“Once you learn to let go that’s when you are actually able to move on, to open yourself up to incredible possibilities that can come from the experience of releasing some things that you’re maybe holding on to really, really tightly right now.”
A major theme coming up over the past year has really been “letting go”. We’ve had to let go of ideas and plans and strategies, even some relationships during this last “weird” year. So on today’s episode we’re going to talk about;
- Several exercises that you can try, to really dig into the process of letting go in certain areas of your life.
- Life story vs. love story
- Some tough but necessary questions to ask yourself when you are holding onto ideas or relationships for dear life.
- My thoughts on the idea of “just taking the lessons and moving on”
- And so much more!
Are you ready? Let’s dive in! Hit the podcast player above to listen now or if you’d like to read the full transcription of today’s episode please continue to scroll down the page.
Hey, Hey, welcome back to the Room To Grow podcast, and today we’re gonna be talking about how to let go. This is something that has been coming up a lot for a lot of the clients that I have, this is something that I think that a lot of us have been dealing with over the past year as well, letting go of expectations about maybe what we thought should be, and instead the, at times, harsh reality of what it has been instead, and what a beautiful way to learn this lesson, right? In some really fucking hard ways but if we ever needed to learn to let go, this has provided a really interesting opportunity on how to maybe let go of some expectations that we may have had. In terms of how to let go this can apply in so many different facets of life. This can apply to not getting the job you wanted, or the trip that you didn’t get a chance to take, the house you thought you were going to get that you’d already mapped out an entire future in, the way you thought the past year was supposed to look. Most of all, and this is the one that we tend to struggle with the most, most of all relationships, letting go of relationships. When a relationship either changes dynamics or ends, regardless of the reasons why, whether you were the initiator of the ending, or you were caught off guard by it, whatever it is, it can be deeply, deeply painful, even if you recognize it was for the best. The thing is that some relationships serve their purpose without needing to last forever. So kind of the idea about a life story versus a love story. I originally heard that concept from Esther Perel. It’s this idea that just because a relationship or connection wasn’t built to last, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t meant to be. It doesn’t take away from the depths or the quality of the love either. Some love stories are shorter than others and maybe they’re just a chapter instead of an entire book, that doesn’t make them any less important. Nor does it make them any less pivotal. What you choose to do with that relationship and what you choose to learn from that relationship is entirely on you, you get to make those choices. Sometimes people will maybe come into our lives to be an epic love affair, to crack us open and to show us what’s possible. And then that can lead into more of a life story, maybe that particular love story was just a chapter instead of the entire novel.
When we’re learning to let go, we’re often opening ourselves up to let in new things or new people, it’s not all about the loss, even though it often feels like that in the moment. I think it’s really important to ask yourself, why are you still holding on?
What purpose does it serve for you?
Is it that it’s comfortable and familiar?
What about holding on feels good for you?
What about it hurts?
How is it serving you?
And here’s another question, is what you’re holding on to also holding on to you? We have to be super fucking honest here, don’t confuse big, great love with the love that you’re actually seeking. That’s a really important distinction and that ties in with the life story story versus the love story. A lot of times we have to put some perspective on things, are you holding on to something that isn’t even holding on to you anymore? In which case, that perspective shift can be a little bit of an eye opener and be like, ‘wow, I’m hanging on to this person, this relationship, this story that I’ve created in my head, but it’s not it’s not even holding on to me. Why am I gripping on to this so tightly?’ This is something that I think is important to address in this whole idea and concept of letting go, as well as addressing the “what if it’s meant to be” question that often hangs around our heads. It’s like those little seeds of hope that we don’t want to close the door on because we’re like, ‘okay, you know, I can move on but if I move on, what if it’s meant to be?’ I have to tell you that if it’s meant to be then it will work itself out and there has to be a degree of trust in that process. That’s so difficult, it is so much easier said than done. But you have to trust that process a little bit. You have to, because if you keep those doors open it’s just always going to be that hook.
I don’t know if you ever saw the show How I Met Your Mother, years ago. There was one episode where all of the different characters were talking about how they each were in these semi kind of relationships with other people and they were all sort of keeping them on the hook, or they were being kept on someone else’s hook. It would sort of be those situations where somebody would end the relationship, they would say ‘it’s over because I can’t be with you… right now.’ So it’s over, and they can’t be with you, and the door would close but then you add the right now and it’s like, the little creaking of the door back open. That’s that hook, because then we allow that to plant the seed of ‘Oh, shit, okay, so I can kind of move on, but I’m still gonna have one foot in this relationship’, even if it’s just in our heads, because we think what if it’s meant to be, what if this is the one? I have a lot to say about the whole concept of “the one” but I’ll save that for another episode.
