Recently, I’ve thought a lot about the difference between giving up and letting go. Let me explain…
I’m a big proponent of self reflection and pondering how I could have done better on things in order to improve for the future. During a recent self reflection, I recognized I was beating myself up for “giving up” on an area of my life, and something clicked. I became aware of my belief that if I “quit” anything, it meant I had sold myself short or hadn’t tried hard enough. I realized I wasn’t allowing space for myself to recognize when it’s time to gracefully let go of something not meant for me, and that that’s very different than simply giving up.
Giving up in my mind means letting your fears or insecurities get in the way of succeeding. Letting go is giving yourself permission to remove something from your life that isn’t serving you.
To take it a step further in explaining what I mean, I have a silly metaphor of sorts… and it’s obviously about plants. (No one is surprised.) Here goes… Giving up would be like buying one succulent that ends up dying (because I left it in a dark corner and never watered it), and deciding I’m therefore not good at growing plants. On the flip side, letting go would be like attending a workshop on how to take care of plants, then spending hundreds of dollars on multiple plants, that all inevitably die even though I’ve given it my all; then deciding I’ve invested enough time and energy and it’s possible I have a black thumb and should consider seeking out a new hobby.
What I’m realizing through making this distinction is I think I’ve hurt myself by not seeing the difference between giving up and letting go until now. Here’s why: Over the past few years of my life, some things haven’t felt right in my gut; but I’ve clung to them nonetheless. I’ve experienced feeling disrespected, but I’ve held out in the hope things would improve.
I refused to “fail”, or “give up”.
What I didn’t see during those times, was that red flags were waving so I would recognize it was time to move on, instead of scrambling to keep everything together. Broken things were falling apart as a gift to me.
Why I hold myself back from letting go of things not meant for me
You may be asking yourself “So, why on earth do you do that, Chelsea?” Well, you see, there are a few reasons why I hold myself back from letting go of things not meant for me:
1. I’m a rose colored glasses qween – I’m a textbook “rose colored glasses” type who only sees opportunities when I’m faced with adversity. I literally mentally block the option of failing and focus on positive solutions to keep things on track. Therefore, I try every possible way to make something work… to the point of exhausting myself.
2. I glorify self improvement – I err on the side of assuming I need to change something/everything about myself. So I take on all responsibility and grit my teeth through it. I glorify “making an effort” at the expense of myself.
3. I struggle with creating personal boundaries – I become convinced I’m “being mean” if I have a personal boundary. It feels like I’m saying that situation or person I should probably walk away from is horrible, even though I know that isn’t true.
4. I struggle to take action – I don’t always trust my intuition, and therefore fear I’m making the wrong call. This leaves me totally frozen and stuck.
5. I don’t always choose myself first – I’m a BIG people pleaser and tend to think of other people first. Ultimately, by not choosing myself, I’m wasting energy, and missing out on opportunities to discover something new that is FOR me.
The freedom of letting go
Recently, I’ve been reading “Am I There Yet?” by Mari Andrew, which is a sweet and beautifully illustrated book about the messiness of becoming an adult. In one chapter, she talks about creating her ideal home environment, as she would be at home healing from a surgery for several weeks. As she began to surround herself with beauty and the perfect space for creating joy in her home, she asked herself “Why wouldn’t I want to feel like that all the time?” That soon expanded into other areas of her life as she decided how she wanted to spend her time, who she wanted to spend it with, etc.
This concept resonated with me on a deep level, and felt so perfectly tied to the idea that letting go can be freeing and healthy. Once I flipped the narrative, and realized what I could be missing out on by not letting go, I’ve become much more attuned to the signs that there’s an opportunity to pause and consider what’s right for me.
How have I seen this show up?
For example, if I walk away from a get together with a friend feeling poorly about myself, I’m now pausing to ask myself if that friendship is right for me right now. Maybe there are insecurities for me to work through, or opportunities for me to spend my energy on friendships more aligned with where I’m at currently.
If I feel a loss of personal power in certain circumstances, I’m now pausing to ask myself if it’s a circumstance that’s worth me feeling deflated. I remind myself that it’s possible it isn’t a situation that brings out the best in me, and it would be totally okay to walk away from that to create space for an environment that does.
Today, I give myself permission to gracefully walk away from situations and relationships I’ve outgrown. To not feel “dramatic” for saying no, or honoring my limits and boundaries. To learn and grow from the things I choose to walk away from. To not feel guilty about disappointing someone else. To not feel like I failed, just because I decided to walk away. To be committed to feeling clear and true to myself, above all others.
What do you think about the difference between giving up and letting go?