There are many of us on the planet who are blessed to live in countries where there is great freedom. We have the freedom to pursue careers that we want, to be educated, to go shopping and buy whatever we want, to move about from place to place if we feel like it, uprooting ourselves and setting out on new adventures.
We have the freedom to vote for the government we prefer, to dress as we please, and to travel and explore as much or as little of the world as we want.
Yet in spite of all of this freedom, it is astonishing how easy it can be for some of us to feel trapped, helpless and powerless. We might feel forced or pressured into careers, relationships, financial decisions, or parenthood. We feel like we have "no choice" because of the needs, expectations and demands of others who want what they want from us, and their happiness seems to be the only kind that matters.
Some of us will stand up to that sort of pressure, say "Not happenin'!" and run the other direction.
But far too many of us will feel like we don't have the right to do that. "I couldn't! He/She would be furious!" "He can't do it for himself (usually means "won't" do it...). "I have to do it. They're expecting it." "I hate it but they'll be so disappointed if I don't!"
And on and on and on.
I do understand how that feels. I lived there for a very long time. Too long, in fact. Like many others, I was brought up to believe my needs and feelings weren't important. I was not allowed to stand up for myself, to say what I wanted, or to say "No." Because of this conditioning, even into adulthood I was easily manipulated into making decisions that were about the happiness of others while ignoring my feelings.
Consequently, I didn't feel like I had any choice but to make decisions that felt completely wrong even though I tried desperately to make them feel right. I got into the wrong marriages or other situations that left me feeling trapped and like a hostage.
I take full ownership of that...I'm not pointing fingers. At the time, I couldn’t see that my upbringing and other factors contributed to it and ultimately, I was the one who made those decisions.
But all I could see was that I felt trapped, helpless and powerless.
The thing is -- and it took me years to figure this out -- I wasn't trapped, nor was I helpless or powerless. I just felt that way.
If you're feeling trapped, it's probably got something to do with obligations, demands and expectations that others are placing on you. But you don't owe anyone your happiness. It's your right and your responsibility to make the most of your life, whatever that means to you, and whether or not anyone else approves. If we can just recognise that, it can help to keep us from making choices that are not in our best interests.
And there's the key phrase..."making choices." This is truly the most powerful tool you've got - the ability to make choices.
Don't waste it on people who pressure you to use it for their benefit and not yours.
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