Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are is the subtitle of Brene Brown’s book The Gift of Imperfection. What a mouthful!
LET GO OF WHO YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE
The expectations, social norms, family culture, and even our own mind dictate who we are supposed to be. Or at least, who we think we’re supposed to be. The problem is we trade who we are at our core for who “they” think we are supposed to be.
In a leadership program a few years back, I watched a women maneuver up a 25 foot pole. She walked across an inclined pole at that height and moved over a tight rope. Then she shimmied across a pole with one line to grab hold of, arriving at the zip line platform completely in tact — body, mind and emotions. When it was time for her to step off the platform, let go of the rope and enjoy the ride down, she couldn’t let go. Stepping off the platform was a completely different experience from hanging on for dear life. Letting go is so unnatural.
Letting go seems so impossible when you’ve poured so much into it. It almost always feels like if you could just give a little more time, effort, money, things will start to work out.
LET GO OF WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK
The first thing I had to let go of to become who I am is what other people think. People expect a pastor to know how to stay married. For sure, a counselor should know how. So, a pastor and counselor married to a person unable to live in reality, has only one choice — stay married and do my best. After all, I have the knowledge to avoid a dysfunctional relationship or definitely the skill to fix one. At least, that’s what people think. Refusing to let go of what people think held me in an abusive relationship for over 30 years. Letting go of what other people think is so unnatural when all I’ve ever done is hang on tight for dear life.
LET GO OF THE NEED FOR CERTAINTY
I like my ducks in a row, preferably counted, sorted and labeled. Nothing satisfies me more than being absolutely certain of what’s coming, what’s happening, and what will happen next. I will do extensive research and crunch all the numbers to make sure I know with certainty what to do and how to think. When people tell me they just go with their gut, I quiver. This feels very uncertain. After all, there is no formula!
On my fiftieth birthday I awoke jobless, homeless, alone for the first time in 30 years and able to say “I’m better than I should be.” I was facing what appeared to be insurmountable uncertainty. There was no formula. Trusting my intuition or the little voice within rather than listening to the screams of uncertainty was the only way to move forward.
Brene Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection says, “Intuition is not a single way of knowing—it’s our ability to hold space for uncertainty and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith and reason.“ Letting go of the need for certainty is so unnatural when all I’ve ever done is hang on tight for dear life.
LET GO OF SMALL THINKING
I grew up constantly hearing how there wasn’t enough time, resources, money, and energy. This trained me to believe everything is scarce. There is not enough for everyone which means someone gets left out. Either we’ve decided we’ve been left out of love, wealth, success, you fill in the blank. Or we’ve decided we must get our slice of the pie before someone else does. Media, grandparents, co-workers, friends reinforce this idea. We repeatedly hear messages like, “I can’t seem to get ahead.” “I wish I could afford that.” There is not enough is simply a myth we accept. This scarcity mentality keeps us from finding the resources, time, attitude or whatever it is we think is so limited.
If we’re not looking for it, we will not find it. When I believe there is enough it changes my perspective, attitude, decisions, actions and conversations. Letting go of thinking small is so unnatural when all I’ve ever done is hang on tight for dear life.
RELINQUISH YOUR RIGHT TO HOLD ON
Twenty-five feet up on a wire with a handle on a rope is painful, scary, difficult and seems so very hard, but twenty-five feet up and letting go of the rope is near impossible.
Relinquishing our right to hold onto something that has been a part of us feels so impossible. Letting go of cultural expectations, releasing things that seemed to be truth, and surrendering the ideal for the reality is beyond uncomfortable, even risky. It looks like embracing imperfections, authenticity, and the belief that “I am enough.” Basically, this is us engaging our lives from a place of already knowing we are worthy. We are enough.
*This blog was originally published at plaidforwomen.com.