When you really think about it, most of life is letting go. It’s learning what you need to let go of and when. And hopefully at some point you find a way to do it gracefully. Well, at least you figure out how to do it with minimal kicking and screaming. Just let it go!
At first the process seems painful and difficult. Let’s face it, it’s a change and change is hard! But once you can quickly assess what to let go of and how you’ll find yourself feeling freer than you ever have!
How To Know What To Let Go Of?
One of the greatest challenges we all face is determining what to let go of and what not to! After all this isn’t about shirking responsibility and of course you shouldn’t ignore or pass off what is yours to handle. It’s just that not everything is! You aren’t responsible for every situation or every person! Whether you’re holding on out of fear or love or simply stubbornness there are things you’re holding on to that you shouldn’t be! Here’s how to tell the difference.
Is This Mine?
This is likely the most important question to ask yourself to determine whether to let something go! It can also be a tricky one!
We tend to think of everything that affects us as “ours”. That’s simply not true! The things that you can directly control are yours! You can directly control your choices, thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions. That’s about it! If the things within your realm of control won’t affect the situation it isn’t yours and you need to let it go!
The only thing we should be trying to manage is ourselves. When it comes to other relationships, we may choose to have obligations, such as parenting minor children, marriage, or jobs. In this case the part that is yours is the part you can control. You can certainly influence other people and obviously your choices will have consequences, but you can’t change or control another person.
A Note About Children
You may have noticed that I said, “minor children”. That’s because children are a more complicated situation. As they get older your realm of control should shrink. As adults they are still your children of course but they should be fully responsible for their own choices. So while you as a parent may have plenty of control over what your 3 year old does or doesn’t do you have less over your 13 year old and almost none over your 23 year old and hopefully by 33 you’ve fully withdrawn and they are controlling their own lives entirely. That means you are free to let go of your adult children, their choices and the consequences of them. They simply aren’t yours!
Is It Helpful?
Perhaps you’ve determined that something isn’t entirely yours or isn’t yours at all, but you still feel the need or desire to be involved. This often happens in close family relationships, especially with adult children. And to be honest it is reasonable to choose not to let go of something that isn’t really yours if it’s helpful and you’re doing it for the right reasons.
The Wrong Reasons
Think long and hard about your motivation. Are you trying to prove something? Are you trying to force a specific outcome? Do you find that you are sometimes drawn to drama or feel like a martyr? These are the WRONG reasons!
You are not going to fix past wrongs or prove you are good enough or worthy to be loved by carrying the burdens of others. You won’t make others appreciate you or behave better by handling their problems! And honestly trying to do so is manipulative. If you want to be free you must let go of the drama and strive for a life of contentment and joy (it really is ok, there is no other shoe that will drop). And, no one who is healthy wants a martyr in their life!
The Right Reasons
The right reason is that you genuinely want to help in the best way you can. AND that your contribution is selflessly in the best interests of the other person (or yourself).
It is very important that you consider both the short- and long-term effects of your choice should you choose not to let something go and to get involved. Be sure to look at the big picture and the precedent you’re setting.
It can be extremely beneficial in the long run to stay out of it. Allowing someone to figure out the solution to their own problem, deal with the consequences, or overcome their challenge can be imperative to their growth. Sometimes we don’t allow this, especially with our adult children, because we are struggling to let them go and live independent of us.
Do I Want To?
Even if you can do something that doesn’t mean that you must! If it isn’t yours to deal with you aren’t on the hook to do anything at all about it. You can simply say “wow, I’m sorry to hear that!” You are under no obligation to fix or solve someone else’s problem just because you “can”.
I see this come up a lot with money. And to be honest I have felt this way. You aren’t responsible for someone else’s financial choices (adult kids, parents, siblings, friends, etc.). You also aren’t responsible for loaning or giving them money. I don’t care if you’re Bill Gates! Just because you have the money doesn’t mean that you MUST give it. If it isn’t yours, you have every right to let it go! And if you do choose to loan or give money you should seriously consider whether that is actually helping the person! You might just be reinforcing bad habits and poor financial choices which could cause more problems for them later.
Is This Healthy?
Oftentimes we get involved in things that aren’t ours out of a sense of duty or obligation. We also stay in relationships for the same reason. This can be extremely unhealthy!
It’s important to take this into consideration anytime we are assessing whether to let something or someone go. You can choose how you treat the people you’re in relationships with and what you will do for them, but you can’t control how they will reciprocate. If the outcomes of your involvement put you or other’s you care about in unsafe situations (mentally or physically), it’s likely time to let go. Let go of the situation or perhaps let go of the person or relationship.
Your health and wellbeing and that of those closest to you must be prioritized!
How to Let Go?
I know… it’s all fine and well and good to know what you can and should let go of but that doesn’t mean you know how! After all, if you suddenly stop handling all the stuff and people you are now, you’re bound to make waves. Plus who else is going to do it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this and said it myself! Just because you don’t think anyone else will step up doesn’t mean you can’t step down! Here’s how!
Change Your Thoughts
Really think long and hard about what’s yours to handle and what’s not and make the adjustments necessary. Assess why you are handling so much that isn’t yours. Why are you in relationships with people who aren’t healthy? What’s been stopping you from letting go up until now? What are you trying to prove? That you’re worthy? Or good enough?
