What is freedom?
Freedom means different things to different people. Maybe freedom relates to securing some semblance of financial stability, while continuing to strive for more. Or, maybe, freedom means having independence. For me, freedom is the power (literally at my fingertips) to choose to snooze an extra hour. It is freedom from the corporate time clock, and it is liberating, to say the least. It is the luxury to work when you want to work, and play when you want to play. Freedom to be vulnerable, to switch gears, to close a chapter before starting a new one. For those desperately seeking the very political freedoms we so often take for granted, this word speaks volumes. To the bisexual Russian native facing persecution in his home country, freedom is an unfathomable notion, as his fate relies on political asylum, here in the U.S. It is the freedom I experience right now, to write and publish this blog, even though it might go against mainstream ideas about career and life.
To the retired couple who worked tirelessly for years, freedom means trading in their 6-bedroom mansion in the Hollywood Hills for a 1920s' Parisian-style apartment, in hopes of splitting their time between LA and Europe. Freedom from materialism, freedom from fear. For some, it is a search for freedom from the minutiae of daily obligations that anchor us to the coastline of our lives, forcing us to color within the lines. It is about denouncing the naysayers who tried to convince us to dream small. It is the freedom to choose between the life our parents designed and the lifestyle that resonates with our core values. The freedom to not make excuses or apologies for going after our dreams. The freedom to walk away, to talk back, and to, of course, set firm and consistent boundaries, without guilt.
For many individuals, the freedom to quit a job is a monumental goal worth chasing. Today, more millennials have assumed the freelancer role than any other generation that came before them. The freedoms afforded to them through freelance-work has a lot to do with this jump. While quitting their 9-5's might sound reckless or lazy, millennials are actually working harder and smarter than ever. They've redefined the meaning of "working remotely" and are doing it unapologetically well. Millenials are less keen on "paying it to the man" or living average lives at the throes of a soul-sucking corporate job. In fact, this generation prioritizes their mental health over the assurance of a steady paycheck. As a millennial myself that has "paid her dues" at a dead-end agency job before diving into private practice headfirst, I have seen both sides of the professional landscape. The freedoms of running your own business are similar to that of living life on your own accord; ironically, it has pushed me to work harder than ever before, as nobody else is running the show for me. There is infinite freedom and power in the fact that I'm doing the work because I want to, not because I've been ordered to do so. Still, I'd like to honor that this isn't for everyone. For some, the consistency and reliability of employment makes more sense and aligns fully with what they value in life. Most people like knowing they can leave their work at work, and then go home and enjoy their families. And, for a large majority, the logistical and financial barriers have deemed it unrealistic to venture into unknown territory just yet. I'd like to honor that reality, as well. Since certain occupational freedoms are not always readily available, I've compiled these tips to access that oh-so-elusive feeling of freedom, despite where you land on your journey:
1. Emotional freedom - How can you release yourself from emotional imprisonment when your surroundings cannot change? An example of this would be if you're stuck in traffic, yet, you remain utterly calm. Or, your boss is in a bad mood and you do not allow it to phase you. These are depictions of emotional freedom, which is essentially, just your reaction to an unpleasant circumstance or event. This is made easier by being mindful of your reaction towards the given stressor and to choose how to react--which sometimes means not reacting at all. Emotional freedom does not mean denying the reality of your pain; rather, it means accepting it first, and then acting. This way, you are less prone to react impulsively, say something you regret, or make a poor deicison based on emotion, all of which could result in actually magnifying the severity of your situation.
2. Financial Freedom - Your budget can be your best friend. This sounds counterintuitive, but bare with me. The paradox of keeping--and sticking to--a budget is that rather than keeping you engulfed, it can actually be the thing that sets you free. This is because you know exactly how much is coming in and how much can safely go out. You have budgeted for that five-dollar matcha latte and you know you can afford to splurge when necessary. A budget can help you reach your goal of saving for the future, paying back debts, or fixing bad credit. With a budget, you have a roadmap from which you make your financial decisions, engineered through careful thought and precision. You know the math doesn't lie, but you might lie to yourself when you convince yourself you needed that new blouse, just because it was on sale. (I've been guilty of this on many occasion!). Rather than spending on impulse buys that you later regret or even return, you can feel confident when making significant purchases or investments. It may sound impossible to learn how to manage money, but once you get the hang of it, the long-term gains are exponential. One of my favors things about doing therapy is helping my clients with their financial goals and exploring their "money story." They are often surprised to learn that there is deep work to be done in regards to money. Your relationship with money says a lot about you, and is a profound indicator of how much (or how little) you value yourself. Many cringe at the thought of looking at their finances long enough to sit with and create a budget. However, just like anything that is often avoided, the relief that comes from knowing where you stand financially is actually very freeing.
3. Spiritual Freedom - Spiritual freedom refers to a state of being. Your path to spiritual discovery is yours and yours alone. Whether you practice a religion, are an avid Atheist, or are at a crossroads between the two, you likely have believe-systems in place that help steer you and keep you grounded. I hear it all the time, "I'm spiritual, not religious." This is because so many people are redefining what being a spiritual being means to them. For instance, a person who believes in the energetic frequencies of their thoughts might believe "what you think about you bring about." In the twelve-step model, sponsors encourage their sponsees' to believe in something, or anything for that matter. They call it "a higher power" and that can be anything you believe in--whether that is God or the universe. Therapy can too be a place to explore spiritual belief systems, feelings of abandonment by one's God, or to develop a working spiritual practice. Many know that spirituality and religion help individuals grapple with unthinkable tragedies and the power of belonging to a supportive spiritual community. This can be a church, synagogue, or even a yoga community. When a lifelong addict surrenders to a higher power, he or she may experience a new level of freedom. Some believe in reincarnation, spirits, tarot cards, mercury retrograde, angels, or even messages found in synchronicity. Are you noticing the same 4 numbers in unison day after day, such as 11:11 on the clock every time you look up? You might receive answers in the form of butterflies or white feathers, at the exact right moment you needed a clue. Spiritual freedom means choosing what you believe in and letting that be your compass, especially during the darker moments, when you could really use a force greater than yourself.
4. Logical Freedom - Okay, so, I may have made this one up, but it is pretty damn important. Logical freedom is a tool you can use when emotions take over and deprive you of much needed logical reasoning. Let's say you feel hopeless towards your future and succumb to being your own worst critic. With logic-of-mind, you can remind yourself of your many verifiable areas of expertise. You may experience "imposter syndrome" while managing a job you feel ill-equipped for. A logical response to this is to consider all the reasons you are perfectly deserving of this position. You may even find you are overqualified! Your emotions could have caused you to undermine all of your amazing qualities and qualifications. After all, emotions have a funny way of making erroneous assumptions about our futures and about what we deserve. Why is it logical to believe what your internal enemy has to say? Logical freedom allows you to evaluate your life through facts, not fiction, and to turn your attention away from negative emotions, such as doubt, guilt, and shame. Where can you turn when your logical abilities waver? To someone who you trust and who knows you well! Logical freedom can also be found in that loyal, colleague-turned-friend who reassures you that you didn't deserve that passive aggressive treatment by your boss, because you work hard and you're good at what you do.
As always, I'd love to hear from you! Send me your thoughts at email@example.com or subscribe to read more blogs on the contact page!
Eva Moheban, LCSW