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I believe we are complete packages of unlimited potential. We are birthed into the world full of curiosity, awe, wonder, happiness, play. When we’re young we often don’t consider the answer no graciously. We aren’t even fond of because or that’s just the way it is.

Then it all becomes crushed under societal norms, subjected beliefs of others, and perceptions of how we should live our lives. We are told what our “roles” are, based on gender, age, sexual preference, race, and on and on. Some of us even hear that our dreams are unrealistic, our goals too big. The outside world douses our dreams with its version of success and we begin to ignore what feels right within. And so our larger-than-life souls are literally crushed under the weight of everyone else’s shit. And we end up feeling that life stinks.

In reality, we are not armed soon enough with the knowledge that everything we need is within us: love, happiness, validation, worthiness, permission, acceptance. And this is one of those facts that I feel should be a golden rule for navigating life because if you don’t get this right, you are more likely to settle in life. You will silence the dreams the little girl or boy within you once had. You will drown your inner voice with the voices of those around you. And your potential will never be fully realized, leaving you with a sinking feeling that something is missing . . . because it is.

You see, before I learned this valuable lesson for myself I was dependent on others to help me feel happy and whole, sought out validation externally, and settled for soul-sucking jobs and unfulfilling relationships. I often second-guessed myself when making decisions and even felt depressed. This is not living.

I’m not saying it will be easy. It takes work to silence the outer and inner critics. It can be difficult to leave behind people who don’t support you on your new path. It can get messy to dig deep and reconnect with your true self.

But here’s the good news. Once you do the work—once you begin to reconnect—you’ll have more days of waking up feeling happy, without an explanation. You’ll rest easier at night because you feel more at peace with being on the right path for you. The self-doubt won’t be as loud. And inevitably, when you are truly committed to living your life—to becoming more self-aware, to building the habits and skills for unleashing your potential, giving yourself permission to take new risks while accepting that things don’t always work but mining the lessons regardless—holy shit does life become more colorful. You will feel at ease giving yourself permission to freely live your life. And that my friends, is the reward. That is the gold trophy that you want on the mantle—the only one that truly matters. That is true freedom.

You just need to commit, be open to learning and growing, to feeling uneasy and unsure at times, to leaving parts of your life behind that no longer fit with the new life you’re creating, accept that you deserve the life you desire, acknowledge that you are worth it (because everybody is), and love yourself for doing what so many others won’t do.

Giving yourself permission, unlocking your latent potential, and making you a priority are what a large portion of the world around you would have you believe is selfish. But I promise you, it’s not. The world needs more people who have risen to this challenge and who have embraced living their truth.

The more I embrace this, the more in awe I am of just being me. I feel less insecure (though I still have my insecurities at time) and I feel better for not being an imposter to the real me. The little girl inside is much happier that I’m freeing her from all that I bought into from the outside world, having realized that my inside world is what I really need to listen to. And now it’s hard for me to settle for less, because I don’t want to go back.

I hope that you too rise to the challenge and embrace the beauty within. Once you do, you’ll start attracting others into your life who are also on the same path. You will not be alone on your journey.