Happy Independence Day!
In addition to the cook-outs and fireworks celebrations, today is an opportunity to give thanks for the freedoms we have in this country and the men and women who keep us safe.
This year, I'm also taking time to pause and think about my personal freedom. The question that came up during this reflection time: How free do I feel to be myself?
I thought about the times when I feel most comfortable in my own skin. What allowed me to relax into who I am and show up as me - flaws and all? What things blocked my authenticity or caused me to shrink?
After spending some time with these questions, here is what I learned:
1) Remember that you are human. This may sound silly yet it is so easy to forget that we are only human. The times when I shrink and play small are the times when I think I need to be perfect and am not measuring up to an impossible standard. Reminding myself that I am human allows me to be kinder to myself and reset my expectations to something more realistic.
2) You are different on purpose. I grew up hearing people say, Michelle is different. I spent the first thirty years of my life thinking that something was wrong me so I worked hard to be more like everyone else. I now see the error in that way of thinking. What makes me different is now embraced and celebrated. What shifted? I now see and appreciate the value of my own uniqueness. I am the expert in my own experience and I get to share those gifts with the world.
3) See the beauty in yourself. So often we look in the mirror and automatically scan for what is wrong - hair out of place, unwelcome forehead pimple (don't you hate those), too many bulges in places that shouldn't bulge. What if instead, you look until you see the beauty in your eyes, in your smile, in the gentle curves of your body that frames the inner strength that has brought you to where you are today. Take a moment to really look into your own eyes, see the real you behind the veil, and say simply, I - love - you.
4) You have the right to choose. Fear of failing is one of the biggest obstacles to making choices that honor who we are. Falling down is a part of the process. The mis-steps we take sometimes shift the path we're on, leading us to incredible places we never could have predicted or imagined. You always have a choice in how you respond to life. If you don't like the results you're getting, you have the right to choose again - make a different choice. Remember this when you're feeling stuck; you get to re-decide. Knowing that you have choices gives you the freedom to try new things.
5) You are not alone and can ask for what you need. I really get into trouble when I forget this basic fact. Fear of being alone and feelings of isolation can impact the decisions we make. Feeling alone is a mindset. We often withdraw into an inner world, alone with our negative thoughts that convince us that no one cares and we don't matter. But, this is simply not true. The truth is at time we make a choice to be alone. What's the antidote? Reach out and ask for help and support. I've learned that it is unfair to expect people to read my mind. You may be really good at helping and supporting others. How good are you at accepting help? This takes practice. Identify a circle of support. Talk to friends and loved ones. Find a coach, counselor, or mentor. Practice, practice, practice asking for what you need and remember, you are not alone.
So today, I am celebrating feeling more free to be myself than at any other point in my life. How about you? What helps you feel free to be you? Leave a comment below.
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