Letting go of what no longer serves

A few weeks back I posted a quote from Adam Grant’s book, Think Again on IG and FB:

“. . . let go of the knowledge and opinions that are no longer serving you well . . . “

Let’s start with three questions:

  • What are some of the things you learned (often like the back of your hand) that are still present in your mind and heart but really don’t “fit” anymore?
  • What are some of the opinions you inherited and imbibed from your family of origin, from the culture, and about yourself, that sit within you unchecked and undisputed?
  • What are the precepts, doctrines, even rules you took in (and took on) over the years that, when you look closely, are things you don’t actually believe or follow anymore?

Until we honestly name the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that have shaped us, we can’t hope to let them go. Four personal examples (of many) that I grew up with:

Knowledge: a clean house is imperative.
Opinion: anything less is unacceptable.
Belief: my worth is connected to, even measured by, not being messy (yes, in my home and other spaces; but more, in life).

Knowledge: vote “yes” for any and all tax increases.
Opinion: not voting “yes” for tax increases is ignorant and wrong.
Belief: intelligent people vote the same way as me.

Knowledge: thin is healthy and desirable.
Opinion: not thin is lazy and irresponsible.
Belief: my weight determines the quality of my character (and others’)

Knowledge: attending church every Sunday is the right thing to do.
Opinion: goodness is equated with discipline and devotion.
Belief: my value (and eternal security) is based on my obedience.


So, if I do not name these specific things — the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that have shaped me — it is dangerously easy to wander through life believing that:

  • my worth is connected to perfection
  • people who aren’t like me are stupid
  • if I’m not thin, I’m not a good person
  • unless I’m devout and faithful, I’m doomed

But when I do name them, I can see them for what they are and intentionally let them go.

  • my worth is a given, no matter what
  • difference is respected
  • my weight has nothing to do with anything
  • my value is intact and inherent; religion has nothing to do with it

I already know these four things, of course. Over time and in so many ways I have “let go of the knowledge and opinions that are no longer serving [me] well.” Still, to see them in black and white — where they came from, how they were reinforced and interpreted, and then intentionally releasing myself from their grip? Mmmmm. Good stuff!

Then there’s this: I can reverse-engineer this same process to discern and affirm the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that I WANT to hold onto, even develop and deepen:

  • What is the belief that I want to hold?
  • What opinions / thoughts would support that belief?
  • What knowledge would support that opinion and thought; what can I learn?

[For the record: I grew up with lots of knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that I still value and cherish. I’ve chose some very obvious and overly-blatant examples here in order to make my point.]

Let me add a final example by way of a story:

I believed in my heart-of-hearts that divorce was NOT the right thing to do. I had a whole truckload, a whole lifetime, of opinions and “knowledge” to back that up. So, when I found myself in the hardest seasons of my marriage, I could not let go of that belief. I argued with myself (and others) from every angle, trying to see a way clear, a way through, a way out, but because that belief was so deeply entrenched, I stayed cemented in place for a very, very, very long time.

I was unable to let go of the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that were no longer serving me because I didn’t ever consider the possibility that I could! Was such a thing even allowed? They felt like they were in my DNA, in my bloodstream, part and parcel with who I was.

I remember waking up early one morning to a thought that had never crossed my mind:

Maybe, just maybe, my value and worth were not defined by me-as-couple. Maybe, just maybe I was of value and worth because I was me, period.

I know! This sounds so obvious when I type it out. But I’m telling you: it was a radical idea for me, given the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs I’d grown up with.

To consider the possibility that I could change my mind, change my beliefs, and let go of those that were no longer serving me felt radical and shocking. But once this new thought had taken root, I could clearly see what was NOT serving me. I couldn’t not see! And it wasn’t too much of a leap from there to consider that maybe, just maybe, divorce wasn’t right or wrong at all. Maybe, just maybe, it was a way to honor myself and even my husband (though he wasn’t quite as convinced of this) because I would be honest, in-integrity, and whole.

When I let go of that belief, I was finally able to hold onto myself. I have so many stories like this one, so many experiences of becoming aware of a belief that was so deeply embedded and reinforced that it didn’t occur to me (until it did) that a) it was definitely not serving me; and b) I could actually let it go.

I’ve listened to thousands of stories from women over the years and witnessed the same: seemingly poured-in-concrete beliefs (often about self) that, once exposed, can be released — allowing for freedom, strength, and sovereignty. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I wonder what stories have come to mind for you today. I wonder what knowledge, opinions, and beliefs you hold that no longer serve. I wonder what you might let go of in order to hold onto yourself. And I hope that you will do just that.

May it be so.

