"Holding on is believing that there's only a past; letting go is knowing that there's a future."
― Daphne Rose Kingma, American author
The Fear That Paralyzed Me
There have been many times in my life when I've struggled to leave things behind. Some of my toughest decisions have been about changing jobs, and about ending a significant relationship – my marriage.
I was brought up with the value of doing everything possible to make things work. What wasn't factored into the equation, however, was the cost it would have on me. So, even when I was in an unhealthy marriage, I tried one thing after another to make it OK.
I was also afraid. I was scared about what life would be like without the other person. How could I possibly cope alone? I was even fearful of what other people would think of me because my marriage had "failed."
After quite some time, and a lot of help and support from friends and therapists, I finally found the courage and left.
The sense of relief surprised me. I also felt guilty. I knew I should be sad that the relationship was over – but what I actually felt was happiness and relief! I'd found the courage to stand up for something I knew I wanted, and this relationship was not it.
I also experienced a surge of confidence, which I hadn't realized had fallen so low. It was only with hindsight that I could see how much damage my relationship problems had done to my confidence at work.
Staying Because Others Say So
Speaking of work, I was once in a situation where I knew that a particular job wasn't right for me – pretty much from day one! Even though I'd finally found my "dream job," I realized very quickly that it wasn't the right "fit" for me.
But rather than listen to myself and what I wanted, I listened to others. People told me I'd be ruining my résumé if I left a job so quickly, so I persuaded myself to stay until it was "acceptable" to move on.
What I didn't bank on was the cost it would have on my health. I progressively became more sick, suffering from a variety of illnesses that made it extremely tough for me to work. I tried all sorts of things to stay healthy, but nothing helped.
However, it was only when someone asked if I was waiting to get seriously ill before I gave up on the job that I finally realized enough was enough. And, once again, the sense of relief was immense.
Looking back at other times when I've stayed in situations longer than was good for me, I realize that part of me wanted to try every strategy I could think of. I didn't want people to think I was a quitter.
I can also see that the fears holding me back were simply projections of negative outcomes and consequences. In reality, almost all of them turned out to be untrue.
So now I'm learning. I'm learning that, when I have to make a big decision, I should "take the leap." And when I do, I'm learning that things have a way of working themselves out.
When I trust, I stay open to possibilities and opportunities. When I'm in fear, those positives are very difficult to see.
Knowing When to Let Go
During last Friday's #MTtalk we discussed the importance of knowing when to let go. Here are some highlights from our chat.
Q1. What do you tend to hold on to most, against your better judgment?
@JusChas My mistakes. I replay them over and over and over again. Also, I hold on to negative actions that folks intentionally did to me. Or that I feel like folks intentionally did to me.
@harrisonia Sometimes I hold on to hope that someone will change – despite knowing that after years of many examples… they will not.
Q2. What are some of the reasons that you hold on to things and don't let them go?
@nymelonballer Fear of change or the unknown. The "devil you know" can give you a false sense of stability and peace.
Thanks to @temekoruns for this nugget: "Many of us take on people as construction projects. We must channel our inner Maya Angelou. When people show you who they are, believe them."
Q3. Why is it so difficult to let go?
We have different reasons for finding it difficult, but fear seems to be a common theme.
@itstamaragt Fear of loss. Letting go of something means losing it and that feeling alone drives people away from letting go. Also, the attachment/memories can make it even more difficult.
@MapDorcas Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Difficulty in dealing with grief – if what's being let go of involves people and relationships.
Q4. What does it feel like to keep holding on?
@Midgie_MT When I keep holding on, I feel hope… yet at a certain point that fades and I start to feel drained.
@MurrayAshley It feels awful. Like continually knocking your head against the wall in exactly the same place. Add being an overthinker to the mix and there's hell right there.
Q5. What are the consequences of persevering when a situation no longer serves you?
@LindahMbaisi You waste a lot of your time when you hold on to things that are not destined to be part of your existence – time you could have used to create a new path.
@MicheleDD_MT It can be soul crushing and this leads to personal crisis and health issues. High blood pressure, GI issues, anxiety, depression.
Q6. Is there a danger in letting go too soon?
@BRAVOMedia1 This is where it becomes a balancing act – letting go too soon maybe is our ego response and not an authentic response. It's knowing "when" to let go.
@DreaVilleneuve I think the danger is far greater in holding on too long.
Q7. What's the difference between "giving up" and "letting go"?
@TheCraigKaye One decision is made from a position of struggle, whilst the other is made from a position of strength.
@GThakore Giving up is the result of losing hope whereas letting go is the result of strong willpower.
Q8. What helps you to let go and move on?
@PIPability Recognizing that what may seem like a boulder one day is really a pebble in the bigger picture. What I let go of today allows me to gain something extra tomorrow. Just have a positive perspective that everything works out.
@BrainBlenderTec Time, as with age things dissolve into the past.
Q9. What does it feel like to let go?
@TwisterKW Exhilarating. There are so many emotions that come with letting go, but try to hold on to the exhilaration to fuel the next part of your path.
@Yolande_MT Letting go feels "light," and right. I'm more "agile" mentally and emotionally because I don't have a ton of stuff that weighs me down.
Q10. How can you help someone else to let go of an issue?
@MarkC_Avgi Listening to their mental struggle to let something/someone go… showing empathy. Be there, when needed, as support.
@YEPBusiness You can't until they ask for your help. The light bulb has to want to change. Anything else in presumptuous.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection from this chat.
People often ask questions with good intent, but they don't know when to stop. If you're the only gay person in your organization, for example, or the only Asian person in a white team, you've probably had your fair share of it. And can you imagine being the only single father in a day care support group?
Most of us have probably experienced a feeling of "onlyness." Next time on #MTtalk, we're going to discuss the difference between "onlyness" and "loneliness," and we're looking forward to hearing your experiences and ideas. For now, please vote in our Twitter poll to let us know what it felt like to experience "onlyness."
Finally, here are some resources relating to our #MTtalk about knowing when to let go:
Managing a Person With a Victim Mentality
The PERMA Model
How to Apologize
Dealing With Anxiety
Snyder's Hope Theory
Breaking Bad Habits
The Johari Window
The GIVE Model
How to Manage Rivalry in the Workplace