Why letting go — whether it be of people, places or things — can be a radical act of self-love and self-care
When is it ok to walk away?
Why is it so difficult to let go of the things that aren’t working for us? Which leaves us to ask ourselves — are we addicted to them, to our own suffering? Are we creatures of habit or just afraid to let go? Maybe it’s a combo platter of them all.
This can come in many flavors from the things we consume to the people we hang with. Yep. Even our relationships need a little spring-cleaning from time-to-time. Letting go of people isn’t as easy as getting rid of raggedy ‘ol clothes — but people, like clothes, sometimes no longer fit.
We all have that difficult relationship in our life — you know, the one you think you have no choice but to tolerate. Perhaps it’s even a family member — which admittedly complicates things all the more, because it’s really difficult to break up with our family.
So what do we do? We buck up, we swallow more than we should and we tolerate what we wouldn’t expect anyone to tolerate from us. Then we think we are stuck in a sea of acceptance and that somehow that acceptance is a form of love. Love to whom? And at what cost?
I recently had a difficult encounter, perhaps one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had. Actually, this encounter couldn’t technically be called a ‘conversation’ as it was more of a screaming match over the phone, spewing expletives.
It was ugly, it was mean, it was disturbing and it was so not best self.
The details are actually irrelevant. Who said what, who did all the name-calling and accusing isn’t even the point.
As I have always told my son since he was a little boy — words have great power, use them wisely and with sincere intention. Learning to say sorry, to issue a proper apology does not absolve you of your words and actions. Of course, there is nothing like the salve of an authentic apology to ease our pain. But there is an art to apologizing. It doesn’t quantify, justify or make excuses. It simply assumes responsibility, listens and is compassionate. It is accountable for how something landed for someone else, intended or not. It is brave enough to hear the truth. Authentic apologies are fierce.
We all have our Achilles Heels, our vulnerable spots that can easily be triggered. The people who love you and are your dream-keepers guard those triggers ferociously on your behalf. They often take it a step further and prod you to move through them, stripping their power right from underneath them. But then there are the provocateurs and their agendas. They simply go straight for the jugular and latch on with tenacity.
Now anyone who knows me, knows that, like a dog with a bone, I latch on to happy endings, the glass half-full and rainbows of possibility. That is, until I meet my defiant match head on. This recent call deflated me and saddened me greatly. I had to remind myself that I can’t control other people, I can’t change everything, I can’t make someone see things through my life lens.
As I sat through a rant, I Initially mustered as much self-control as possible — I stayed cool, pulled my big girl panties on and tried to calmly respond…but all of this to no avail. I was getting nowhere, I was not being heard, I was being verbally attacked and things escalated.
I’m not going to sprinkle this with ‘love and light’ colloquialisms. It hurt. The words and intentions of this person hurt. The fact that I felt helpless hurt and it subsequently dropped a negative energy bomb about the entire house. That’s just how these things go down. Ultimately, I had to pull the plug. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise — so I hung up.
So here’s what not to do:
- Don’t run to tell anyone else about it. This is a behavior reminiscent of being a child on the playground at school. We don’t need to gather sides as a means to justify anything.
- Don’t try to resolve it all immediately. Give it some space. Cleanup will likely be required even if that means putting an end to a relationship that isn’t serving you. Simply allow yourself some recovery time so your clear-headed intentions can come forth.
- Don’t miss the opportunity to see the big picture. Lay it out on the table. Identify who is running the show. What is your ego telling you to do (typically to get the last word in and to be right) and what is your heart telling you (to see the deep wounding in another with compassion).
Relationships are not meant to be things we tolerate. If that is the case than we are ‘relating’ to and engaging with the pain caused by it. And when we force ourselves to justify why we have to participate in them, we pay the price and it’s a dear one. I’d like to say that I’ve got this mastered, but clearly my encounter was an epic fail in that department. So having given it some room to breathe I now see its gifts, the opportunity it is laying before me. This is my life. These are my choices — what do I want the landscape of my life to look like?
Back to my original question: Why is it so difficult to let go of the things that aren’t working for us? We don’t like change, we get stuck in the status quo, we don’t want to rock the boat, we think that being our best selves means sucking up everyone else’s crap. Nope. We need to pull the needle from that record. To give ourselves permission to give voice to our intuitive selves, the soul’s call — to feel the answer.
The update on that call is that I did receive several apologies from this person, but honestly, they were more like justifications —I did this because… And though it is my usual modus operandi to roll up my sleeves and fix everything immediately, I gave it space.
This is what came up for me:
- I could see that anyone behaving like that is coming from a place of deep wounding. I thought of this person as a wounded child and it softened me. Suddenly I could feel compassion instead of rage.
- I acknowledged my own sadness for the dissolution of the relationship. But in that sadness, I took a stand for myself and owned the fact that this was not a safe one for me. There was a price I had paid in this relationship, a price I was no longer willing to pay. I allowed myself to mourn its loss.
- Allowing space also helped me formulate a response. And in the words of Don Miguel Ruiz from The Four Agreements, I wanted to be impeccable with my words. I wanted to refrain from a tit-for-tat. I wanted to apologize for anything I had done to contribute to the escalation of the conversation (though my ego was screaming, Hey wait a minute, it was all her fault!). I wanted to express thanks for her apology, I wanted to be as loving as I could be…but I also wanted to be clear that this was not an invitation to continue a friendship.
Being our best selves is a full-time job, a work-in-progress. We will get thrown curveballs, people will hurt us, we will hurt others — they are opportunities to take a closer look at the big picture of our lives. Paying the price for tolerating someone else’s bad behavior is not aligned with your best self. We get to choose who we bring into our inner circles and have expectations that they will strive to operate from that place of mutual respect, love and compassion as well. Showing up as your best self is not a practice of perfection. It is often glorious and messy at the same time — it is also taking a stand on behalf of yourself — a fierce action for self-love. And your best self is so deserving of it!
What stand are you ready to take for your self? Please let me know in the comments below.