I cringe and bristle when I hear this phrase: “Oh, but she has let herself go.”
First of all, as someone who was an expert in letting myself go, I found it offensive that someone else also noticed that I was in the business of doing exactly that.
Second of all, no one understands the battles, struggles and internal pressures that we often put on ourselves–and what causes the actual or proverbial letting go.
I woke up in 2010, and I did not know who I was.
I did not like who I had become. I was overweight, sure. But I was tired, angry, unhappy in my job, unhappy with my body, my habits and I was basically, sick and tired of being me.
Over the course of the last seven years, I have been clawing and digging and deconstructing the ways in which these things happened–the road to my official “letting go.”
I have worked hard to figure out how to be happier, a better version of myself… to keep working and growing, even when I really just wanted to say, “Forget this. Let’s go get beer and doughnuts.”
When I gained control over some of myself (and mind you, it’s not perfect), I realized there were distinct steps I took to do so.
Why Does Letting Go Happen?
Letting go of ourselves happens for a few reasons, I think.
First, someone broke us.
There is a real possibility that we have given up, because someone shattered us.
I am a fan of accountability and shying away from the victim mentality (even when we are totally victims). However, I do think that our childhood, our past and our current situations can often break us.
Even if on the outside we are holding it together, we are internally a broken mess, full of cracks.
As humans, we search subconsciously for ways to fill these cracks left by the breaks from others. Most of the time crack-fillers are made of unhealthy things like binge eating, excessive drinking, affairs, and drugs.
As a result of our cracks and our crack-filling behaviors, we lose the spark for life, and we start to say, “Well, I give up.”
I am not sure that anyone really says, “I think I will let myself go now.”
But the letting go? Well, it happens nevertheless.
Next, we are simply tired.
Due to the push and pull of life, kids, marriage, jobs and just the social media comparison culture, we are exhausted. Deep down, we know we cannot possibly keep up with life, our dreams and manage to be good members of society.
We are “failing” at every turn.
So we do “all the things” to keep our lives looking good–the laundry, the play dates, the new clothes. Check, check, check.
But in reality? We are dying a quiet letting go death within ourselves.
Finally, we are in the cycle of self-hate.
I have a friend who told me one time, “You are stuck in your own story. Your story that you will always be a sad, fat girl—you believe that story and you play it over and over again.”
(Yes, we are still friends. Because she was so correct.)
Our unhappiness and unhealthiness feeds on itself.
We are in a loop of bad habits. We are on repeat cycle of destructive behaviors, numbing our thoughts and emotions with food, booze, Xanax or whatever will stop the internal voices. We really are stuck.
Once it stops? Well, the voices start and the cycle begins again.
As a result, we just let go and succumb to life as it is–a numb, distracted, hopeless mess.
How Do We Get a Grip When We Have Let Ourselves Go?
First, we must acknowledge the current state of things.
We must see that we are in a cycle of letting ourselves go.
Letting ourselves go is not necessarily about our appearance, our weight, our hair, or the quality of our furniture–though all of those things may be impacted by letting ourselves go.
Letting go feels like someone has taken all the air out of the room. Our words, actions and thoughts have a feeling of hopelessness.
“It doesn’t matter what I do. Life sucks anyway.”
Acknowledging that we are in this place does not mean that we are beyond repair. Accepting the present state of events does not mean that we are giving up.
In order to see where we want to go? We must understand where we are.
“Identify your problems,
but give your power and energy to solutions.”
– Tony Robbins
Second, we must offer up forgiveness and love to ourselves.
If you had a friend call and say, “I am really struggling with my fear of life, my weight and my health. I feel lost and hopeless,” what would you say to him or her?
Would you say, “You are a worthless piece of crap, Sally!”
No, of course not.
So when we start this process of getting back parts of ourselves, we must remember to be kind to ourselves. We should treat ourselves with a care, compassion and forgiveness that we would treat our best friend.
Leave the self-hate at the door.
Next, We Should Make a List (or Two)
I find that list-making is one of the most valuable self-analysis tools. Writing, in general, even if you are not “a writer,” is one of the biggest recovery tools–from addiction, from pain, and from letting oneself go.
If you aren’t a big writer, start with simple lists.
I am a big fan of a “pros and cons” list–yes, really. When I was grappling with the decision of whether or not I would quit drinking, my final decision was determined by the results of a massive “pros and cons” list.
(The cons of drinking won, by the way. I don’t drink anymore.)
“In life you need either inspiration or desperation.”
– Tony Robbins
Other list ideas that might help:
– I am awesome because
– 10 things that make me happy
– 10 things I would do right now in a perfect world
– 10 things I am grateful for, right now
– 100 ways that I am going to rule the world
…Okay, so the last one might be difficult.
However, do not underestimate the power of getting the thoughts out of your head and onto paper somewhere.
Three of the most helpful lists that I have ever encountered are:
What are three of my life’s goals?
What is MOST important to me?
What do I want to be remembered for?
Putting those sorts of responses on paper can make a difference in figure out how to propel ourselves towards the next step—which is action.
Then, It’s Time To Take Action – Any Type of Action
“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act!
Action will delineate and define you.”
– Thomas Jefferson
Talk is super cheap. Talk also might be what got us into the letting ourselves go phase in the first place. We talked about our dreams and our goals while forgetting that dreams and goals take distinct, calculated and specific actions to make happen.
We don’t need to put everything in life on the back burner to take action in our lives. We don’t need to neglect our family or our jobs to pursue a passion, life-change or health change. Small, sustainable steps are proven to be the greatest habit-formers and life-changers.
“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy.
But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.”
– Charles Duhigg
Oftentimes the things that we consider our weaknesses are actually windows into our strengths.
Someone thinks you are incredibly stubborn and bull-headed? Well, that proves that you have the ability to work hard and stick to your guns.
You overeat like it’s your job? Well, that proves that you have a zest for the delicious and an endless desire to feel fulfilled. (Read: you will work hard to get what you want.)
Sometimes, we just need to redirect our “bad” habits in another direction.
Easier said than done, for sure, but it all starts with decisive and repeatable actions.
Finally, We Just Keep Moving Forward
Recently at Tribe Conference with Jeff Goins, I heard Jon Acuff talk about his new book and the importance of FINISHING. We have, in this culture, put so much courage and applause around “starting” things–and yes, in order to finish we do need to start.
However, setting goals that are achievable and taking action towards those goals? Well, it increases the likelihood that we will finish.
When we string together action and goal setting and completion of those goals? Suddenly, we are in a position of power. We get a taste of what it means to reclaim our power and to take control of our future.
Putting one foot in front of the other, day in and day out?
Putting in the work, the drive, the dedication and commitment to our own goals and dreams—some of the things from our lists?
That is when the magic happens.
And here’s the thing–this hard work should point towards the direction of our hopes and dreams. In working through the process of reclaiming ourselves and our lives, we are self-choosing what is important. No longer are we giving power to those who broke us or the rat race of comparison culture.
Remember the lists?
- What are three of my life’s goals?
- What is MOST important to me?
- What do I want to be remembered for?
From these lists, we know.
From these lists, we are taking a stand and saying, “This is what is important to me. THIS is what I will do.”
With that kind of certainty, we take confident and certain steps forward, knowing we are heading in the right direction.
Sure, we cannot control everything, but with these simple steps we are no longer in a place of letting ourselves go.
Instead, we are reclaiming exactly who we are.
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