Have you ever got to a point in your life where you felt you had everything, yet there was still something missing? In my twenties, my external success should have been enough, yet I wasn’t happy. The things I had accumulated, my social status and professional achievements, all seemed too fragile, too empty, to be all there was. I thirsted for something more, but that something was intangible. Freedom, Love. They just sounded like words from a hippie fest, and I didn’t know how to go about experiencing them.

The common perception of freedom seems trite when true freedom has been tasted. We think freedom is being allowed to do what we want and go where we choose. Yet this definition of freedom overlooks the fact that the person who controls and judges us the most is ourselves. True freedom is not something that can be granted or taken away by another, as any fan of Braveheart knows. Only you have the power to grant yourself true freedom.

Freedom is self acceptance. It is allowing yourself to be, letting go of the desperate need for external approval that brings us to limit and control ourselves, adopting uncomfortable social norms in order to fit in. External approval will never be enough as long as we continue craving it, and this is true because of one simple truth: we do not approve of ourselves. Because of this, we try to get others to do it for us.

How do you fill an internal hole with external recognition? How can other people’s praise make up for our own self-criticism? Substituting self love with external approval is like turning up the television to drown out the cries of a baby – a distraction that does nothing to help the situation.

To become aware of this is to make a fundamental shift in perception: the shift from victimhood to taking responsibility. This is what true responsibility is all about: taking charge of the only thing that I have control over: the choice I make in this moment. What are you focusing on now? You can focus on what other people think of you, or you can focus on embracing yourself. You can focus on what you perceive as wrong and lacking, or you can focus on appreciation. There lies our power as human beings, and in reality the only power we ever have: the power of choice. When you become aware of that, you will realize how important your choices are in every moment, for what you choose to focus on, is what grows.

True freedom is freedom from victimhood. It is about taking responsibility for who you are, embracing who you are and trusting in your own inner voice. When you find true freedom, no one can take it away from you.

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