Dear Miranda,

To start the school year off, I wanted to write on a subject that I had been dealing with this past summer: the dreaded, unspoken issue of insecurities.

I realized that I had been hiding behind a mask for so long, a mask that made me feel fake and insecure. As the summer progressed, I felt the mask melt off and allowed my exterior to reflect who I truly am.

Everyone talks about freedom and believe that they own it. It is assumed that, because of where we live and the things we have, we naturally obtain freedom by osmosis. I would like to challenge that view.

I’m going to go ahead and put it out there: a lot of us are living in a cage, and kept in by feelings of doubt. If you don’t have a certain something—the perfect body, a good love life, a great social life, the best grades, money, etc.—you think you need it in order to feel secure.

Then you find yourself living in a cage built by a society that tells you that, without its help, you will never amount to anything.

That’s not freedom.

Freedom is feeling secure no matter what you have or don’t have.

Feelings of security are also difficult to maintain in some relationships. People have a way of making us feel inadequate, worthless, embarrassed or ashamed. It’s even harder when those feelings stem from a lifetime of abuse or betrayal.

It takes a long time, but we can choose how to respond to those people. We can let them have their way and make us feel inadequate and worthless. We can realize that, yes, this person makes me feel this way, but I am not giving up my security for them. They don’t deserve it.

Freedom is not hiding your true self behind insecurities, but knowing how to deal with them so that you don’t have to hide. Instead, you can live your life no matter what comes your way.

Figure out who you are on the inside and become that person you know you can be.

Understand where your insecurities are coming from and work on getting rid of them. Then fill yourself up with the one thing that can satisfy you completely.

If you’re not sure what that something is, keep searching. If you look hard enough for it, you will find it. It will become the solid foundation to your life and security. This foundation will help most of all because, like a tree, when you’re rooted in a good foundation, nothing can shake you or blow you down. You will be free from your insecurities.