About a year ago, a close friend of mine referred to me as a ‘Free Spirit’. And honestly, I was taken aback! And interestingly, slightly triggered.
I grew up in a reasonably affluent neighbourhood, went to a selective girls-only high school, spent my career in corporate Business Development roles, enjoy a juicy t-bone steak, and drool over a Celiné handbag as much as the next female city-slicker.
But I guess free spirits come in all shapes and forms!?
Soon after, it came to my attention that just about everyone, (except me apparently) saw me as a ‘Free Spirit’.
So it got me thinking – Why? And how was I different?
I had a stab at this. And while I could be wrong, my initial thoughts were it had something to do with a few of the following;
- I’m very independent
- I love travel, culture and adventure
- I care about the earth and nature
- I choose to see the good in just about everyone and everything
- What society tells me I ‘should’ ‘do’ and ‘be’ does not much concern me
- I enjoy exploring what it means to be human
- I meditate to reduce stress & anxiety
- I don’t rely on material objects or external factors for my happiness
- Status and luxury without purpose have very little if any interest to me
- I am somewhat creative
- I am interested in ancient eastern and western philosophies
- I care less about my hair and makeup and more about my purpose here on earth
I don’t know if it was any of these. It’s likely far more straight forward, and shallower. Like, that I burn incense, love indoor plants, read the Dalai Lama, enjoy camping and have gone on a couple of yoga retreats.
Becoming curious about this new label, and my reaction, I started with looking into – what is a ‘Free Spirit’? Starting with the definitions.
: not determined by anything beyond its own nature or being
: choosing or capable of choosing for itself.”
: enjoying personal freedom
: not subject to the control or domination of another
: not obstructed, restricted, or impeded
: an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms
: the immaterial intelligent or sentient part of a person
: the activating or essential principle influencing a person
: a person who thinks and acts in an uninhibited way without worrying about normal social rules
Safe to say, my initial feeling of defensiveness swiftly subsided.
And then it got me thinking, well if I’m a Free Spirit, what do you consider yourself? How do we define the majority of humans outside this category?
My thoughts process went something like this;
To me, what was the opposite of these terms individually – An imprisoned(not free) physical object(not containing of spirit)? And what did my social conditioning tell me was the opposite of the label ‘Free Spirit’? Normal human? But again, what does that mean? I find it interesting that we have a name for a free person, in touch with spirit or consciousness? Which to me means, not entirely attached to the physical and material world.
I decided to dig deeper into what it meant to others. I looked up ‘antonyms for Free Spirit’, and according to Google and The Merriam Webster Dictionary, the most common descriptor was ‘Conformist’.
: to be similar or identical
: to be obedient or compliant —usually used with to conform to another’s wishes.
: to act in accordance with prevailing standards or customs
Other, less flattering suggestions included; intolerant, traditionalist, follower, obedient, narrow-minded and conservative.
Not only was I no longer offended, but Free Spirit was also now feeling like an admiral trait!
How did I not realise I was different? Was I like the duck that gets raised around sheep and so thinks it’s one of them?
I think more likely was I had grown so much internally, that I had not yet become consciously aware of this new version of ‘me’.
Why was I initially triggered? Fear! Because for a moment, my human instinct of wanting to belong within a ‘tribe’ was threatened. I was scared that maybe I didn’t belong, or could be rejected — 2 of our deepest core human fears.
What I know for sure, is that belonging in a tribe of conformists, “obedient followers” or “intolerant conservatives” is not exactly my cup of tea.
I have created for myself the gift of freedom of spirit, and I am proud of that.
More than that, it’s part of my mission and purpose to help others on this journey. To see what is truly possible for them. And to create it!
If the level of freedom that I demonstrate warrants a label, descriptive of a societal subculture, then our world has greater problems than I first feared.
So without judgement, I encourage you to question – if you see others as Free Spirits, what are you?