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I am NOT the Crazy One!

No big surprise: I love books! A ton of them are on my Kindle and most of the time I’m good with reading the “virtual” version. But sometimes I order the physical book, too. It’s silly, I suppose. There’s no need to have more than one copy. But the books I am most moved by? I want the “actual” thing in my hands.

Last week I did exactly this. I was re-reading portions of a book that has me saying, “I wish I wrote this!!!” more times than I can count. And though I’ve highlighted my my way through it in electronic form, it was clear that I needed wanted it in my hands and on my shelf. If it’s not on your shelf (or your Kindle), I highly recommend it: Cassandra Speaks: When Women are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes by Elizabeth Lesser. (‘Guessing by the title alone you can figure out why I’m so smitten!)

It is hard to pick from so much amazing content, but there are two quotes, separated only by a page of so, that I’m offering and reflecting on today. No question, they are on my behalf; I’m hoping yours, as well.

. . . we know the truth of our own experiences, yet we are told we are lying or overreacting; we can see consequences on the horizon, but it’s still “common knowledge” that women’s emotions cloud their vision, that we tend toward hysteria — even madness — and therefore are not to be believed. . . Far from women as a species being irrational, overemotional, hysterical, lunatic or morally weak,” writes the Australian author Jane Caro, “what strikes me about women and their history is just how damn sane we have managed to stay.

Even without knowing your story, I am completely certain that you have one or more experiences of being told that you are lying or overreacting. I am also completely certain that it’s amazing just how damn sane you’ve managed to stay.

Which also makes me completely certain that there have been (and are) plenty of times in which you feel crazy! And if not that, exhausted by all the mental gymnastics required to filter others’ version of your story and hang on to your own. *sigh*

It’s a lot of work: taking in so many messages, sifting and sorting through them to discern which ones are true, which ones are not, which ones need to be paid attention to, which ones need to be completely ignored, which ones need to be addressed, which ones need to be adamantly refused. . . And it’s not like we can flip a switch and enter into complete peace and calm just because we want to. It takes effort and discipline and determination and patience and so. much. grace.

Almost twenty years ago I held a leadership position at the seminary where I received my M.Div. degree. After a few months in the job I began to notice that female employees and students would come into my office, ask if they could close the door and sit down, and then say something like this:

“I don’t know how to explain exactly what I’m feeling or exactly what’s going on, but I feel kinda crazy. It’s probably nothing . . . It’s probably me, but…”

It ALWAYS had to do with a conversation or interaction they’d had with a man on staff. Time and again it was as if their words didn’t land, they felt slightly dismissed (but not enough to be sure), they were left out of the loop somehow, things just felt “off.”

Once I recognized the pattern and the more I heard the words “I feel kinda crazy,” I learned to say, “You are not the crazy one!” I’d explain what I meant, listen more, affirm their experiences as real and true (and sane), and then before they left, have them repeat out loud (with as much defiance as they could muster): “I am not the crazy one. I am not the crazy one. I am NOT the crazy one!”

The very fact that we feel crazy is EXACTLY the evidence that tells us we’re not!

Other people and the systems within which we live and work reinforce the internal messages that convince us we’re to blame, we’re the one with the problem, we’re being “irrational, overemotional, hysterical, lunatic, or morally weak.” Exactly the opposite is true!

It’s a form of gaslighting, of course. “Gaslighting at its core is always about self-preservation and the maintenance of power/control — namely, the power/control to construct a narrative that keeps the gaslighter in the ‘right’ and [the other person] in the ‘wrong.’” (Aki Rosenberg, LMFT)

It’s not enough, of course: repeating the mantra, “I am not the crazy one. I am not the crazy one. I am NOT the crazy one.” It doesn’t magically change reality. But it can actually help. It reminds you that you are not wrong. It gives you back the power that was always yours in the first place. And it is a way of offering yourself so. much. grace.

Again from Cassandra Speaks, Elizabeth Lesser says this:

I see changes afoot. I see bold women everywhere taking what used to be called a tendency to cause trouble and rebranding it as a tendency to speak up, to confront the gaslighting, and to make our culture more caring, communicative, and emotionally intelligent.

This feels like grace, too.

Not soft grace, tender grace, grace as traditionally “feminine” in quality and characteristic (like balancing books on your head while pouring tea in the most practically perfect way).

Bold grace, brave grace, fierce grace is what you deserve. Speaking up. Confronting the harm. Being caring and communicative and emotionally intelligent. So much more. And it’s what you model for the rest of us when you “know the truth of your own experiences,” when you celebrate the fact that you have somehow managed to stay sane, when you hold onto your version of your own story, your very life, no matter what.

