Letting Go! A Skill That Can Be Learned and Mastered

Letting Go. For years, we’ve all been singing Let it Go, yet the majority of us aren’t taking the idea to heart. In life, there is only one true constant and that’s change. You can guarantee that change will hit you when you are at your most comfortable or settled when you’re down on your luck, it doesn’t care. 

It comes for you whenever it wants. It’s an emotional challenge. There is only one way to get through it and that is to go through it. A lot of that is rooted in the idea of letting go.

There is something comforting about holding onto the past. It’s familiar. The future is unknown and clinging to that comfort of the past provides you a constant. The problem is that constant is often negative. 

So, you’re holding onto failed relationships, a terrible job, hurt that you’ve caused and hurt that has been done to you. Unfortunately, many require the pain to become so great that it suddenly outweighs the fear of letting go. You don’t have to get to that point. 

Letting go is a skill and letting go requires willpower, practice, and self-awareness. 

The Comfort Zone

We all have dreams, thoughts, deep desires, and motivations. It’s not always easy to walk out of the comfort zone. It’s easier to hold onto our current skills, it’s easier to hold onto bad relationships and friendships, it’s easier to surround yourself with familiarity, it’s easier to keep your bad habits, to maintain bad routines, and hold onto memories that keep your past failures in the present. It’s easier. 

Yet, it’s so much more painful than letting go. That comfort is what’s holding you back and limiting your growth. Perhaps even more dangerously, it’s stopping you from gaining self-awareness into who you really are as a person. 

Holding on to that comfort zone is making you miss out on a wealth of opportunities. 

As humans, we have all experienced hurt. Unfortunately, it’s something that likely occurred early in life because that’s just how life is. By the time you reach your teenage years, you had likely experienced a number of emotional pains. 

That’s the sum total of puberty if we’re being honest. Everybody hurts. What are you doing with that hurt? That’s more important.

Are you allowing it to hold you back, to stop you from really living your life? Do you spend your days ruminating on a past indiscretion or hurt, unable to move forward? We have all made mistakes. 

We have all experienced hurt and we have all done things we wish now that we could change. The truth is, there is no changing the past. Which is why the skill of letting go is so, so important. 

How You Can Move Past Hurts

First of all, one of the most common (and damaging) things that we do is blame others. It’s easy to point to what someone else did wrong. It’s easy to believe we are owed an apology or at least an acknowledgment that they wrong us.

This type of victim mentality is only going to backfire. You are handing over all of your power to everyone else. Imagine how you would feel if you confronted this person and they shrugged it off. Or, if they challenged you back and said they did do x, but they refuse to apologize for it. 

The only result you will have is hurt, anger, and still a lack of resolution. 

That doesn’t mean that your feelings of pain or dismay aren’t legitimate. They may very well be, but that doesn’t mean you should hold on to them. You find your power when you let go and move on from them. 

When you hold on to pain, you set up a cycle where you relive it. Your whole world revolves around this open wound that you can’t allow to heal. Even when it begins to heal, you start to pick at the scab until it’s fully open again. 

5 Steps To Letting Go 

How can you invite happiness into your life? You have to make space for it and if you are filled to the brim with pain, disappointment, and bitterness, how will you have room for the good stuff?

1| Decide To Let Go 

All of that hurt won’t just disappear by itself. Letting go requires commitment, it’s a conscious decision and it’s one that you need to make upfront. Otherwise, you could fall prey to self-sabotage. Letting go as a conscious decision means that you recognize it’s your choice to do so. You are choosing to stop the cycle. 

You are no longer going to relive those past hurts and pains. You are no longer going to overthink every past interaction or failure. It might sound small, but it’s empowering and it will empower you to move forward. 

2| Express Pain & Embrace Responsibility 

You can’t let go of your pain until you have taken the time to express it. You might not be able to direct it at the person who caused it – if too much time has passed, it’s unfair to do so. However, you can vent to a friend, write a letter to that person (but don’t send it) or write it all in a journal. If you choose to write a letter to someone, a good way to finish the exercise is ripping it up or setting it alight (safely, of course). 

Otherwise, you may be tempted to read it again and obsess over it. A journal is slightly different. You can read it again and recognize your progress. The purpose of this exercise is that it will offer you an understanding of what your pain is really about.

The exercise offers you specifics. It’s so easy to view everything as black and white. It’s in the shades of gray. You feel hard done by, but you may have some responsibility for your own pain. It may be small, but you should still embrace responsibility for your own part. 