We can get into these situations where we feel like we’re on somebody’s hook or maybe we’re keeping someone else on the hook. We don’t want to let them go, even though we maybe don’t want to be with them, we also don’t really want to let them go either, because it’s very validating to know that they’re on our hook. It’s incredibly validating, that’s like a little ego boost, right? But it’s also cruel. Ultimately, even if somebody else is sort of leaving you on the hook, it’s ultimately still your choice, you get to decide if you are willing to be left on the hook. Are you willing to be somebody’s option?. When it comes to letting go, letting go is for you and your own sake, so that you can move on with your life. Otherwise, you stay stuck, you stay stagnant, you may even end up completely miserable.
Letting go can feel terrifying, because it means facing uncertainty. The human tendency is always certainty, because it brings comfort and familiarity, which is what we will always actively seek. Our brains are trained that way. We will always seek what is familiar and comfortable over what is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. That’s just factual. We would actually rather be miserable and certain, or at least believe the illusion that we’re certain, than uncertain and happy? uncomfortable? terrified? all of the above?. It’s important to ask yourself, what is the story you’re telling yourself? What is the story you’re telling yourself that isn’t allowing you to let go and write yourself a different story or ending? Better yet acknowledge that this is simply one chapter in a very long novel of your life. I’ve used that for years with myself and when others have come to me for advice as well. I’ll say to somebody ‘this is just a chapter. This is chapter 14 of 72’. I think I’ve even mentioned that on other podcast episodes before. Let’s just tie this back in with the “what if it’s meant to be?’, when you finish a chapter, you don’t close the book, it’s not done. So this is where that trust has to come in. This sounds like a ridiculous metaphor. But when you finish a chapter and you know you’re not done with the book, yet, you trust that there will be another chapter. You don’t know what’s in that chapter yet but you trust that there is another chapter. When you flip the page, there’s going to be another chapter there for you to read until you get to the end of the book, which I assure you, you are not at the end of your book. So sometimes we really have to trust that process a little bit. When it comes to sort of actively figuring out how to let go the very first thing I’m going to say is to grieve. We have to feel the feels to heal. Did I just rhyme? I did! That was not intentional! I am not a poet, okay!
But we do have to grieve. We really have to grieve. It is an absolutely necessary part of the process. There’s no getting around it. I wish that there was because grieving is the hardest shit of all time. It comes up in waves, when you least expect it, at the most inconvenient moments. You’ll think you’re over something and then you’re not and it comes in different forms. It sucks. There’s no there’s no other way to say it, grief sucks but it is necessary. You can actually reference Episode 248, it was an episode all about how grief and love have to coexist, because even if you’re in a relationship that is happy and healthy and all those things, there will still be times where you will have your heart broken even within the context of that relationship. It doesn’t mean that it’s not a beautiful, happy, healthy relationship. But sometimes there will still be moments where you will be grieving. Or you will grieve the loss of maybe a family member that you love. There’s so many different ways to think about this. So grieving is absolutely necessary to the process of letting go.
Number two that I came up with here is to refocus your energy a little bit. This is important, and it can sometimes be easier said than done because when you’re in the thick of it, it may feel like you don’t have the energy for anything. It’s like ‘fuck, like what am I supposed to do with it? it doesn’t feel good’. This can be something so small, but something to help you sort of find a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment a little bit.
I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to have a job where I feel so fulfilled by my job. It gives me such a sense of purpose that I’m able to really maximize that and utilize that to my advantage. I can be having a really rough time but when I’m on a client call, I light up, I come alive, because that’s often where I feel most fulfilled. Not everybody has that. So there needs to be ways that you can come up with that can work for you. Something else that I often will refer to is any type of act of generosity, giving your time, giving a kind word, giving someone a smile, that can actually be a refocusing of your energy and it can pull you out of your yourself a little bit. Sometimes we are depressed or lonely or in these states that we can get into when we feel like we can’t let go, it’s so easy, it’s almost innate to go inward, and to just focus on ourselves. If we can try to redirect that outward a little bit, it makes a massive, massive difference. So that’s something to think about as well.
Number three is to move your body, change your physiological state, especially when you start to feel yourself going down some sort of rabbit hole. If you can feel yourself mentally sinking, that’s a really good time to just get up and do some jumping jacks, honestly. Go for a walk around the block, do some squats, whatever you need to do. Move your body because when you move your body, it’s life giving. And it changes your entire physiological state, I cannot understate this enough. If you start to feel yourself sinking, move your body even just a little bit, it helps so much more than you think it will. Any type of cathartic activity too. So things like crying, we are gifted with the ability to cry as humans for a reason, because it can be incredibly cathartic. I’m somebody who can cry quite easily, but I hate crying in front of people unless I’m really, really, really comfortable. There aren’t that many people that have seen me cry. But I have had people say to me before, “I wish that I could cry as easily as you can, because I almost want that release sometimes. And my body just doesn’t always want to cooperate when I want it.” I sometimes think I cry way, way too easily but that’s debatable, I suppose. Crying is often a really significant part of the grieving process anyway, but it is something that can actually help more than you think. It doesn’t always feel like that in the moment but it is cathartic. It is a release that can actually be incredibly helpful.