May it be so.

Learning to Trust Your Heart

Growing up, I learned that the only voices I was to trust were those outside of me. Parents. My elders. Pastors. Scripture. And most certainly God. Somehow, even though I’d “invited Jesus into my heart,” that didn’t include listening to my heart. The idea of giving credence to any voice within was anathema. Frankly, I didn’t even consider it for decades. And when I DID hear a voice within, I knew it was not only untrustworthy but to be outright rejected. Unless, of course, it summoned guilt or shame. Those two were undoubtedly on the mark and accurate. (Just to be clear: I’m being facetious.)

I don’t say this in critique of my upbringing. I’m pretty sure your experience was similar, regardless of your faith / religious background or lack thereof. Few of us were taught to value and honor a woman’s inner knowing, her intuition, the voice of her heart. Fewer still of us were taught to value and honor our own inner knowing, our own intuition, the voice of our own heart.

So, when I did begin to hear an increasingly louder voice within, I was not sure what to do. At first, guilt and shame were my go-to’s. I was convinced that what I heard, thought, and felt was wrong! But as the voice persisted, I began to recognize that it was consistently counter to what people expected me to say, let alone do. In fact, most of the time, it asserted thoughts and ideas and emotions that were the opposite of what those in “authority” in my life at the time wanted from me: my husband, the church, and most certainly the God I had come to know.

That was then and this is now. Admittedly, there is lots in between the two, but let’s focus on the now, for now.

Now, when I hear the voice within that refutes or contradicts external “authority,” I know to follow it immediately. I know it to be exactly what I must trust. It is, without question or doubt, how I discern what to do, what is right, what is best.

Which explains why I so love this quote:

There can never be a spiritual authority outside of me that is greater than this voice I hear within, this voice of my own uncaged heart.

~ Meggan Watterson, Mary Magdalene Revealed

For most of us, when we even consider listening to the voice within, to the voice of our own uncaged heart, we are instantly bombarded with a mile-long list of risks, costs, and consequences.

  • If I follow the voice of my heart, then I will be misunderstood.
  • If I follow the voice of my heart, then others might get hurt.
  • If I follow the voice of my heart, then I will pay a price that’s more than I can afford.
  • If I follow the voice of my heart, then I might lose an opportunity, a job, a relationship, even more.
  • If I follow the voice of my heart, then I can no longer pretend.
  • If I follow the voice of my heart, then I have to be strong enough to follow through.
  • If . . . then . . .
  • If . . . then . . .
  • If . . . then . . .

Deep breath.

I’m not going to tell you that the above aren’t realistic or worth consideration. In fact, I’m far more honest when I tell you that every one of them should be expected! I wish I could say anything other, but I know better—from personal experience and in the lives of my clients, my friends, and others. As long as I’m being honest, let me also say that it has been my fear of exactly these things that has kept me from listening to the voice within. Instead, I’ve doubled-down on compromise and compliance, biding my time in the hopes that eventually something (someone) would change instead of me having to be the one to do so.

But as I said above, it is the conflict itself—the difference between the voice within and any voice of “authority” in my external world—that now tells me I’m on the right track. DISSONANCE IS A GIFT! The tension itself IS the voice of my uncaged heart calling me back to myself, to what’s true, to what’s possible, to what I desire, to what is in complete integrity and alignment, and to my own authority, to what I know-that-I know-that-I know every. single. time. Listen. Can you hear it? The voice within? The part of you that would, if it could, be free and expansive and passionate and unbridled and unrestrained and awake and alive?

Mmmmm. That is your uncaged heart, to be sure—beating, thrumming, speaking, singing, longing. That is all the authority you need to know-that-you-know-that-you-know every. single. time.


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If I had a Book Group

I ordered a book a few weeks back, but have basically avoided it since it arrived. Well, until a couple morning’s ago when, reinforced by strong coffee, I opened it up and dove in. Since then, I’ve barely put it down: The Wisdom of Your Body: Finding Healing, Wholeness, and Connection Through Embodied Living by Hillary McBride, PhD

If I were hosting a bookgroup, this is DEFINITELY what we’d be reading and discussing together! Here are at least a few reasons why I’m so taken by what’s within these pages:

  • An appreciation of my body, not to mention any semblance of acceptance, is a long way away for me; it always has been.
  • I grew up in a world that prized the split of body from mind; thinking reigned supreme. Even though I no longer accede to this, it is still what my brain (and body) are used to.
  • In full transparency: I don’t know how to come home to my body. But I want to. I pretty sure I’m not the only one.
  • I have often felt, especially in the last 5+ years or so, that learning of and practicing embodiment is the “final frontier” for women (including me). It seems to me it is what “remains” as it relates to our ability to fully embrace our inherent and ever-present wisdom and strength.

