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Self-trust and Liberation: Your Personal Independence Day

Updated: Jul 5

  

The Fourth of July is a complicated holiday.

 

While I’m always game for a birthday party and a day that revolves around watermelon, the 4th also feels like a celebration of colonialism, white supremacy and American exceptionalism. (All things I’m trying to liberate myself from.)

 

This day honors the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a document written for and by white men.

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”


 

Clearly, they were not talking about Indigenous Peoples, African American men or women of any color.

 

The U.S. claimed its liberation from the British crown, forming a nation on the backs, skeletons and stolen land of countless humans. Though we love to “let freedom ring,” oppression is baked into our origins.

 

Sometimes what pretends to be freedom is just more bondage.

 

Some examples of oppression pretending to be liberation:

 

-      The self-care movement for women that ignores all the socialized reasons

women put themselves last and just gives them more impossible standards they can fail to meet.

-       Tenets of body positivity that keep us just as obsessed with our bodies.

-       Women offered a “seat at the table” only when they lead like men.

-    Acceptance offered to racial or ethnic minorities only when they assimilate.

 

 

It’s not freedom if:

 

-       it’s someone else’s agenda for us.

-       it requires self-abandonment.

-       shame or fear are the driving motivators.

-       it asks us to dismiss how we feel.

-       someone is profiting from our compliance.

-       there is a hierarchy with some people ranked above and some below.

-       we can’t say no without retribution.

 

Freedom is about choice. It’s about self-sovereignty.

 

Liberation means not letting others decide for us. It means no longer looking outside ourselves for our truth.

 

Liberation means examining our learned belief systems and deciding if we still want to adhere to them.

 

But how do we decide? How do we know?

 

We listen to ourselves. Not our conditioned mind but our true, inner self.  We become our own expert, our own sage, our own compass.

 

Liberation requires our self-trust.

 

 

Why Self-trust is Challenging


If you don’t trust yourself, you’re not alone.

 

It’s a learned trait, not a reflection of your trustworthiness.

 

Cultural messaging for and about women is that we cannot be trusted. That we aren’t good with money or math, aren’t shrewd or innovative enough to head up million-dollar companies, that we are too emotional to keep a cool head. That we are ornaments, trophies and acquisitions.

 

That left to our own devices, we would skip the gym, eat heaps of chocolate cake and not fit into our clothes or airplane seats.

 

Apparently, we can’t even be trusted with decisions about our own bodies.


placard that reads "my body my choice"

 

We are taught to fear ourselves, our instincts, our intuition, our needs. We are taught we are insatiable, needy, inconsistent and misguided.

 

We don’t mistrust ourselves because we are untrustworthy. We don’t trust ourselves thanks to a millennium-long campaign to keep us small, quiet and obedient.

 

The good news: none of it is true.


 

Using Compassion to Build Self-Trust

 

Self-trust cannot be rushed, forced or faked. Like any relationship, it takes time to develop and grow.

 

With tenderness, we meet ourselves where we are.

 

All we need is a tiny opening.  

 

a flower bud just opening

Questions help foster compassionate curiosity, help crack the door open. They allow us to consider new possibilities and previously unforeseen options.

 

We wedge the tip of our shoe in so the door can’t snap closed again.

 

I like to use “what-if” questions. I find them expansive and fun.


            What if my life is my own? How might I live it differently?

 

            What if I don’t actually believe x, y or z but it’s just what I’ve been taught?

 

            What if there is nothing wrong with my body and it is allowed just as it is?

 

What if I didn’t care what anyone else thought of me? What would I want to do with my life, my time, my energy, my money, my passion?

 

What if I felt fully allowed to be me? What would that feel like?

 

What if I lived without feeling obligated?

 

What if I get to choose what I believe?


What if they were wrong about me?

 

What if my desires matter?

 

What if I did what lights me up?

 

 

Don’t censor yourself. Don’t try to find the perfect answer.

 

And don’t concern yourself with action. If you feel pressured to act on your answers, you might change your answers.

 

(It’s far too easy to lie to ourselves.)

 

All answers are allowed. Listen with open-hearted compassion, without judgement or fear. When we do this, we create safety for and with ourselves.

 

The power is simply in allowing your inner self to speak.

 

We – women especially – are so conditioned to force ourselves into things – clothes, shoes, roles, icky situations – that don’t fit us.

 

Self-trust is not a destination but a process, an evolution. There is no flag-waving finish line, no diploma, no final bill of sale.


Self-trust is more bushwhacking a new trail, getting lost and found over and over and needing more courage than you think you have.

 

No one can tell us the way. We each have to find it for ourselves.


Don’t expect paved roads or clear signs. Instead, doubt will be your constant companion and you will sometimes feel utterly alone and unsure. But forging our own way will bring us to vistas we can’t imagine.

 


sunset over mountains and water

We’ve listened to other people for long enough. Isn’t it time to listen to - to trust - ourselves?

 

The act of granting ourselves permission to blaze our own way is an act of liberation.

 

This is how we build self-trust.

 


Self-Trust and Fear

 

Trusting ourselves should be the most normal thing in the world.


It used to be until it was trained out of us.

 

Reclaiming this connection to ourselves comes with some challenges. We will inevitably buck the status quo, upset people who prefer our obedience and jeopardize our belonging.


We will question our inner guidance and vacillate in our commitment to following ourselves. We will be faced with choosing ourselves over others.

 

There aren’t small things. They make our lizard brains siren in warning. DANGER! Go back!

 

Fear grabs us by the ankles and demands we stop.

 

This fear has kept me compliant for years, spooking me into rushing back to my comfort zone of compliance.

 

And then one day - or a million days stacked up together - I just couldn’t anymore. It became more painful to abandon myself than to disappoint others.

 

Just like oppression can rebrand itself and try to pass as freedom, fear can hide behind a façade of helpfulness. I’m just keeping you safe, fear says. I don’t want you to be humiliated.


(Think Anxiety in Inside Out 2.)



the character Anxiety from the movie Inside Out 2

 

We don’t realize that fear is keeping us bound in the most dangerous state of all.

 

Because when we are separated from ourselves and our truth, we cannot thrive. We cannot be balanced mentally or physically. Our bodies and spirits revolt. We get sick. We feel anxious, depressed and apathetic.

 

Not because something is wrong with us. But because our true selves will always fight their way free.

 

Value yourself enough to go looking for yourself, to listen to yourself, to plumb the wise depths of you.


What if you can trust yourself more than you can trust anyone else?


Because you know what's best for you. You always have.

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