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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About Being In Control

A few weeks back I was in a place I haven’t been for two-plus years: wearing a lavalier mic, standing in front of a room full of people, training and facilitating. It was fun AND a bit nerve-wracking.

I used to do this almost every day in my corporate position: travel nearly every week to a new place and spend one or two days training folks on how to have effective conversations; leadership and professional development stuff. Different corporations. Sometimes execs and managers. Sometimes mid-level. Sometimes a particular division or team. Usually a tossed salad of everything and everyone. No matter how much was different about each place and group, the content stayed exactly the same. And so, NOT nerve-wracking. I always knew exactly what I was going to say every. single. time.

This time, I did not know exactly what I was going to say. This time I was not representing a company that owns proprietary content of which I am paid to be an expert. This time I was in a consulting role with content I created — which I’ve not practiced ad nauseum, memorized, rinsed and repeated. And, one other tiny detail: this time I was working for my sister! (No pressure.)

No surprise: all of this got me to thinking:

There is often a chasm between thinking about trusting ourselves and actually trusting ourselves. 

Whether it’s public speaking
or writing a book
or saying “yes” to a first date
or ending a relationship
or leaving a job
or speaking up in a meeting
(and a million more things besides). . .

. . . there is a moment, a minute, a month, what seems a lifetime, where we hesitate. Can I really pull this off? Will it even matter? What if I mess up? What will people think? What if I’m misunderstood?

I won’t speak for you, but in all of these examples and then some, one thing holds me back: I want to be in complete control of everything, really. Of myself. Of how everyone else will respond. Of how every single detail will play out. Of the results. Of the outcome.

And this need/demand? Wanting to be in control IS the chasm. And it separates me from what I most want, most desire, most hope for, most hope to be.

The logical follow-on question then, is this: if my need/demand to be in control (of everything, really) is the chasm — the gap between thinking about trusting myself and actually trusting myself — then what is the bridge?

I’m not crazy about the answer . . .

The bridge between thinking about trusting ourselves and actually trusting ourselves is letting go of control.


It would be great if I could tell you exactly how to do this. How to let go, give up the need for control, risk, step forward, do it anyway.

It would be great if there was some secret formula, some 3- or 12-step plan, some failsafe advice that, if followed, would guarantee complete safety and certainty while maintaining complete control (of everything, really).

There is no such thing.

So, it seems that this is what we’re left with:
The only way to let go is to let go.
The only way to give up the need for control is to give up control.
The only way to risk is to risk.
The only way to step forward is to step forward.
The only way to do the thing is to do it.

*deep breath*


I should tell you that everything went perfectly fine a few weeks back. Well, not “perfectly” fine. I made a few mistakes. Nothing fell apart. I didn’t fall apart. I lived to tell the story. I WAS actually able to trust myself. It’s a happy-ending story, to be sure. But trust me, I have TONS of examples in which just the opposite was true: I doubled-down on control, I refused to let go, I did everything I could to minimize even the slightest bit of risk. I still do.

When I remember these stories, I feel a kind of low-grade exhaustion seep into me. My shoulders slump. A sense of futility almost overwhelms. And what I realize is that everything I have been SO committed to keeping in my grip usually ends up either strangling me or sucking the life right out of me.

In truth (and when I extend myself some grace), I have more positive experiences and stories than just a few weeks ago: my TEDx talk, ending my marriage, quitting my job, starting my own business, writing a book. Even creating content and presenting it for the company my sister leads. And when I remember these stories, I feel invigorated and strong. My posture straightens. A sense of encouragement, even pride sets in. And what I realize is that when I let go of control, I am not OUT of control, but finally-and-fully myself. I can breathe.

So, what about you? What stories do you remember?

Where did you, like me, double-down on control? Where you refused to let go and held on even tighter still? Where you had risk-mitigation as your number-one priority? When you remember them, what do you feel?

Where did trust yourself . . . no matter how rickety the bridge you had to step onto? And when you remember them, what do you feel?

It’s probably too simplistic, but it feels true nonetheless: the fact that you can actually remember this latter group of stories, that you do have experience with letting go of control (and even surviving) means one really important thing:

You can trust yourself — again, every time, in all things, always.

And now that I think about it, maybe this IS a sort of secret formula, a 1-step plan, some good advice (even if not failsafe) that does not guarantee complete safety and certainty, but that certainly reminds you of just how amazing and trust-worthy you already are — yes, again, every time, in all things, and always.

