Letting Go: One Of The Most Surprising Self-Care Acts

What Letting Go Means

Letting go is one of the attitudes of mindfulness described by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book Wherever You Go, There You Are. It means to release, not getting involved in grasping or clinging onto what we want or don’t want.

For me, letting go is creating space to notice what is. It is the next step after scanning for illusions, distorted thoughts or emotions that may be causing pressure within. It’s about witnessing when a desire kicks in. Then redirect my attention to the present moment.

I struggled with letting go for a long time. In fact, it has taken me years to apply even a small bit of it to my life. Letting people go, for instance, has always been difficult and also one of the major sources of distress.

Why It’s Ok to Let Go

I’ve clung to people and held the hope one day they would change their behaviour. I believe everyone is capable of change. Yet the reality is people only change when they are ready or when they see fit. 

We can give them our opinion, our counsel, or even communicate our boundaries. We can tick all the right actions, but we can’t change them. People can only change for themselves.

When we have done everything under our control and other people’s behaviour still hurts us, it might be time to let them go. If their attitude and actions hurt you to the point of emotional and mental disturbance, then by all means let them go.

In the past, I struggled a lot with this, that’s why I wanted to write about this topic and share it with you. I wanted to let you know that under certain conditions it is ok and urgent to let people go.

Why Do I Struggle With Getting Go

I believe the tricky part is that there is a fine line between letting people go and discarding them. I used to worry and wonder about this a lot. The thought of being unjust or unkind prevented me from letting go of people who were unhealthy and toxic.

According to my worldview, people are not meant to be discarded or left behind. Loyalty and perseverance are necessary to make a relationship work. However, there are relationships in which only one side of the equation plays by the book of the golden rule. In that case, it’s time to let them go.

Life has taught me enough harsh lessons in this matter to confidently tell you: if it doesn’t ring well, let it go. Whether it’s people or situations, it is ok to let go of whatever doesn’t sit right with you.

Of course, our social reality does not operate in black-and-white standards. There are grey areas and it’s in those grey areas where challenges and doubts about what to do come up quite a lot. This rings true, especially in relationships.

Those areas need to be populated with healthy boundaries and a clear notion of what healthy relationships look and feel like. In a utopic world, what people say and do would match their true intention, at least most of the time. We know that’s not quite the world we are living in right now.

The Need for Conscious Relationships

In a recent conversation with Cee from The Cassie Memoirs, we discussed the topic of conscious relationships. These do not need to be necessarily romantic in their nature. Consciousness is needed across all bonds we establish with each other.

What is a conscious relationship though? A conscious relationship is a bond that is perceived as sacred and therefore is strongly driven by both personal and relational growth. 

Signs of a Conscious Relationship

For a relationship to grow, we need to give it the right amount of proper nutrition so that it can grow and develop healthily. Here are a few traits of a conscious relationship:

  • genuine mutual interest
  • trust remains intact and alive through time
  • there is a shared responsibility for making the connection thrive
  • it feels safe to share both positive and negative aspects of your life
  • the bond is based on cooperation rather than competition
  • the flow of information and disclosure feels adequate and bidirectional
  • support is naturally and effortlessly given by both parties

Cee has also shared some green and red flags that can help us navigate relationships and make better decisions about them. I recommend you read them a couple of times and look at them from a place of self-integrity and self-respect.

How to Letting Go of a Relationship

It’s never an easy decision but sometimes letting someone go is an act of self-care. It can be the solution you need to restore your mental health or have more free time, energy and resources to invest in new and healthier relationships.

If you feel strongly about letting someone go, please note that it is very important to remain respectful. We never really know what it feels like to walk in another person’s shoes so it’s important to be civil and kind.

A lot of times, we don’t have full access to why someone may choose to engage in toxic relational dynamics. However, we are not forced to tolerate their disrespect and misconduct. We draw the line there and we start taking the issue as a matter of self-care. 

The best way to let someone go, I think, is to be truthful and yet graceful. Here are a couple of tips to better handle the situation.

Be Kind

You might feel sad, disappointed or even angry. It is important to digest and process those emotions first. Please do not suppress them, but also make sure you do your process in a safe and respectful way. 

Give yourself some time to cool down. Take a breather. Learn more about some of the principles of nonviolent communication. Hurt people hurt people and you don’t have to fuel the cycle of anger.

Allow yourself time and space to heal emotionally. Then, once you see fit, communicate with the other person from a neutral standpoint. Stay true to your message and yet be kind.

Be Informative 

When we decide to communicate in the aftermath of a conflict or trigger, we are very likely to mess up what we really want to say. We might say what we don’t want or even take action that only creates more debris.

Again, take time to regulate your thoughts and emotions. Find clarity so that you can inform the other person of what really matters. The four steps of nonviolent communication can help you with this.

Be Brave

Who likes potential conflict? Who likes to end relationships? Who likes drama? It’s never easy to navigate the end of a relationship. You need to be brave and gather your courage.

No one likes to feel rejected or abandoned too. Knowing that can make us feel guilty and run away from even stating our boundaries or talking about our decision to end the relationship. Be aware if this is the case.

Ending a relationship will never feel easy and you will never know for sure what the result is going to be like. It takes courage to endure that and to do what is right anyway.

Final thoughts

Letting go of people can be hard, especially if you are empathic by nature and you have an anxious attachment style. It can be scary and daunting.

However, to protect your mental and emotional health, sometimes it is necessary. Sometimes, letting go is a surprising act of self-care. Your well-being can depend on it as you depend on oxygen to live.

When letting someone go, it is important to remain civil. Remember that. Practice emotional self-regulation first and then strive to be kind, informative and yet brave.

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9 Comments

  1. Smiley says:

    Thanks for bringing it up. This definitely isn’t easy, but realising that it is actually an act of selfcare makes it something I’m more likely to work towards, however long the journey. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  2. There have been key moments in my life where I’ve finally let something go in this way and it was so freeing; it definitely helps your mental and emotional well-being when this happens. Thanks for exploring this here!

    Like

  3. Your post is very thought-provoking.
    This point leaped out at me. ‘There is a shared responsibility for making the connection thrive.’
    I do feel that one two of my friendships are a bit one-sided; I’m the one who has to get in touch first.
    It makes me wonder if they’re really bothered about me!

    Like

  4. This post has come at just the right time. It can be (and is) so hard, but this post was very encouraging!

    Like

  5. Letting go is difficult, especially with people that you care about. But personal mental health has to come first.

    Like

  6. I’ve always found it hard to let go. The “what if” feelings are so strong and I always feel I should give things/people another try. This was a lovely, thoughtful post, thank you for sharing.

    Like

  7. Stephanie says:

    Letting go as a concept has always been really challenging for me. I don’t like change at all and they go hand-in-hand! This was a wonderful read and so helpful for me to ponder as I go into a season of change in my life right now and need to let go of a lot!

    Like

  8. I had to let go of a friendship for my own mental health and just for my own self worth because my so called “best friend” did something unforgivable. But once I did I felt empowered. Thank you for sharing.

    Lauren.

    Like

  9. Excellent post. I have struggled with trauma bonds and letting go.

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