In America, and Texas especially, I have a great perspective on society’s perception of “freedom”. Although we Americans have put some effort into marketing ourselves as the freedom capital of the world, there is some truth to it. Our freedom loving founding fathers regarded tyrannical rulers as the foremost threat to liberty, but I contend otherwise.
Far more detrimental are the restraints we place on ourselves through our thoughts. Few people consider these freedoms, yet they are the ones that we have the most power over. Therefore, I am declaring independence from this tyranny, which has resisted my every wish. If you join me, it isn’t going to be easy, but we shall thank ourselves profusely when we are free.
Slavery Lurking Under the Surface
Self-enslavement runs deep in humankind. While millions have died in the name of physical freedom, few recognize the inner-battle for freedom neglected every day. Here are some of the freedoms you may need to reconsider:
Enslavement to Addictions – an epidemic of addictions plague humankind whether it be hard drugs, nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, or even chocolate. I can’t count the number of times I have heard people say “I can’t live without it.” If you can’t live without something, you are a slave to it. Period. Reassess your relationship to anything that you are addicted to in order to gain your freedom from it.
Enslavement to Outcome – hinging your happiness to a certain outcome in anything will always hinder your growth. Whether you aspire to break a world record, invite a girl to dinner, or get a promotion at work, the outcome is not the most important aspect. As a new friend Tharyn mentions, “process is the result.” Giving any task 100% is a result in itself.
After you have put all of your energy, focus, and resources into a target, there will be a time that you can no longer change the outcome. When that time has come, stressing out over your failings will only reduce your chance of success the next time around.
Enslavement to Self-Consciousness – when in social situations, do you think about how other people perceive you? Do you listen to certain types of music or wear certain types of clothes because you are self-conscious? It isn’t an abnormal trait, and I also worry about this. I have hyperhidrosis and therefore sweat like a bull, but caring what everyone else thinks does me no good.
Being self-conscious will prevent you from producing new relationships with cool people. It will prevent you from approaching a member of the opposite sex and it will gnaw away at your self-esteem and confidence.
No discussion on self-consciousness would be complete without the presence of ego. Fragile egos are extremely self-conscious, which is yet another layer of enslavement to defeat. Gaining freedom from self-consciousness and ego are among the hardest things on this list, but are the most worthwhile.
Yesterday I walked up to a gorgeous girl on campus and sat next to her on the bench. Whether it ended well or not (it did!) is irrelevant because I was able to briefly overcome enslavement to self-consciousness and ego. This is the highest on my priority list and should be on yours as well.
Enslavement to Envy – material culture has taken root deep within millions of people worldwide, which has only worsened our already existent enslavement to envy. Constantly seeking what we do not have yields a chase of freedom and happiness that is never satisfied.
It doesn’t have to be a new car or house that preoccupies your mind. Even wishing you were more physically attractive or professionally advanced is a form of envy that must be relinquished.
Remove the Shackles and Live Freely
It does not matter how long it takes or how painful it is, freeing yourself from these bonds will greatly enhance your life. Here are a few ways I have tackled them and tips on doing so yourself:
Freedom from Addictions – when it comes to addictions, it is often best to quit cold turkey. Addiction has biochemical implications within the brain, which means there is a physical need associated with the substance or action. This is why you get cranky without caffeine, smokers find it impossible to quit, and drug addicts fall into cycles of abuse. If you continue to provide your body with the addictive material, it’s going to be harder (though not impossible) to succeed.
You do not have to do this alone. The internet has made it possible to join all types of support groups with like-minded individuals without ever meeting anyone in person. For example, the No Fap movement on Reddit brings together men who want to stop the use of porn in order to be healthier, happier, and become better men.
Also, keep in mind that addictions are incredibly sneaky. Just because it is socially acceptable to spend countless hours consuming television or social media (like Twitter or Facebook) doesn’t mean that you should. Try to undergo a period of deprivation for anything that you fear might be taking over your life. The absence of anything will help you to define your relationship to it. If you aren’t addicted, carry on. If you are, make a change by going cold turkey and getting a support group to help.