Are you actively participating in your life or are you casting yourself in the role of victim? You have allowed your pain to become a major part of your identity. Aren’t you more complicated than that?

3| The Victim

Believe it or not, it feels good to be the victim. You have set yourself up as a lone wolf – it’s just you… against everyone. The problem is that everyone doesn’t care. You matter, you are unique, you are special, and your feelings count. However, that doesn’t mean you are so important that the world is plotting against you. Nor does it mean that your feelings matter more than everything else. They are just one aspect of a messy, complex, interwoven life. 

You are faced with a decision – you can choose to feel good or you can choose to obsess over the actions of others. You have to take responsibility for your happiness, instead of giving your power away to someone else. The person who hurt you in the past… do they deserve a hold over you now? That’s what you do when you paint yourself as a victim – you allow them power over you. 

Nothing can change what has gone before, so why on earth would you devote so much of your time and energy into it? Especially when it’s someone who wronged you? 

4| Live in the Present

It’s truly time to let go and stop reliving your past. It’s time to change your story – you aren’t the victim in the story, you’re the protagonist, and the protagonist is never a victim. You can’t change the past, you can only live in the now. When you focus on the present, you have far less time to obsess over the past. 

Those memories of the past will still creep in. That’s okay, you can acknowledge them and then you push yourself back into the present. For some, it is easier to do this when there’s a cue. 

You can come up with your own, something about acknowledging the past, but reminding yourself your happiness is in the here and now. If you allow your life to be crowded with all these negative feelings, you are choosing hurt. Instead, you should be opening your arms and embracing joy. 

5| Find Forgiveness

Forgiveness isn’t for the benefit of others, it’s for your benefit. You don’t forgive someone to offer them closure, you do so to provide yourself with closure. It’s easy to think about someone or something and stubbornly believe that you will never forgive them. Forgiveness isn’t an endorsement. That’s where there’s a lot of confusion. 

You aren’t endorsing bad behavior, you are saying that you forgive the action, even though you don’t agree with it. There is no weakness in forgiveness. It’s an act of empathy and a physical act of letting go. 

You should always extend forgiveness to yourself, as well as to others. We often place greater pressure on ourselves. As a result, we often treat ourselves more harshly. How can you obtain happiness and peace, if you are unable to forgive yourself and others? 

18 Tips For Letting Go 

One of the things that helps us connect with each other as humans is the pain that we feel. It doesn’t matter whether it’s emotional or physical pain. We’ve all been hurt. The difference, though, is how you deal with the pain. Pain can prevent you from healing and that’s simply a sign that you aren’t moving forward in a positive way. 

1| The Mantra

All told, you should probably have a long list of mantras for various issues. However, if you choose the right ones they will do for just about any situation. When you are faced with emotional pain, your most likely response is disbelief that this is happening to you. Instead, you should tell yourself that you’re fortunate to be able to choose a different path. 

2| Physical Distance

When you are dealing with a stressful situation, a hurtful person or an upsetting circumstance, putting physical distance between you and it only makes sense. It might sound silly, but there is something to be said for creating space. It allows you time to process what is going on without having to look at it directly. 

3| Do The Work 

Ultimately, there is nothing you can do about the behavior of others. The only thing you can focus on is you, which means you have to do your own work. It’s up to you to choose to address the pain and hurt that you have experienced. So, when you think of the situation or the person that brought you pain, you should draw your attention back to the here and now and focus on three things that you’re truly grateful for. 

4| Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an excellent way to bring your attention to the present. That’s what it’s all about. So, learning how to be mindful is one of the most effective ways for you to learn how to get go. 

5| Show Yourself Compassion 

When you find it difficult to let go of something, how do you respond to yourself? If your first instinct is to criticize, then it’s definitely time for you to show yourself some compassion and extend kindness, just as you would to a friend sharing their troubles. 

We are often our own worst enemy in terms of demanding perfection. Your journey is your own and you deserve the same level of compassion as everyone else does. You cannot avoid pain in this life, but you can treat yourself to tender, loving, kindness when you are faced with hurt. 

6| Let Your Negativity Flow 

Are you afraid of experiencing negative emotions? Then, you probably avoid them. You pop them into a box and file them away in the back of your brain. You aren’t the only person who does this. No one enjoys feeling sad, angry or disappointed (okay, some people might). There is something to be said for feeling those emotions instead of just shutting them down. You can’t let go of them until you’ve let them flow. 

