I recently had a great talk about letting go of other people. I'm currently dealing with two types of letting go:
- Letting go of what other people want me to do.
- Letting go of what other people are going to do.
This blog post is only talking about the first one: letting go of what other people want me to do.
I realize what letting go feels like on new levels all the time. A lot of the time it feels shitty and heartbreaking because I care what other people think so much. Just when I think I've got letting go down, I figure out how to do it to a new extent. And I always feel better in the long run.
I have changed so much and I have so stayed the same. As it seems to go. As I make changes to build the life I want, I can't help but look to others to make sure I'm doing okay.
Letting go of what people want me to do
I'm good at taking direction. When someone tells me to do something, I like explicit instruction and some examples. However, as I grow through this second puberty (my twenties), I find myself exploring my identity and my dreams and my values.
I get into a tricky spot because on one hand I'm saying, "I am a strong and empowered woman and I feel proud to make my own decisions." On the other hand, I think, "What life path can I choose that will make [person I admire] happy?"
The decisions I make are my own. I really like it when I make a decision and the people I look up to say, "wow, that was a great choice."
That does not happen 100% of the time. By any means. And it crushes me. Or, it did. I'm feeling better about it now. When I look to the sidelines and see people disappointed, even though I am living exactly the life I want to live, I start to feel sad.
If I'm doing what I love and so many people in my life are proud, I tend to focus on those one or two people who are just in total dismay. If I'm happy, but they are not celebrating with me, am I really happy?
(There are a lot of people I consult before making big decisions and I listen to those people. Right now I'm just talking about the people who are hyper-critical and shitty.)
how I let go
Here's how I've been moving through this dilemma: I've been focusing on living according to my values. I cannot express how much I love values. I learned about values in-depth about six years ago and it finally sunk in almost a year ago.
I look to my values the way I look to my mentors. If I am living up to these values, I feel proud of who I am and what I am doing in my life. I value kindness, authenticity, safety, curiosity, and relationships. Along will a billion other things like humor, work ethic, and gratitude. I tend to focus on a couple of values at a time. Primarily safety and kindness. Those two pretty much cover exactly what I want my life to look like.
If I do something that someone doesn't like, I have an easier time letting go when that action is in line with my values. It holds me accountable on a new level. When I get still and I pause before I act, I know if what I am doing is in accordance with my values.
Making a difficult decision feels better when I make it myself (with the support of people who accept me and know my vision). It's easier to look at the critical faces in the crowd in order to determine what I should do next. But that option feels shitty. It's inauthentic.
There will always be people who think they know how to do life better than anyone else. They have rules and procedures: get a master's degree, get a job, get health insurance, don't fuck around, do life this way or else you're stupid. I'm serious, people think that way. It's insane. What's even more insane is how frequently I find myself believing that this formula is the only way to go about life.
accepting their disappointment
Sometimes people are going to be disappointed. A lot of those times are really going to suck, depending on who the disappointed people are. If what I am doing is in line with my values, I have to get cool with their disappointment on an emotional level.
Intellectually I understand that I cannot live a life that makes everyone happy. If I zoom-in to one person and focus on making them happy, I'll end up unhappy and I'll have made some decisions that disappointed other people. So, pick one, I guess.
Emotionally, letting go is more difficult. What I need to remember is that when someone is disappointed in me, it does not mean I am no longer worthy of their love. My inner five-year-old goes nuts when people disapprove. She feels unloved. She feels fear. But I am my own loving parent now, I don't need to so deeply depend on other people to tell me that who I am is acceptable.
Brene Brown suggested a brilliant thing that I think about a lot even though I am not super into Brene Brown anymore. She said to get a tiny little post-it, and on one side of it write down the names of the people who know me, understand me, and accept me. Those people are the ones I talk to before I make a decision. Those people hold me to my values and they show me new perspectives. There are five people on that list.
There are people I deeply love who are not on that list. And if they are not on that list, they don't get to have a say.
here's what I really think
Life is meaningless, dude. In a really beautiful and cool and wonderful way, it doesn't mean a thing. According to the community I want to live in and the social structure of my life, I have to pay bills and have a job. Even if that means having a shitty job to pay those bills.
Still, though. I don't have to be miserable. I can be exactly who I want to be. All that is going to happen is I'm going to die when I get old or I'll die young in some kind of horrific car crash. Who knows. Why would I spend this experience of life on worry and doubt and fear?
I want to feel good and I want to be kind. I care about other people because I have emotions and I like to feel them. Ultimately, what do we know? What does anyone know about the right or best way to live life?
When I let those people go, I'm also releasing a huge weight off my shoulders. I can deeply love someone and still not give a shit about their opinion.