Fighting injustice and living free sounds exciting, but it can come at a great cost. Yet the cost of being inauthentic, of denying who you are and what you believe in, is greater, keeping you in bondage and stealing your peace, as I discuss in this week’s blog and podcast with speaker, NY Times best-selling author and top podcast host Jen Hatmaker.
As Jen describes in her amazing new book Fierce, Free and Full of Fire: The Guide to Being Gloriously You, even though standing up for what you believe is right and embracing who you are and what you want in life can be challenging, the struggle is worth it. On the other side you will find beauty, fulfillment and true freedom.
This is especially the case with women, who are often taught from young to act, speak and think in ways that underpin patriarchal models of authority, whether they are businesswomen, scholars, scientists, wives or mothers. Women are expected to be thermometers, not thermostats: they control the temperature for everyone else in the room, making sure other people are comfortable and happy, but they do not get to set the temperature for themselves. A message women receive so early and so often is that being strong is wrong.
Indeed, the patriarchy does a deep disservice to every man. It has wounded and hurt many men and boys, forcing them to fit in boxes that tell them what to do and say. As men and women, we need to remember that power differentials are never neutral—they always serve someone. We also need to recognize that we cannot wait for the people at the top to concede power and authority.
It is on us to say NO. We need to believe that we have agency and authority over our own lives. We need to be asking ourselves questions like “who am I? How do I thrive on this earth? How do I connect? What do I need? What makes me feel alive? What am I good at?”. This internal work, which can be challenging, uncomfortable and takes time, is well worth the effort!
The you start stepping into your sincere, integrated identity, you will not be forced to make everyone happy. You will not have to live a lie. You will not have a bunch of different identities to please different people, which is a disintegrated and unsustainable way to live. You will go from being a thermometer to a thermostat, setting the room temperature at a place that makes YOU happy, and healthy!
The thing is, this kind of disintegrated self doesn’t just affect your mood and mental health. It impacts every part of your brain and body. As I have mentioned before, although we are so good at being chameleons, doing so is so bad for our brains! The more we experience cognitive dissonance, the more we damage our brain and body, right down to the cellular level. Disintegration affects our health. We are designed to enhance each other, not copy, submit to or compete with one another. When we are free to be ourselves, we add something incredible to the world!
Yes, this freedom will come at a price, which may even include losing friends and a career, but, as Jen points out, the reward of living authentically is its own reward. It is such a comfort to be true to yourself, to be fully integrated and to know who you are at your core. You are not responsible for how others choose to act, and you can handle whatever it takes to get there!
The important thing to recognize during this process is that when it comes to things that are buried, there is a difference between privacy, which we are entitled to (this is known as discretion), and secrecy, which is often marked by shame. You do not have to tell everyone everything about you, but you do not have to hide who you are and what you want from the world.
It is only when you embrace who you are at your core that you will find true peace. Someone is always paying the bill for dishonesty; keeping a peace that is predicated on a lie will only steal your peace! Remember, a disintegrated life will impact your mental and physical health—your body keeps the score, sending you emotional and physical warning signals that something is not right. Science even shows us this: people who experience cognitive dissonance and fake peace have “red brains” characterized by crazy frequencies that affect their health right down to the cellular level!
But the good news is that our brain rewires when we start being honest with ourselves! We can start healing today, because we have a lot of control over what we think, what we believe and what we choose not to believe. We can choose how many of these fake cultural rules we want to follow, or to ignore! Thankfully, Jen has amazing questions, techniques and tips in her book Fierce, Free and Full of Fire to help you be gloriously you. In this book, she focuses on five main areas:
- Who am I?
- What do I need? For example, do you need help? Are you embarrassed to admit you need help? Don’t be afraid of asking for help, because we are wired to love and help each other. Helping others actually boosts our mental and physical wellbeing and increasing our chance of healing by up to 63%, as I discussed in a recent blog and podcast(episode #105).
- What do I want?
- What do I believe?
- How do I connect?
As you work through these questions, you will not only discover yourself, but you will also learn that you don’t need to be afraid of the truth, even hard truths. The truth is your best friend!
For more information on the freedom, identity and mental health listen to my podcast with Jen (episode #161), and check out her website, podcast and books. You can also watch a live video recording of this podcast on my YouTube channel.
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Podcast Time Stamps
3:40 Why Jen believes women need to be free, and why we need to get over the “angry feminist” caricature
7:50 It is on us as women to say NO: we need to believe that we have agency and authority over our own lives
12:50 Why the patriarchy does a deep disservice to every man
13:50 How to discover the real you, and how this will help you find freedom!
17:28 How to deal with fear, pain and shame
23:00 Why you will know when you are not okay, and how you will feel your lack of peace in your body, in your mind, and in your life
26:29 We don’t need to be afraid of the truth, even hard truths
28:50 Jen’s story, and why belonging, success, and authority were not enough
31:39 How Jen dealt with the backlash, and why freedom is its own reward
36:38 How to be fierce, free and full of fire
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