So, it’s here … the day we have all been waiting for. With July 19 marking an end to most of the pandemic restrictions of the past 16 months, Jenny Rossiter considers what the precious word “freedom” means to her.
“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” ~ Nelson Mandela
Without doubt the COVID pandemic has been isolating, devastating and truly traumatic for so many. We are not even truly out the other side and it is still going to be a long road to recovery. But with all the darkness and pain, living in a pandemic has shown us that the freedoms that are so vital to us, both personally and professionally, at home and at work, have never been more precious.
Confined to our homes and with our freedoms taken away, for many of us it has been a time of reflection. For my part, I decided to write a book chronicling my journey to date, from 1969 to 2021. As I put the words together, I came to see that the road I have taken, with its many twists and turns, has very much been about my own freedom. Freedom from what holds me back; freedom from being someone I was not; and freedom from circumstances and people that were no longer good for me.
The very process of reflecting on my life has given me the opportunity to face my demons, heal my hurts and discover my true self. Through acknowledging my history and accepting who I am means that I’m free to be exactly what I want to become. In the 8 months it took to write the 8 chapters of my book, we were in the pandemic, and I experienced the most significant personal trauma and mental health breakdown of my life. It has not been easy, but I’m just one of many. We all have a story and many of us are lucky enough to come out the other side to tell it.
During my cathartic experience, I realised the many things that trapped me, blocked me and have taken my freedom away are not external but right inside me. My freedom has come from facing myself and knowing you cannot put a price on your life.
Love will set us free
Reaction to the result of England’s Euro 2020 Final showed us so much about the freedoms we have and that how we conduct ourselves represents a choice. The light of shame was shone on humanity as we saw the unspeakable racism, violence and inhuman behaviour demonstrated by the minority. The abuse, humiliation and criminal attacks shocked us all and the relentless pursuit of destroying each other was seen by the world. But as we saw hate, we also saw love. Our minds had been opened and our hearts were broken. The hate graffiti was replaced by flowers, bunting and deep words of love. The three kings that were attacked and abused were now showered with love. And in this case alone, love set us free.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the 18th century French philosopher, observed that “man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” These chains are oppressive societal rules that restrict what we believe what we can do. These are the chains of social conditioning, the values society projects on us. We sometimes feel that we have no power to move ourselves in the direction that we want to go in our lives as we are moved by the social systems we are living within, trapped by whatever our society deems valuable. But deep down we know this is not true and in all of us there is a little boy or girl, waiting to get out.
Freedom to choose
Today, not tomorrow, we need to seek out and grasp the freedom that we have and when we have it, help fight for the freedom of others. The mental, physical, social, and emotional, freedoms that we all have access to are our human right and for many of us it takes a mental breakdown or a massive failure to see that our life is in our hands, and no one else’s.
Most of the lack of freedom we may feel is not actually caused by our environment but by our very own minds. While our environment can dictate the things we should and should not do – and places some serious consequences on certain actions – at the end of the day the choice is ours.
The choice to think, act and say what you like is the highest freedom we could wish for. And, whether you’re chained to your job, trapped in a relationship, or just not enjoying your life, the road to freedom is yours and you get to choose what you do.
It’s the freedom of your fears and complaints, and the freedom to enjoy your life. It’s the freedom to allow yourself to be the person you are, want the things you want, and do the things you do, regardless of what anyone else thinks ‘you should or should not do’ because of their rule book, not yours.
Hurrah for our Freedom Day. But, remember, you don’t have to wait for the freedom to choose. The choice is always yours.
At Feel Good Leadership, we work with high performing executive leaders, managers and teams to become more authentic, inclusive and nurture better relationships enabling collaborative and thriving workplaces.
About the Author
Jenny Rossiter is an international executive coach and facilitator with a passion for weaving together the real human experience with practical science-based techniques to build authentic & inclusive leadership, emotional resilience and mental strength. Jenny has spent a lifetime studying human behaviour and more recently leading-edge neuroscience. She takes her clients through a journey of accompanied exploration in order to discover who they are and who they might become, as leaders, as teams and as human beings.
Please contact Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org