I definitely did. Allow me to explain.
So you emerge from the maze and you clean yourself off and you take stock of what you’ve just beaten. You took control of your life and you’d won. You sharpen your sword because you know it’s value now. You begin to take yourself seriously. You begin to realize you are worthy of love, respect and belonging.
You see this beautiful glowing change in yourself. You’re proud of yourself. But you’re puzzled and then upset when no one else seems to notice. And if they do notice, they certainly don’t care.
Everyone around you seems to be behaving in the same way. They are treating you the same. They’re still mean and hurtful. Still saying nasty things when they’re upset or dismissing your feelings.
The old you would have stayed quiet and saved the anger and the tears for your pillow or your journal.
But no. This new version of you bristles at this mistreatment. Your eyes become over bright, your nostrils flare and eyebrows arch upwards. You speak up. You tell them just where they can shove it and refuse to back down. You see the surprise in their face and you do a little dance inside your head: Victory! I have been seen.
Now you’re arguing with someone who time has shown to be impossible reason with. And as their irritation and angers rises, so does yours to match it. But you’re standing up for yourself! This is how it’s done, is it not? Do not allow others to walk all over you. If they won’t listen to your words or your reason, maybe they will to your yells and wilfulness.
So amid all the screeching and blustering, what have you become? The answer is obvious (if my writing has been clear). You are now one of them.
When I first hopped aboard the Self-Love Express, I felt this need to protect myself at all costs. That no one should be allowed to treat me in a way that undermines my value. This idea was born out years of not protecting myself. I think I was trying to make up for lost time. So, I’d argue with anger and go toe-to-toe with unfairness. But it all wore me down. You really can’t argue with idiots. They’d bring you down to their level and beat you with experience. If not, they’ll turn you into the King or Queen of idiots and what will you be left with then?
Self-love isn’t about worrying how others treat you. It’s about treating yourself and those around you with respect, kindness and compassion. The world could use a lot more of these three things but first we all need to separate what is in our control and what isn’t.
It took me a long time to understand this. Actually, I’m still working through this bit. I can’t dictate how someone else decides to treat me. I can only dictate how I respond. Reactivity of any kind only withdraws from your self-respect. Being kind to someone who is being nasty to you isn’t a sign of being a doormat. It’s a sign of true self-love. Why? Because it means you are so secure in your own value that what they say or do cannot hurt you.
Needless to say, this is much, much easier said than done. I imagine it takes practice, discipline and a steady flow of letting go exercises to remain calm in the face of someone who is trying their best to hurt you.
So, I come back to my initial question. What is it to be free?
In most countries across the world, financial freedom is ruthlessly chased after. Most of us snap on blinkers (horse blinders) and run after it without bothering to take in much of what is going on around us. In that process, we attain only material wealth.
The thing about money is that it comes and goes. It isn’t permanent. Jeff Bezos may argue with this. But then again, maybe not since his ex-wife is harvesting half his fortune.
Emotional freedom is the true definition of freedom. At least, in my book. To be able to do as you please without needing or vying for the approval of another sounds like heaven. This doesn’t mean that you don’t care about anyone else, of course. It just means you truly understand that everyone is on their own separate path and that you can be there for each other without being expectant of one another.
I’m not there yet. I have some ways to go. I would love to find someone who is emotionally free and interview them. Perhaps you know someone. Or perhaps, they’re all sitting atop the Himalayas, bald and robed in orange. Or chilling out in Varanasi, buck naked and smoking pot.
Anyway, this was my musing for the week. I hope you will keep coming back every week. Feel free to comment if you want to support or denounce. Either way, I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Image: Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash.com