Find the root of the instinct to carry the world on your shoulders and pull it out! There is nothing realistic about it! How do I know? Because this is NEVER a healthy thought! You can’t manage and be responsible for what isn’t yours. And, you’re not doing anyone else any favors by handling it for them!
As you go through this process of assessment and self-discovery keep a journal. Write down where you struggle with putting things down. How does that make you feel? Are you getting pushback from those around you? (I’ll bet you are… people have gotten used to you doing everything for them!)
Also, keep track of how you feel not doing it, not taking it and standing up for yourself. At first you might feel uneasy and anxious. That’s perfectly normal. But overtime you’ll see that you feel freer. You’ll be inspired to try new things, overcome your own fears and struggles and chase your dreams. That’s what happens when you aren’t completely overwhelmed!
To quell your anxiety, quiet the voices in your head and reinforce your intention you’ll need to be using affirmations! If you aren’t affirming yourself every day, several times a day, you are likely to slip back into old habits or become overwhelmed with guilt! You are worthy and doing enough and you only handle what is yours! Don’t let yourself forget this!
Be intentional with your time, choices, actions, thoughts, etc… just be intentional! Spend time practicing mindfulness. Hone your discernment skills. If you need to at first, write down the situation or person you feel like you need to carry. Assess it in writing so you can clearly see whether it is yours, whether you can and want to get involved, and whether that is in everyone’s best interests. Make a choice and stick to it. Communicate your intentions and expectations clearly! Be sure that you fully understand your boundaries and limitations and communicate those too! Don’t second guess, don’t waver, don’t beat yourself up.
It won’t be perfect when you first start doing this, but it will get easy to figure out exactly where you want to draw the line if you are intentional!
It can feel so strange to watch a situation unfold and stay out of it even though it involves someone we care about. And ending a relationship, even a toxic one can be extremely painful! So, the best thing to do is distract yourself! You don’t have to just sit there and wallow and perseverate. Assessing the situation or relationship repeatedly. You could take up a hobby instead, start exercising, play with your kids, go for a walk. Really, do what ever it is that makes you feel good. The more connected you feel to yourself and your joy the better! Keeping busy is often the key to sticking it out and not picking up whatever you worked so hard to let go of!
Urgency is sometimes the catalyst to managing things we shouldn’t. But usually urgency isn’t real. It’s created to throw us of guard and force us to make snap decisions. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all. If the situation or relationship toxicity isn’t yours, you can simply walk away. And often this is the best option! You don’t have to explain, you don’t have to make sure someone else is handling it. You can just wash your hands of the situation.
If you do nothing and the situation must be addressed, it will be… by someone else! You aren’t the only one who can handle things. I know you might be the only one who has been doing it but that doesn’t mean you’re the only one who can. Perhaps those around you don’t want to be bothered, perhaps there isn’t room for them to get involved and own their own stuff because you’re always doing it. Either way… if you do nothing, they’ll step up!
Use the word “no” frequently and forcefully! You aren’t responsible for maintaining relationships with people who aren’t healthy, and you aren’t responsible for fixing other people’s problems! You’re responsible for you! The people in your life should respect that. If they don’t you might want to let them go or at the very least keep that at arm’s length! Your boundaries are yours. You can choose where they are and who they’re with. And guess what, it IS fair. Your boundaries don’t have to be the same with everyone.
Having at least one friend or family member who has strong healthy boundaries and is able to support you in your journey can make all the difference. Being able to call them and talk to them about different situations and the pressure you’re under is very helpful. While I don’t advise gossiping or spreading drama there is nothing wrong with having a trusted confidant! It is even more beneficial if the person is also able to tell you when you’re wrong! Getting honest feedback is priceless!
Oftentimes our instinct to “handle it all” comes from childhood coping mechanisms and struggles. You might need professional support to address ingrained issues. Consider hiring a therapist or life coach. The time, money and heartache you’ll save in the long run will be well worth it!
Practice Self Care
Learning to let go is difficult lifelong work! It’s stressful and sometimes scary and you may be filled with self-doubt. That’s why it’s so important to practice good self-care! You’re growing as a person and in the long run you’ll be so much happier and healthier. When you get to that point, you’ll practice self-care automatically but until then… make yourself do it! Take a bath, paint your nails, read a great book… and hey… this can count as distraction time too!
Everyone, Let it Go!
Oh, and while you’re at it… let me tell you some other things that aren’t yours AT ALL!
No one else has walked in your shoes. Your journey is unique to you so let go of comparison. And even comparisons about letting go! Don’t feel trapped in a rut because everyone you know handles everything just fine, so you feel bad letting go! You have no idea what someone else’s burdens or privileges are so don’t compare yourself or your life to them. Compare to what you know, yourself! Strive for long-term, consistent personal improvement!
Expectations & Advice
And forget other people’s expectations and advice. Let go of other people’s expectations of you and your relationship and uphold your boundaries!
When you’re owning and taking care of your own relationships, situations, and struggles and reaping the outcomes of your own choices it isn’t anyone else’s business. Let go of what they think! The best way to do this is to insist that other’s let go of what IS yours and handle it yourself!
Last But Not Least…
Enjoy finally living your life as a human being, not a human doing!
Share with those you love and help them unburden themselves? And of course, if you’re struggling with this feel free to reach out, leave a comment or email me!