If any of these things sound or feel remotely familiar, read on . . . I’ve included a few of the most poignant quotes I’ve highlighted so far.

Regardless of our circumstances or what we have been told about bodies, remembering and reuniting with our bodily selves is a radical act to undo our need to earn our worth. . . 

. . . many of us have forgotten ourselves as bodies. We did so in order to survive the pain or to be compliant, but in the process we left behind so much of the beautiful. 

. . . body-image research shows that the closer we get to achieving our ideal appearance, the more conditional our sense of self worth becomes, and the more we fear what it will cost us when our appearance inevitably changes.

I used to think that the sacred place where I met the Divine was always somewhere else, somewhere that was not “here” in the rhythms of my daily life. But now I see that the Holy is very much here — my body is a sanctuary, a mobile home of the Divine.

So good, yes?

A quick addendum: I had this written and ready when I happened to see an email that included the transcript of a recent sermon by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I couldn’t not include at least an excerpt for those of you who, like me, have an understanding (or lack thereof) of your body that has been heavily influenced by the church.

“The wildness of human variation isn’t a mistake — it is a sign of the glory of God — and yet we made it a sign for the value and ranking of people. Leave it to humans to take a gift and turn it into a curse.

But your body — your body is not a curse, it is a chariot.

It is a glory and a wonder. An individual container of the holy. It is a glimpse into the image of God. And it deserves so much love and respect for it has carried you through every day of your life — even every day of Jr High. Think of THAT.”

You can read the whole sermon here. It’s brilliant. She is.

Worth repeating: “. . . your body is not a curse, it is a chariot.”

May it be so.

“I’m so proud of you!”

I have had conversations with clients in past weeks where a sense of self-pride showed up . . . and then was semi-quickly questioned or felt a little squirmy. I get it. We look to, deserve, and hope that others will say they are proud of us, that they see us, that they are thrilled by all that we’re doing and all of who we are. But to acknowledge it in and of ourselves? Yeah. It feels kind of odd and unfamiliar.

What if it wasn’t?

Think of an infant who begins to smile. We lather on the praise! When they reach for something or say a first word or take those tentative first steps? We cheer and take pictures and fawn all over them. Understandably! But at some point that slows, even stops. At some point in our own story, others’ enthusiasm started to wane.

In the absence of consistent and celebratory praise doubt begins to creep in. We start to wonder what we’ve done wrong, why the people in our world aren’t responding to us like they once did. Our sense of self begins to shift, dependent almost exclusively upon external stimuli; how we feel about ourselves is determined by others’ expressed feelings — or lack thereof.

Yes, over time, we mature and grow. We don’t depend on others’ oohs and aahs the way we once did. We learn to read cues and body language. And if we’re emotionally healthy, we self-soothe; we affirm ourselves. But something is lost, even damaged along the way when we stop receiving, even expecting praise. Because we deserve it!

Here’s my point in all this:

You deserve to be blatantly and boldly proud of yourself.

What runs through your mind, your heart, even your body when you read these words? When you hear me encourage (even insist) that you state them, repeat them, believe them?

Your spontaneous answer? The one that immediately sits at the tip of your tongue? It matters. What IS that resistance? What is that niggling voice nattering on about? (It would be super-helpful to write it all down…) THAT voice? The one that tells you that being proud of yourself is arrogant or egoic or nonsense or ridiculous or a waste of time or impossible? Uh…it is NOT telling you the truth. Lies. From. The. Pit. Of. Hell.

You deserve to be blatantly and boldly proud of yourself.

Listen closer. What does the deeper voice within you have to say? What is underneath all the chatter — where wisdom, courage, and hope live? What do you actually hear that allows and invites you to feel proud of who you are and all that you do?

You deserve to be blatantly and boldly proud of yourself.

Now, take a deep breath. What do you feel when you give yourself permission to float and soak and revel in just how praise-worthy and incredible you are? Think of all you have learned and let go of and said “no” to. Think of all you have invited and allowed and said “yes” to. Ahhhh. Yes. That. You! What if every evening for the next week (let’s start small, shall we?) you took just a few minutes before going to sleep to write down all the things you are proud of in the day just completed? From the minutiae to the mammoth. Some examples:

  • I got up before my alarm went off. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I made the bed. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I only drank two cups of coffee. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I didn’t eat the leftover pizza for breakfast. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I did some amazing writing today. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I drank lots of water. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I didn’t lose my temper with my kids. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I told my kids how proud I was of them. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I called _____________ and told her that she matters to me. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I sent an email to someone I’ve been meaning to reach out to for months now. I’m so proud of myself!

