Every one of us has spent time in a prison of our own making. For some of us, we’ve spent the majority of our lives being held captive. Captive to our fears…our doubts…our disappointments; Captive to the fears, doubts and disappointments of the people around us. But what we don’t often realize is that we have the power to unlock the heavy iron door that stands between us and real freedom.

My first job out of college was as a guard at a state penitentiary in Texas. It was during my four years there that I developed a greater appreciation for freedom. But real freedom has more to do with who we are than where we are. Because long before the inmates I guarded lost their physical freedom, they were imprisoned by thoughts and feelings that robbed them of their emotional freedom.

Real freedom comes from developing the courage to express who we are at our deepest level. It’s the “no bullshit,” “here I am,” version of us that we’re afraid people won’t accept, but must come out if we’re ever gonna be truly happy with our lives. To be ourselves in a world which wants us to be someone else is both the essence of freedom and the opportunity to live our most meaningful life.

I’ve often struggled with this version of myself. Early on, I wanted people to like what I had to say. I was afraid to share my truth because I thought it would alienate me from the people I wanted to serve. But what I didn’t realize was that every time I failed to share my truth I was actually sabotaging my authenticity, which eventually became a price I was no longer willing to pay.

The heavy iron door standing between us and the freedom to live authentically is the prison of negative emotions that bind us to the false belief that we lack what we need to become what we want. For some, their prison is fear. For others, it’s doubt, guilt, etc. When we name our prison and work intentionally to free ourselves from it, we unleash the power to become who we are at our core.