Writing it out too, that’s something that I really go back to a lot and sometimes people deal with pain differently but I tend to think that writing it out, and getting it out of your system can be incredibly cathartic. Now if you start to feel like you’re using writing about your experience to just ruminate all the time, then maybe that isn’t as helpful but it is something that can be incredibly helpful to give you perspective later on too. As you’re writing all of this out, you can go back later and say ‘Holy shit, look how far I’ve come’, and that can be a really validating moment for yourself too. I definitely recommend writing it out too. An actual exercise that I give to clients sometimes is to journal about their life as the future version of themselves, looking back on how far they’ve come. There have been times where I’ve been in the darkest moments of my life and I would just imagine in my head, what life would be like on the other side. I was trying to think of the really positive things, not the negative things and would just start to write it out. It was really fascinating because it gave me something to hold on to it, I was creating my own light at the end of the tunnel, where I was like, ‘Okay, this shit sucks right now. But you have this to look forward to’. The things that I was writing about, the life that I was going to create on the other side of it and I made most of it come true. I don’t mean that from a manifestation standpoint, I mean that from a standpoint of I got really clear on what it was that I wanted and then I actively started taking steps towards that no matter how small. Eventually those small steps turned into bigger steps and then I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m in the future version that I wrote about months or years ago’. So that can be something that’s really helpful too.
When it comes to letting go I think I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t also mention forgiveness. Episode 126 is all about forgiveness, I really recommend checking that one out. I want you to go listen to that episode about forgiveness. When it comes to letting go, this is a really important part of the process and forgiveness isn’t always just about the other person, forgiveness is first and foremost for yourself. Not only for yourself, but a lot of times we need to forgive ourselves. Maybe we ended up in a situation where we did get really hurt, and maybe we made some mistakes or whatever, you always have to take responsibility for yourself and for your own actions in any relationship regardless. Sometimes we can go ‘Well, why did I stay in a relationship that maybe wasn’t serving me for as long as I did? I feel like it was a waste of time or this person pulled the wool over my eyes’. Whatever your situation is, a lot of times that has to involve forgiveness, for you as much as for the other person but ultimately, it is for you. So that’s something that is really important to remember too.
There’s this whole idea of closure. I would be remiss to mention letting go without talking about closure. Closure has to come from within and a lot of times we will be looking to the other person to grant us closure and we have to ask ourselves why? Are you looking for a different outcome? Are you hanging on to the hope that they feel the same way? Are you hoping that they’re hurting as much as you are? Those are all valid questions, but it’s something that we really have to consider. I really strongly recommend going to check out Episode 145 all about closure, and how closure is an inside job, it comes from the inside out. I’ve gotten a lot of comments about that one with people reaching out about it. I think it’s really important to listen to because we will so often go seeking closure outside of ourselves. Just like forgiveness sometimes too, right? Some of the biggest lessons that I think can be learned in life are that everything we need, including happiness, are actually inside us. They’re already in us. They come from within. We so often look outside of ourselves to other things, people, money, jobs, all these different things to grant us what we’re seeking. But ultimately what we’re seeking is inside of us and closure is no exception. Closure and letting go go very hand in hand. If you can start to grant yourself closure, letting go becomes much easier.
I also want to mention social media here too, because we live in a weird world. You know there’s never been another time in history where we’ve had this social media thing that can make it a lot harder to let go because it gives us these tools at our fingertips where we can stalk people and follow them. And check out what they’re doing and make assumptions about people based off of this tiny little sliver of a window that we’re being given into their lives. I want to mention too, don’t assume that you know how people feel or what they’re up to based off of social media, I cannot stress that enough. I’m just going to use myself as an example here. I have traveled to different countries, and stayed there for extended periods of time, where I made sure that no one on social media could even necessarily tell that I was in another country. And that’s just one example, it’s not because I was hiding from anybody exactly. It was just I didn’t feel the need to share. Some of my friends will joke that I should start some sort of game show called ‘Where in the World is Emily Gough?’ because half the time when they call me, they meet me on a zoom call, they’re like, ‘so where are you now?’. We have no idea what’s going on in people’s lives based off of social media because social media, because as open and honest and genuine as some people can show up on social media. And I do show up in a very open, honest, genuine way but that doesn’t need to be dependent on my geographical location, right? So you will always get the real me on social media or in real life or anything else. That doesn’t have to mean that the entire world needs to know my pinpointed locations at any given time. So we often make these assumptions that we think we know how people are feeling or what they’re getting up to based off of social media, it’s just not true. It just isn’t true. If you’re having to prevent yourself from texting them, or DMing them I also want you to think about this…are you looking for an excuse to talk to them? Again, that’s not a judgment, that’s a very neutral question. It might sound judging, it’s not. If you’re looking to reach out to them, for some reason, ask yourself, are you just looking for an excuse to talk to them? And it’s okay if you are, just be honest with yourself about that. Ask yourself too, were they helping you grow? Was that relationship helping you grow? Or was it keeping you the same and stuck? Or was it causing you to shrink? What parts of yourself are you hanging on to by not letting go of this relationship? I am typing this in with social media because when we’re looking at somebody’s “life” on social media, this can bring up all kinds of feelings. So I want you to think about these things. What parts of yourself are you hanging on to by not letting go of something or someone else? These are important things to consider. When it comes to social media, it’s generally best if you stop stalking them on social media seriously. And again, I’m not judging, we’ve all done this, we have all done this. Anyone who has access to social media cannot legitimately say that they have never stalked anyone on social media but maybe you need to block them. If you feel like you’re having difficulty finding the willpower to not actively seek them out on social media, maybe you need to block them and if you have a decent relationship with them, even though you’ve maybe parted ways, you can even tell them why you’re blocking them if you really want to. Ultimately, it’s your choice and it’s on you, you get to decide.