You get the idea.

As you read this list was there even a little part of you that rolled your eyes? It’s too much. It’s unnecessary. It seems silly.

Mmm hmm. (If so, scroll back up to the part about listening and listening some more, about taking a deep breath, about feeling…)

I can’t prove it, but there MUST be a direct correlation between our resistance to self-expressed pride and being stuck and/or afraid. And I believe there is also a direct correlation between our practice of self-expressed (and much-deserved) praise and our lived capacity and courage! ‘Seems like it’s a hypothesis worth testing out, yes?

I know how hard this can be.

I know how much effort it takes to overcome all the lies we’ve believed, the stories we’ve been told, the messages we’ve consumed, and the lack of praise we’ve often experienced.

I know all too well how easy it is to slip into self-talk that tells me to remember my place, to not be too full of myself, to definitely not be too much.

I know how trapped and straightjacketed I have felt when that self-talk has taken hold and become “true” in my own mind.

And I know just how much it has cost me when I’ve not trusted my own wisdom, demonstrated agency, stepped forward in courage, and held onto hope. *sigh*

One antidote to all of this is giving yourself permission to name just how amazing you are. Did I mention? You deserve to be blatantly and boldly proud of yourself.


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For Days of Self-Loathing

I came across a poem a few weeks back by Nikita Gill. The corner of the page was folded down — evidence that I’d read it before. I have no memory of such, which surprises me — given how worth-remembering it is. I’m pretty sure you’ll agree…

Affirmation for Days of Self-Loathing

On the days you find the mirror hard to look at,
remember there is a myth which says<

the face you have in this life
is the face of the person you loved most

in your last.
I know it’s just a myth

but think of how much more love
you would give yourself if it were true.

No matter how much has changed in my life over the years, how much I have changed, one thing has remained the same: my highly-honed and quick-to-activate self-critique. It’s caustic, harsh, and sadly, seemingly endless. “Self-loathing” is an accurate naming.

I don’t like admitting this.

It’s not all of me, of course. It’s only one voice I hear. Sometimes I can completely ignore it and other times dismiss it out-of-hand. I don’t even agree with it most of the time, but still, it remains — sitting in some dark recess of my mind, waiting for a moment to spring, and muttering under its breath in the meantime.

I sometimes hear myself say, “Oh, what I’d give to weigh what I did when I was 20, 30, 40, even 50…” Or I look closely at my 61-year-old face and wish for the skin I had during those same decades. But here’s what is true: I was just as critical of what I saw even then! I was just as unsatisfied. I was just as self-loathing. By sake of comparison, there was nothing to complain about! So, here’s what is even more true:

Self-loathing has nothing to do with our weight or our skin or any manner of things we might wish were different; it has nothing to do with the mirror at all!

We have internalized the belief that we are not acceptable as-is. We always want something to be different, something to change, something to be altered or adjusted or improved. Always! It doesn’t seem to matter if we’re 16 or 61, the pattern persists.

There has to be a better way, a braver way, a way to finally-and-at-last see ourselves as beautiful and whole no matter what.

A few mornings back, I woke up to this question:

What if I WAS the person I loved the most?

What would that mean?
What would that require?
What would I start doing?
What would I stop doing?
How would that feel?
Who would I be?

There are a million more questions that flow from these. I hope you’ll give yourself the time and space to ask them, that you’ll let yourself hear your most honest and vulnerable answers. Not the ones that rise up, unbidden, from the self-loathing voice that natters on. Instead, the ones that barely whisper from deep within. Harder to hear, to be sure; far more reliable and true.

It’s hard to imagine, given how familiar we’ve become with self-loathing, but were we to love ourselves the most, all the voices (and demons) within would be silenced — forever and ever, amen.

Underneath self-love (and an end to self-loathing) is something even more primary:

We must believe we are worthy of love in the first place. Others’, yes; our own, even more.

I wish there was some simple formula for this, some mantra we could repeat, some genie in a magic lamp, some potion to drink, some switch to flip. There’s no such thing. (But oh, the efforts of Capitalism to convince us that there is! We are bombarded by formulas and mantras and magic and potions and switches the instant we open Instagram or Facebook.)

No simple formula, *just* a life. This life. Your life. And mine.

A lifetime to let go of self-loathing. A lifetime to disbelieve and unlearn the lies. A lifetime to hear and trust our heart. A lifetime to allow, even welcome self-love. And maybe, if Nikita Gill is right, other lifetimes, as well.