Freedom from Outcome – this is one of the hardest freedoms to achieve because we are taught to want victory so badly. When we work hard it is only natural to hope for the fruits of our labor. However, this makes it easy to become enslaved to outcome. In the Hindu book, the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says “you have every right to work, but you have no right over the fruits. Let not the fruits of action be your motive.”
It is a poignant message that all should learn. From a practical perspective, I meditate in order to put myself in a calmer psychological state. Upon receiving an unfavorable outcome, it is much easier to remain calm when physically relaxed.
Understanding that there are many variables involved with success can help you to become free from outcome. You may increase your chances of success to the best of your ability through hard and smart work, but there is an element of circumstance that cannot be controlled.
The final tip I can provide in becoming free from outcome is to really enjoy the process. Relish the opportunity to learn from your mistakes, feel pride that you are bettering yourself through a process regardless of the results, and genuinely feel it. When I approach women, by far the most important undertaking I must pursue, it is a rush to challenge myself in ways the “old self” would have never done.
With my MS Paint skills, I whipped up this theoretical diagram:
Freedom from Self-Consciousness – in order for you to care less about what other people think of you, the first step is to accept yourself. Further, you must embrace everything about yourself that you cannot control and understand that those things you are improving will take time. If you can’t learn to accept the way that you are, how can you expect anyone else to?
For the longest time, and still to this day, I have been plagued by the excessive sweating. It has destroyed my confidence with women and led me to retract from a lot of social activity when I was younger. Slowly, I am accepting that I sweat a lot and being more open about it. I’ll tell people, I’ll carry around a little hand cloth, and I don’t let that define the way that I lead my life anymore.
The best part about genuinely accepting yourself is that other people’s reactions are a reflection of your own feelings. When you are insecure and self-conscious about something, other people will mirror this with their actions. When you accept it, are open with it, and even make jokes about it, other people will have the same mentality.
To apply this now, just go meet strangers as often as possible. You don’t need to have long conversations, but go do it. Also, compliment people if you like their clothing. If I see someone wearing 80s grandma gear, I’ll compliment them – not because of the clothes, but because they’re free from self-consciousness and I respect that.
Eventually, you’ll be able to take it a step further. Yesterday I went on a 1 – 2 mile run at the University of Texas at Austin in my underwear during broad daylight. I am nowhere near free, but it is a step in the right direction! (I’m the hairy one on the right)
Freedom from Envy – happiness and fulfillment are only created from within. If you cannot derive them from your own thoughts and actions, you are destined to be chasing them forever without any hope of success. There is a scientific reason for this phenomenon.
Our pre-frontal cortex allows us to simulate events that we want. Unfortunately, as Dan Gilbert explains, our pre-frontal cortex usually overestimates the level of happiness that we will receive. Thus, we attain something that we covet, but it provides a fraction of the happiness we expected. Here are a few ways I gain freedom from envy:
- Start by writing down everything that you are grateful for. Friends, family, inanimate objects, whatever.
- Think about the best thing that happened to you or the best feeling that you had today. Science shows that reliving the moment in our brains can bring a similar level of happiness.
Break Free From Yourself
We have all found these constraints stifling at some point in our lives, but recognizing them and making a change is the best thing that anyone can do. Winning physical freedom from an oppressor is often much easier than overcoming your own misconceptions, social narratives, and other elements working against you.
It isn’t impossible, though. As you can tell, I’ve implemented a lot of different practices in order to gain my freedom from this resistance. I still battle every day and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is no “victory” at the end as the American revolutionaries had. Instead, there is only a long journey of self improvement.
Can you think of other ways to free yourself? Have existing methods for things I described? Let me know in the comments and, as always, I’ll be extremely appreciative!