7| Accept No Apologies

This doesn’t mean what you think it does. What you have to accept is that not everyone will apologize for doing you wrong. You still have to forgive them and move on from it. You are the only person who can be responsible for your healing process. Part of that… is accepting that certain people will never acknowledge they did you wrong. That’s just life. 

8| Practice Self-Care

When you hurt, it can feel as though there is nothing else out there but more pain. Self-care is a way for you to look after yourself, to set boundaries, to say no when there’s nothing left to give, and to provide you with comfort and joy. You have to start listening to your own needs and the more that you can do that on a daily basis, the more empowered you will be. Those pains suddenly won’t feel quite as overwhelming as they did before. 

9| Positive People

Your social network is important. If you surround yourself with people who like to whine and complain about everything all of the time, then you will do the exact same thing. So, limit the time you spend with people like that and make sure there are supportive, positive people in your life. Now, it’s okay to vent with friends and it’s okay to be someone to lean on. Know when it’s healthy venting and when it’s damaging. 

10| Permissions

You should always allow yourself the time and opportunity to discuss a painful situation or hurt feelings. You can talk about it. Some people struggle to let go because they can’t talk about it so, instead they bottle it up. It might be due to embarrassment or shame. Either way, if you don’t feel comfortable unloading on a friend, seek out a therapist. 

11| Further Permissions

In addition to offering yourself permission to speak on your pain, you have to give yourself permission to forgive and move on. The forgiveness that you need permission to give is forgiveness for yourself. We often forgive offers long before we provide ourselves with the same kindness. It’s so important to the healing process because, in forgiveness, you are able to let of sadness, anger, shame, and guilt. 

12| Understanding Relationships

As you learn to accept yourself as you are you must also do the same for others. By now you know that life never goes exactly as you have planned it. That’s okay, it’s normal. The same idea goes for the people in your life. They won’t behave the way you want them to, nor will they always behave the way you expect them to. It’s just something that you need to accept. 

13| Wise Investments

Don’t get caught up investing in outcomes, particularly when there are other people involved. It only leads to pain and disappointment. Your expectations set you up for disappointment. When they are not met, your emotions are overwhelmed and it’s something for you to obsess about. 

14| A Circle Of Control 

You cannot control how other people behave. Your actions, your words, your behavior – that’s what you have control over. That’s it. Imagine yourself standing with a piece of chalk, now use it to draw a circle around yourself. That is your circle of control. So, let go of this idea that you can influence that and embrace your own circle of control. Sure, you can attract people into your circle, but still, there’s only so much control you have. 

15| Make Space For Failure

Have you said something that you wish you could take back? Was it a dumb comment in a meeting? Did you make a mistake at work or forget an appointment? It’s not ideal, is it? It is okay, though. Use the experience as a lesson and learn to laugh it off. No one is perfect, and when you fail or make mistakes, you’re just being human. It’s about bouncing back. 

16| Accept The Unchangeable 

You can’t change everything, and you just have to accept that. There is no benefit to wishing for what has gone before. Life is happening now, right outside your window. You’re missing out when you spend time thinking about the past or wishing for a future that can’t happen. You can make decisions and take actions that will help you shape your future, though, and that starts right now. 

17| Scare Yourself

Let go of your fears and go out of your way to do something that scares you. Live a little. What better way to let it all go than to throw yourself into something that you find utterly terrifying. 

18| Seek Help 

There are times you will deal with pain so profound that you are unable to overcome it on your own. If you are faced with this type of event, you would do well to seek out the professional help of a therapist. This is a person who is trained to guide you through any journey. 

Final Thoughts

It’s hard, it’s hard to let go of your pain and it’s hard to extend forgiveness, and it’s hard to focus on the present. It’s something that we have all struggled with. 

You’ve been holding on to all of this pain for so long, it feels too comfortable. Your pain has become your friend. Your life should not be defined by your pain. It isn’t healthy or helpful to add to your stress. It impacts your ability to work, focus, and live happily. 

It also impacts your ability to function in relationships. The longer you choose to hold onto that pain, the longer everyone else has to live with you being someone you aren’t. They also have to live with your choice to hold onto the past. 

It will take practice and it will take time to learn to let go. However, it is one that is worth it. So, be kind as you practice how to refocus your attention on a situation. Don’t forget to celebrate every victory you have, even if it’s just a small one. Just do yourself a favor and just let it go.