After years of institutionalised education and employment, it is easy to feel lost without some externally imposed routine. Freedom can be scary and fear of it is a huge barrier to change.
“What else would I do?”
Recently, I’ve been nudging an old friend who has no financial reason to work, to give up corporate employment. Their answer is always some version of “I can’t imagine what I’d do with my time, so I might as well keep working.” But this is really an excuse. It’s very hard to believe that a smart, energetic individual with money and several hobbies, can’t find things to do! The truth has more to do with a fear of the unknown, a fear of freedom itself.
Freedom can be scary because YOU have to take responsibility for your life. Because you have to create your own structure and decide how to allocate your time. And, that boils down to trusting yourself at a very fundamental level. The trouble with freedom is that there is no longer an authority to defer to. It’s all on you. And, fear of taking on this responsibility is one of the biggest psychological barriers to change.
It can feel hard to trust yourself, not because it is inherently hard, rather because it is so unfamiliar. Because you have spent so many years dancing to somebody else’s tune and agenda. Because you have spent years in curriculums and employment structures defined by other people. So, even when you have the chance to break free, you don’t want to leave the perceived safety of the known. It is a little bit like Stockholm syndrome where hostages develop emotional bonds with their captors.
Leaving the conditioned familiarity of externally imposed structures can bring anxiety and doubt. Not because trusting yourself is anything to be afraid of, but because it’s something that feels so alien.
Freedom can be scary but it’s not
Luckily, we humans are immensely adaptable. You can use understanding and insight to choose how you live. Half the battle is simply recognising your conditioned habit to doubt yourself, to fear taking responsibility for your life. Once you do this, you have a real chance to allow yourself to embrace a new way of being. Freedom can be scary, but only because it is new and unfamiliar. Ultimately, it is liberating.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.