As Jim Morrison wisely pronounced, “The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are.” How true. So when it comes down to it, why are many of us so unfree?

Intuition, the voice of who we really are, is always spot-on. When we’re aware of that inner wisdom revealing what’s right for us and what isn’t, we’re in a fantastic position to move forward with choices that are in alignment with who we really are—we’re in striking distance of true freedom.

Just at this critical juncture however, many of us find ourselves high-tailing it in the opposite direction! What gives?

One reason we may fear taking intuitive action is a perception that our character will be somehow questioned; that we’ll be judged unfavorably. Often this comes in the form of self-judgment. What labels do we hold as “truths” about ourselves?

Nice Person? Intellectual? Generous? Selfless?

Edgy? Trustworthy? Counter to what our emotions will have us believe, the sooner these character judgments are questioned and revealed for what they are (iterations of ego) the better. Why?

Because they keep us caged in repetitive and inauthentic ways of being.

Psychiatrist and psychotherapist Fritz Perls, in his 1969 book, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, points out, “Once you have a character, you have developed a rigid system. Your behavior becomes petrified, predictable, and you lose your ability to cope freely with the world with all your resources.” In other words, adhering to an idea of what makes up one’s character often eliminates the possibility of dynamic response and inspired action, decimating authenticity and blocking our ability to just be ourselves in the moment.

When we live our lives in fear of embarrassment, of sullying our reputation, of judgment of our character—we’re DOA. Cultivating the ability to act on intuition despite fear is critical to living an authentic life. If I’m pandering to my own or others’ approval, I stay in my cell. The only way to free ourselves from the prison of judgment is to follow our intuition and be willing to assassinate our own characters, whether in our own heads or “outside” in the world.

The degree of pain a perceived negative judgment causes us is precisely proportionate to the degree of difficulty we will experience when attempting to follow our intuition and live a genuine existence. It’s not that our intuition tells us to do bad things, it’s that we tend to tailor our behavior to what is expected of us. Often what is right for us does not align with what others desire or with how we see ourselves.

If I follow an intuition not to lend money to a friend, I may then find myself smack dab in the middle of an ego storm, experiencing an internal judgment that I am selfish, inconsiderate, a bad friend or worse, a bad person. How willing am I to stick with myself in this moment, see the ego storm for what it is, weather this storm and whatever results from it and move on? If we’re unwilling, we’re stuck and fear is winning. At the root of this unwillingness is a belief that blending in and keeping silent will do us some kind of good, that it will keep us safe. It won’t. It will destroy anything worth having.

So: cultivate willingness to do your own thing no matter what. Dance in public, say what you feel to say, decline the invitation, go roller skating; BE YOU. Do what you feel truly inspired to do, even and especially if that feels uncomfortable. We eventually find we can weather the discomfort and get over ourselves; we begin to notice that our self-concepts are merely fantasies. Not only are these fantasies not worth protecting, they are often what holds us back from being our true selves in the first place. And being our true selves is the most valuable thing we ever have to offer.

Christy Harden infuses her writing and speaking with the intuition and authenticity that inform her daily life. Her work points to an awareness of the present moment as the basis for a genuine, adventurous life, and draws on her colorful experiences as a commercial actor, friend, poet, mother and speech pathologist.