Take some risks in the days and weeks ahead, yes? Let go of control (even if only a bit). And trust yourself. You can, you know?!! Again, every time, in all things, always.

May it be so.


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The truth is almost always personal

I recently read Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, by Beth Kephart. On the back cover are these words: 

It is almost always personal – and consequential – to tell the truth. 

And . . . right alongside the risk of truth-telling, is the possibility, the benefit, and our hope:

“Every word a woman writes changes the story of the world, revises the official version.” ~ Carolyn See

I’m back and forth between these two bolded statements because of my own writing of late: the final edits of my manuscript. It’s not memoir, but still, personal – and consequential; not memoir, but certainly compelled by my dogged desire to “change the story of the world.” (Or at least the way we have been telling the stories . . . )

On the one hand, I am reminded that it’s not truth OR consequences (a reference to a very old TV game show – if you are too young to remember); it’s truth AND consequences. On the other hand, I am compelled by just how important it is that I write, that I speak, that I trust the ways in which my words, my truth, do change the story . . . my own and others’.

Writing and me aside, the same is true for you. All women sit in the tension these two statements elucidate.

We are caught between the risk of our truth and its impact, its cost and its significance, our fear and our yearning.  



Another recent read has been The Book of Essie. I stumbled across it while looking for an epigraph quote — a couple relevant keywords in Google, plus “quotes” and this is what showed up:

“It’s men who trust they will suffer no consequences for their actions, while women suffer no matter what they do.” ~ Meghan Weir

No surprise: I immediately went to Amazon for details, then my online library app for the audio book. I won’t spoil it for you, but again – no surprise – it deals with exactly what I’m naming here: Women reside in the impossible tension between telling the truth and changing the(ir) world.  

It shouldn’t be impossible.

As I was lost in the pages of Essie’s story, I thought back on my own — the places where I knew my truth, but wouldn’t take the risk and couldn’t bear the consequences (or so I thought). I thought of other times in which I spoke my truth, how everything changed, how it was impossible to go back, how most of the time I wouldn’t have gone back even if I could, and how painful it was to move forward. And I thought about how this is the reality for most every woman. Past and present. Not just once, but over and over again.

If we weren’t so familiar with it, we would feel crazy (and often do)! It’s become par for the course, second nature, what we know how to do extremely well.

Weigh the costs
Consider the outcomes
Put ourselves second . . . or last
Long for change
Wonder if it’s even possible
Speak up
Take it back
Wish we were stronger
Get stronger
Step forward
Risk everything

I’d be elated if we could jump directly from “weigh the costs” to “step forward,” “risk everything,” and not only “survive,” but thrive.

There’s no simple “answer” to this conundrum, but I do have some thoughts.

We alleviate the consequences of our truth (or at least our fear of such) by telling it, by building our capacity to do it even more, by trusting ourselves.

The way in which this messy and excruciating world will change is by women being unswervingly committed to their truth – and its out-loud expression.

Our courage to tell our truth and change the world is exponentially increased when we are surrounded and supported by stories of other women who have done the same – whether Essie, Eve, or countless others.   

I had “maybe” at the start of each of the three sentences above. A dilution of my own truth. A fear of being misunderstood or too bold or too outspoken. And a way in which the change I long for on my behalf, yours, and the world’s, is slower to occur, harder to imagine, and that much further away. I guess it feels important to acknowledge that even though I am the one writing all of this, I am often stuck in the same bind – over and over – in the most insipid of ways.

And then there’s this:

I know telling your truth is hard. I know it is scary. I know there are consequences. And I’m sorry. 

I also know that your truth, the know-that-you-know-that-you-know voice within, is worthy of being heard, that your story is, that you are. Written. Spoken. Allowed. Celebrated. Lived. And when that happens — as it should and as it must — it’s definitely world-changing, story-changing, life-changing . . . changing everything. As you deserve.

As I’ve written this today, I’ve wondered how it will land for you — whether you will feel desire or tension, a deep knowing or a shoulder shrug; if you will be proud of where you’ve boldly and bravely told your truth or lost in your memories of truth-avoided.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I long for you to trust your truth and your power to change the story of the world . . . of your world. If I could wave a magic wand or say a prayer or cast a spell or maybe all three in one, this IS what I’d wish, hands down, every. single. time.

May it be so.

Saying “no” (out loud) to shame

I’ve been thinking about shame a lot lately.

