My sister is crying, hyperventilating on shattered glass. She’s coming down from another outburst. I hold her tight, gently murmuring in her ear to breathe. Breathe with me.

Her OCD rages, taking over her loving mind and heart. With anxiety suffocating her, the outburst was the only way she knew how to escape in that moment.

Afterward, she lays calmly on the couch, exhausted. My parents and I straighten the toppled furniture. And sweep up the broken glass. We join her, and in just ten minutes, we’re back to laughing as a family.

We could sob instead. We could be hurt, separate islands in our despair. But no, my family is joyful at the core. We live with love and laughter, as much as we can.

My sister taught me something very freeing — about freedom.

We may not be able to control our circumstances, but how we experience them is our choice.

I learned this through watching my parents grow closer in patience and love. And most of all, through watching my sister choose to live with compassion, despite the loneliness of wondering, why me?

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” — Viktor E. Frankl

We can choose our attitudes and the perspectives through which we want to experience the world. And with everything that shows up in our lives, it’s up to us to decide how we show up to the world.

In the darkest times, even when we can’t grasp any reason for this suffering, there’s a positive rebalancing at work. It comes later in the form of growth, empathy, or love.

Though our minds may shackle us down, freedom is often just mindshift away.

The Shackles of Our Fixed Beliefs

A lot of our worries are unnecessary or self-created. They can be fueled by the fixed beliefs we carry around, rooted in fear. We pressure ourselves, telling ourselves what we should or shouldn’t do, can or can’t do. And we stress when we feel off-track from what our lives should or shouldn’t look like.

Off-track according to who’s compass?

Limiting beliefs shape our thoughts, which shape our experience of life.

How much of our stress is self-created because we think we aren’t enough?

I think a lot of my sister’s anxiety comes from from the stress and loneliness of not being able to fit into society’s norms, compounded over the years. Though gifted with a photographic memory and insane cooking abilities, she’s struggled to fit into a job with regular hours.

She has been rejected so many times to the point where now she thinks she’s lacking in some way.

When I look at my sister’s beautiful soul, I know there’s nothing broken about her at all. No one is. In fact, I believe she’s more whole than I can comprehend. Her heart is an ocean, and she’s the lighthouse that brings our family together.

She’s so, so loved.

And she’s the most loving person I know. In her 25 years, I’ve never heard her say a single negative thing about anyone. She never forgets those who were kind to her and tries to reconnect with friends who haven’t spoken to her in years. Despite all the rejections, she shares herself completely.

Re-examining How We “Should” Live

Not everyone is supposed to fit neatly into society’s norms. Graduate college, get a job or start a company, get married — all on an ideal timeline. Says who?

I’m awed by the way my sister lives by her heart, taking an unconventional path in life.

For years, I lived by what I thought I “should” do, got burnt out and detached from my core self, and now am trying to live by my heart. I’m on a journey to rediscover, live, and share my inner truth. In that sense, my sister’s so much further along than I am.

She’s living her truth, on her own time.

The Freedom of Living Your Truth

We have a choice. We can force my sister to fit into a box and make her feel like she’s “behind,” or let her live free. Explore her gifts. Grow at her own pace. Show us how to love others unconditionally.

We can make sure she feels loved and revered, like we should all humans on earth.

Look around, we’re all so unique. We come with different talents, hopes, and values. We all have different passions, thrive in different environments.

Humans are not meant to fit in a box.

There’s so much freedom in living your truth. But when it’s not embraced by others, and when you’re rejected or start questioning yourself, it can be isolating. That’s when you have a choice. You can choose to continue to live your truth, despite the fear and external pressures. It’s about taking one small step, one small decision toward what excites you.

And then, turn that energy outward to encourage others to live their truth. When you find your tribe and support others, the path becomes less lonely. You’ll find momentum there, quieting the inner critic, overturning some limiting beliefs.

There’s freedom in living our truth and embracing others to do the same.

Make decisions that bring you closer to who you truly are, without judgement or attachment to the outcome. And practice seeing others as perfect and whole, just like you.

It’s a beautiful way to live, and a constant choice. I feel grateful to know that no matter what comes our way, this freedom is available for us to choose.

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How many fixed beliefs do we carry that hold us back? I created a short thought experiment that helps me identify my limiting beliefs and find more freedom in my life.

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