Finding gratitude, this is important as well. Hear me out on this because I want to be clear I’m seeing this a lot in the coaching industry, right now. I’m gonna be straight up with you, there’s a lot of shitty coaches. There are a lot of really fantastic coaches too, just incredible, incredible humans where I am so glad that the coaching industry exists because otherwise I would never have come across them. They’re just some absolutely top notch coaches out there. But a shift that I’m seeing or maybe not a shift but something that’s just coming up more and more often in the coaching industry is this whole idea of ‘finding gratitude’. These coaches are coaching people to take something really traumatic or stressful or a breakup or whatever happens in somebody’s life and saying ‘find the lesson and move on’. Like that’s all you have to do, just find the lesson, pull what you need out of it and move on to the next. That is not how it works. We have to be accepting and understanding of the fact that this process takes time, which is my next point, I’ll get to that in a moment. Yes, you can absolutely find ways to be grateful for lessons and certain perspective shifts or anything like that, that comes out of a particular situation or relationship and that excludes abuse by the way! Anytime I’m talking about something in this area, that excludes abuse. I’m not telling anyone who was abused to find gratitude, okay, that is not that is not okay, that is not part of this conversation at all. But for anybody else who is in a healthier relationship. Every relationship is going to teach us something, even if it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge, but you always have to learn to take responsibility for yourself and your own actions. That’s a big part of letting go and moving on, as well is learning to take responsibility for you and your own actions within that relationship. Even if you feel like you were the one who showed up in a better way, or a more honest way, or whatever the situation is, you still have to take responsibility for you. You can end up finding some really valuable lessons from that and be grateful for those lessons but it has to come with time. If you try to rush this process, you’re skipping over really significant things that will end up coming back to bite you if you don’t allow yourself to feel them. Which comes to sort of the last point, which is to give yourself time.
I know how frustrating that is, it just feels patronizing, It’s like “really give yourself time? Okay!” I get it. I wish I had the magic pill to skip over this part, because it fucking sucks being in it but it is necessary. If you try to skip this part, if you try to shame yourself into a different state by asking ‘why am I feeling this way, I’m just going to pretend to be happy or whatever’, those uncomfortable emotions will only come back harder later. Sort of like grief, often at very inconvenient times. Those emotions will really prevent you and get in the way of you moving forward and being able to let go and I don’t want that for you. So the only way to make this process shorter, ironically, is to give yourself the time to feel it. There’s no quick fix here, unfortunately. It’s a really human and necessary part of the process. So let me know what you think. I know that letting go is tough, it’s hard, it’s not a good time at all, it’s not a good time. But if you can find ways to move through this letting go process actively, I think you’re going to feel so much better on the other side of it. Once you learn to let go that’s when you are actually able to move on, to open yourself up to incredible possibilities that can come from the experience of releasing some things that you’re maybe holding on to really, really tightly right now.
Thank you so much for listening. Please tag me over @emilygoughcoach, screenshot this episode, share it, tag me, over @emilygoughcoach. I would love to thank you for listening. And don’t ever hesitate to reach out, it still makes me laugh that people are surprised sometimes when they reach out to me and I get back to them. I don’t know if there are people out there who maybe think that there’s a robot on the other end of my Instagram account but I’m a real human guys, I do respond. So I would love to chat just to say hi. I would love to get a chance to talk to you so please reach out over @emilygoughcoaching drop me a line. All of the information for the references that I made to other episodes and stuff are all in the show notes available at emilygoughcoaching.com or roomtogrowpodcast.com
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