I know it’s showing up because in the seemingly-endless writing/editing of my book manuscript, the story I’m working right now is all about shame . . . or so we’ve been told. (No, it’s not Eve — though that’s true in her story, as well.)

Here’s the shocking thing: there is NO reference to shame in the text itself. Every bit of it, centuries of it, has been brought to bear by those who have told her story.

She doesn’t feel shame. It’s what has been overwhelmingly applied to her. Blech!

Here’s what I’m struck by: this is what we do in and to our own stories — apply shame to ourselves!

Why? Why is that so often our default?

Yes, there is MUCH to be said about patriarchy, capitalism, consumerism, and then some — cultural and ideological realities that prey on the fact that when we feel shame we stay in line, don’t get too full of ourselves, don’t feel empowered, remain convinced that we’re not enough, spend money to become enough, and never quite hit the mark (which starts the cycle all over again).

But even after we’ve named all this, parsed it out via good and ongoing exploration of our own stories, it still sits there and shows up again and again and again: the burden of shame.

And so I wonder (not surprisingly), had this woman’s story — and Eve’s and so many more besides — been told without shame, would we so easily, unconsciously, and repeatedly apply it to ourselves?

My answer (not surprisingly) is that we most definitely would NOT!

Our work is to discern, in our own stories, our actual life, if shame IS what belongs there, or if its what we (and others) have assumed, applied, and layered on after-the-fact. 

One way to do this, to parse through all of this conflicting story-stuff and shame’s prevalence, is to think about a time in which you considered breaking the rules, stepping outside the lines, following your intuition / wisdom / heart. You KNEW it would create a ruckus, that others wouldn’t like it, that you would be seen as stirring up trouble or not following protocol or being selfish . . .

Or think about a time when you did it anyway . . .

  • What did you feel when you contemplated this choice?
  • And if you went through with it, what did others “make” you feel?
  • Do those emotions (which I’m guessing include shame) mean that you shouldn’t have done it? That you were wrong? That you WERE selfish? (I’m hoping your answer is “no.”)


The insipid presence of shame either keeps us from trusting ourselves enough to make bold and brave choices that are in perfect alignment with who we truly are, what we truly want , and all that we deserve OR we do make the choice and then pay the price. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

Have I mentioned? Blech! So, back to the story and no actual mention of shame . . .

What if there was no mention in our own? What if we erased it? What if we didn’t give it a second thought? What if we understood it to be something that we’ve inherited and been taught to apply, but that doesn’t belong to us at all? What if we could eradicate it from our vocabulary and our lived experience?

What if, indeed!

And how would we do that, exactly?

Well, there are lots of ways, but here are two that come to mind:

First, we become acutely and intimately aware of when shame IS the emotion present (vs. guilt, humiliation, or embarrassment — to use Brené Brown’s vocabulary). We assess if it is REALLY what we feel or if it only seems like it because it’s what we are so familiar with — and/or if it’s what others expect and WANT us to feel (or are applying). And then we say, “no!” We refuse shame’s presence. We deny its power. We separate ourselves from the pattern or habit. We turn on our heel and walk a different way.

Second, not as alternative but as accompaniment, we reimagine and retell the countless stories we have been told about a woman’s shame — as though it were a given, just the way it is, commonplace, and to be expected. We critique our own assumptions and others’. And we re-vision those stories in ways that reveal their inherent beauty, wisdom, and strength . . . so that WE are the ones who come to see, understand, and value the same in ourselves.

Brené Brown says that “the antidote to shame is empathy.” For ourselves! And according to Kristen Neff, self-compassion is the key — which includes self-kindness vs. self-judgment, acknowledging our common humanity vs. isolation, and mindfulness vs. over-identification.

Think of it!! If empathy and compassion had been our implicit and overwhelming response to Eve’s story, to that of the Woman at the Well (the one I’ve been working with), to countless women throughout time, and ourselves?!? Everything would be different. I have to believe it still can be.

This week, maybe start small. Notice when shame rears its ugly head — and how it makes you feel. Then quietly (or loudly!) just say “no.”

Another thing? When you see shame being applied to other women — whether on social media, in a book or film, on the news — say “no” again. Out loud. And in its place, apply generous doses of empathy, self-compassion, and yes, grace.

You deserve a story without shame — past, present, and future. Every woman does — past, present, and future.

May it be so.


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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.

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.