Like many of you, I recently headed to the movie theater to see Quentin Tarantino’s latest brainchild, Django Unchained. If you haven’t seen it, the film involves a slave, played by Jamie Foxx, who is freed to serve a … lofty purpose. In my opinion, the movie was exhilarating (although I will admit my only original motivation to see it was the promise of God … often referred to as “Leonardo DiCaprio.”) The film’s incredibly vivid portrayal of enslavement (Tarantino leaves no blood left un-splattered) got me thinking about freedom and slavery – emotional, spiritual, mental and physical. While most of us don’t have actual shackles around our ankles, we still find enslavement elsewhere. How do we free ourselves on a daily basis? When I broke it down for myself, I came up with these five laws of liberation:
- Be the leading actor in your life, not the leading re-actor. This is not about control, or about being a control freak – this is about action. This is about doing your part to change the things you can. Don’t wait until someone asks the question to come up with your answer. No, “I don’t know, you pick” doesn’t count. You do know. Pick. Advocate for yourself. Make choices that resonate with you. What is it you really want? Find people who can help you figure out your answers, not people who tell you what they think your answers should be. Make the call. Send the application. Finally tell your date yes, you did decide on a movie, and no, you remarkably don’t want pizza for the 11th night in a row. And, although I’m a huge fan of the song “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” let’s get one thing straight: no one is keeping you hanging onto anything. You get to set yourself free … why don’t you, babe?
- Phone a friend. Regis Philbin made a good point when he called this a “lifeline.” It is. What’s troubling you? Talk it out with someone. Get some perspective. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten on the phone hysterically crying and gotten off the phone hysterically laughing. Perspective changes everything. But, it’s not a DIY job. Cringing at the thought of telling your inner circle of your inner conflict? Join a support group. Hire a paid professional. Become part of a group or club that calls out to you. Give yourself permission to find people who let you be you.
- Be Selfish: martyrdom is so two millenniums ago. The word “selfish” has gotten a seriously bad rap in the modern world, but being selfish is not the same thing as being self-centered. Being selfish is about making yourself your own first priority. It’s about self-esteem. Can you find me one person in this world more important than YOU? How easy it is to cross ourselves off of our own Christmas lists, thinking of ourselves as the one person who won’t mind. We mind. We get depleted until we have nothing left to give. It’s a shell game. Think of giving to yourself as giving to others: by nurturing yourself, you get to be of better service to other people. You have more love to offer because you have more love within you. You are worth it. Take the action: get the manicure, the new shoes, that item on the menu that you really want – not the one that’s two dollars cheaper. If you don’t feel like you’re worth it, you’ll feel a lot more worth it afterward because you did it. Parenting? I can’t say I’ve been there. But, I have been a kid, and I can say that I’m not sure there’s anything more valuable than the power of example. Show your kids what self-esteem means by demonstrating it. Actions speak louder than words. Act.
- Get quiet. I like to think of prayer as talking, and meditating as listening. I love talking. Listening? Hmmm…perhaps less so. So often our answers are right there, but we’re too frantic to hear them clearly. Make time to get still, to listen, to write, to just breathe. There’s something about taking even one deep breath that brings me back into the moment and reminds me that whatever’s going on in my head isn’t happening right now. Right now, I’m just breathing. I’m alive. No, I’m not going to be fine: I already am.
- Embrace your inner whatever. By whatever, I mean absolutely what. ever. In his latest book Super Brain, Deepak Chopra writes that “having a bad thought isn’t the same as carrying it out.” They are just thoughts, not actions. So, you daydream of dangling your boss out the window? Join the club. In my experience, most of my deepest darkest thoughts have usually been met with rip-roaring laughter by friends who I’m comfortable enough to share those things with. We are all human. We all have those thoughts. (Yes, even that one you just had.) Liberate yourself. Embrace your humanness. Join the land of the living.