Let’s start with a simple but important question:
Why is it so hard to let go and why do we hang on longer than we should?
There are admittedly a variety of answers to consider and quite honestly some of them make sense. However, more often than not, the most common answer falls heavily in and around fear.
Whether it is staying in a toxic relationship, a job you hate or perhaps hanging on to a bad habit, an inability to let it go can be bad for your health and your life.
I am guilty as charged. There was a time in my life that I was afraid to be alone. In truth I believed that I needed a man in my life. Happiness equaled a relationship and without one I did not know how to function or exist.
The result? I stayed in relationships that were sometimes toxic or were not right for me far too long. Looking back, it is hard to accept the time wasted and it is hard to swallow some of the chaos I repeatedly created and allowed. But – at the time – fear and a set of beliefs were in control and running the show.
Human beings are creatures of habit and sadly, fear and the beliefs we hold often dictate how we live our lives. Unfortunately, some of those beliefs chain us to people, situations or habits that steal our joy and keep us stuck.
Jennifer is a smart, successful, pretty and vibrant woman. She has a great job, good friends, a daughter, a home of her own and a family that loves her. Jennifer also has a boyfriend and she has dated him for over ten years.
Sounds wonderful right? From the outside looking in, it would appear that Jennifer has a happy and fulfilled life but like so many situations, there is a dark side and Jennifer feels trapped. Jennifer’s boyfriend is verbally abusive to her and is constantly mean and rude to her family and friends. He drinks too much and Jennifer often pays the bills and cleans up his mess. The relationship is toxic and the fighting is frequent.
Yet Jennifer stays and regardless of several attempts to break it off, she always takes him back.
Sadly, this is a scenario that happens to people all the time. There can be a million reasons to leave, quit, let go, give it up or walk away but people still stay, hang on, keep trying or keep doing the same thing because they are afraid to let it go.
If you are struggling with letting go of someone or something here are a few signs you should not ignore:
- You are constantly compromising your own values or sacrificing your own happiness. – Everyone has values that are important to their lives and ultimately their happiness. If you are in a situation that you find yourself giving in all the time and sacrificing all that is important to you, it may be time to move on. It is important to compromise in relationships but don’t sacrifice all that matters to you. Your values and beliefs are important to your ultimate happiness. If you give those up you will lose yourself.
- Someone does not appreciate you or value your worth. – You matter and you deserve to be appreciated, valued and loved. Period. If you are staying in a relationship of any kind with someone who constantly makes you feel unappreciated or unworthy, you need to look deep within. It is important that you first learn to love yourself and believe that you are worthy. Remember, we will often get and settle for what we believe we deserve. Don’t settle for a relationship that leaves you feeling less than you are.
- You are staying for all of the wrong reasons. – I have heard it all. I’m not good enough, pretty enough or smart enough. No one else will love me. I can’t afford to live on my own. What will other people think? Dating is too hard. I will never find another job. I’m afraid to be alone. Sound familiar? Fear and beliefs will keep you stuck in a place you should no longer be. Pay attention to the negative self-talk and to what you are telling yourself. You are stronger than you think and while it is not easy, you deserve to be happy. If you are struggling with low self-esteem or are afraid, reach out for help and work on learning to believe in yourself. You can do it but first you have to get rid of the self-sabotaging chatter in your head.
- You can’t fix or change someone else. – We have all been down this road. When you love someone and want the relationship to work, it is easy to convince ourselves that we can help them, change them or fix them. In truth, you can’t. The only person you can change or fix is yourself. I used to be a flight attendant and one of the first lessons in safety on a plane involves your oxygen mask. If there is an emergency and the oxygen masks drop above your seat, it is imperative that you put your own oxygen mask on first. This is true in life. You must first tend to your own issues before you can effectively help someone else. It is okay to want to help someone who you care about but you cannot fix them. If you are constantly unhappy or frustrated with someone’s behavior or how they are, it may be time to cut the ties and let go.
- Check your buckets. – There are three buckets in every relationship. Bucket one holds those things that are good and those things you both need and want. Bucket two holds those things that you may disagree on but you can compromise on and find a middle ground to stand upon. Lastly and most important is bucket three. This is the bucket that holds those things that are non-negotiable. These are the things that you cannot sacrifice. This bucket can and will sabotage your life and who you are as a person. It is critical that you check your buckets. Do the things in bucket three outweigh the good in your relationship? Are there things in bucket three that will derail your life in the long run? If you answered yes, it is time to give serious thought to ending this relationship. We all have deal breakers. Don’t settle and allow deal breakers in your life because eventually it will break you.
- You are being someone you are not or can’t say how you feel. – We are all unique individuals and each and every one of us matter. If you constantly feel like you cannot be yourself when you are with another person it is time to evaluate your options. No one should have to sacrifice who they are in order to be with someone. You should be able to be yourself and live true to who you are and who you want to be. If the person you are with cannot accept you for who you are or they are constantly demeaning you for it, it is not a healthy relationship. In addition, communication is important to the success of any relationship. If you cannot say how you feel or feel like you have to hide your feelings, you will be miserable in the end.
- Know your boundaries. – I was never good at setting boundaries and if I am honest, it continues to be a challenge. Setting boundaries in both personal and professional relationships is important to your well-being. You need to know what your boundaries are and have a clear vision of what you are willing to tolerate and what you are not. Don’t be afraid to say no or stand up for what you believe in. If you are in a relationship that is abusive in any way – GET OUT. Any type of abuse is unacceptable and breaks every boundary there is. Practice self-love and self-care. We have and need boundaries for a reason.
- You can’t force someone to love you. – It is easy to believe that we can make someone love us in the same way that we love them. Sadly, this is not true. I have been in that situation and I stayed too long because I was convinced that if I was pretty enough, kind enough or became the person they wanted me to be, they would love me back. This will not work. Love is not something that can be forced or wrapped up in a tiny neat box. Loving another human comes with great responsibility and it is complicated. Again, don’t sacrifice who you are with the hope that you can make them love you. Be patient and love yourself enough to move on. There is someone out there that will love all of who you are and for the right reasons.
- Stop making excuses and justifying. – How many times have you heard a friend or loved one make excuses for staying in something or with someone longer than they should? If you find yourself trying to justify the relationship or always apologizing for the behavior of someone else, it is time to take a hard look at the reason why? If you are truly unhappy or know in your gut that something isn’t right – listen. Intuition is a gift and often, we have an inner GPS system that tries to warn us when something is wrong. Don’t make excuses for someone else if they are treating you poorly and don’t try to justify a relationship or staying in it if you are miserable or unhappy. It is never worth it.
It is difficult to let go of certain things in life. We become comfortable even when things are less than desirable or bad. People struggle to step outside of their comfort zones and it is never easy to walk away. However, don’t get lulled into the belief that there is no hope or this is all there is. There is a big world out there full of opportunity and so many beautiful people and things to experience and enjoy. I am not minimizing that it is difficult to end things and can take time but it is possible.
Have faith that life does not start and stop here. You deserve to have peace in your heart, to follow your passions and to experience love like never before. Don’t settle but instead let go of those things that are no longer serving you. You do not have to feel trapped. There are always options to entertain and pursue. Find the courage to let go. You might be surprised at how wonderful your life can be on the other side.
In Peace and With Love,