Emotional Imprisonment

This week, this quote has shown up repeatedly in my Facebook feed.

“Care about what other people think and
you will always be their prisoner.”
–Lao Tzu

Whenever something appears more than a couple of times, I take note. Whether it’s an important message for me to hear or share is always the question. Often, it’s both.

For me, being a prisoner in this sense implies more than a lack of freedom: It represents a loss of will. I can’t imagine many worse things than losing your free will. It’s one of the few gifts we have been given that allow us to create the life we desire through the choices we make each and every day. Choosing to invest in the approval and acceptance of others is, therefore, akin to handing them the blueprint to your life and saying, “You decide.”

The quote is simple and clear. But while it’s easy to say, it’s much harder to practice. Often we associate “caring” with being a nice person. Therefore, “not caring” might feel mean or insensitive. It’s important to care, but it’s not healthy to care to the point of your own detriment, which leads to emotional imprisonment and the loss of your free will.

A baby step toward freedom might be choosing to ask yourself the same questions you would ask someone else, and listen to your own answers for the approval you seek, instead of outsourcing the job.

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