“Free My Mind”
“My mind is like a heavy hand always making more of what really happened, a critical imagination always working over time.”
If you relate to the above lyric, I would ask you to raise your hand—but that could be pointless, as you would probably have already weighed what that must say about you, or you would be wondering if you’re the only one, or you would eventually talk yourself out of relating to those words, because there’s nothing wrong with being pensive, right? … I know, because my mental process would probably look similar. I, too, am a tremendous over-thinker. It’s not all that bad—in fact, sometimes it’s quite helpful—until that relentless thinking is targeted at myself.
In the quiet moments, I know people don’t perceive me in the harsh light with which I view myself. I’ll briefly accept that others might even truly like me, that I have skills worth sharing, that my dreams aren’t too grand for someone like me, that I bring at least something to the table. But once I’ve acknowledged that I might be OK, I’ll then quickly turn my focus to how far that falls from “perfect.”
And, oh, how my “critical imagination” stirs, whispering:
“I’ll never be able to write like _______.”
“There’s no way that person would want to hang out with me.”
“I’ve never been more unattractive.”
“If I bring that up, nobody will agree with me.”
“I’m not smart enough for that.”
“I’m doing it wrong. I’m doing it all wrong.”
“Free my mind, awaken my mind, awaken my mind, open my eyes.”
Most likely, you can easily make your own list of the self-defeating statements which run through your head on a daily basis. Wouldn’t you like to be free of them? You can. We can. But it first requires a free mind.
In this song, and in life, to “free your mind” doesn’t necessarily mean that you disregard discipline. It does not equate to being “mindless” and neglecting to put thought into things. Rather, I think it’s about extending your mind— being open to ideas and people, refusing limits, realizing that there will always be room to grow and something new to learn.
Which of course means you must also refuse to limit yourself, freeing your mind from the impossible expectations you’ve placed on yourself. It’s OK to have a desire to improve—but it doesn’t have to be accompanied by constant, negative, internal feedback. A heavy, critical mind says, “You must do better, because you’re not good enough.” A free mind chants, “You can do better, because you’re good enough to try.”
I want to challenge you (and myself) to embrace the world and its people, its sights, and its experiences—but to begin by embracing yourself. The next time you’re overcome by self-doubt and can’t see past your present flaws and failures, maybe come back to this song. Dance to it, hum it, put it on repeat. Do whatever it takes until your eyes are opened to the truth that you are OK—and you are only getting better.