So many times over the past year, I’ve sort of taken a step back and looked at my life.
And when I do, I think to myself, “Wow, I’ve really let myself go.”
I’m so glad that I did.
Once upon a time, I was the picture perfect image of a high school student. I never went out of my comfort zone, unless it was on the track, where I spent every waking moment of my time, when I wasn’t working tirelessly towards the coveted 5.0 GPA. I was the very image of “success”, looking in from the outside.
But looking out from the inside… that’s a whole different story. I was exhausted. I was living a life with the blinders on. And I’ve come to learn that that is a very sorry way to live.
When you hear that someone has “let themselves go”, there’s usually a negative connotation. So and so put on some weight. So and so dropped out of college. So and so did such and such and now they are Less Successful and Less Perfect and Less Good and Less Deserving.
There are SO MANY PROBLEMS (!!) with this kind of societal, generalizing thinking.
Firstly, it makes “letting yourself go” look like a bad thing, when in reality, it can be a person’s savior.
What does it truly mean to let yourself go?
It means, ultimately, to forfeit control over one or many aspects of your life.
And it is a beautifully difficult, messily terrifying thing to do.
Letting myself go, for me, meant admitting that I had a problem.
I spent years in complete denial, pretending that multiple aspects of my life (my eating disorder, my abusive relationship, my toxic perfectionism and chronic overexertion) were simply not there.
The problem in every single one of the listed scenarios was that I was holding on too tight to something: the image of who I thought I should be, a love that had burnt out and shriveled up, goals far too lofty for one person to attain all at once.
In order to let myself go, I had to let go of my desire to be perfect.
And that HURT.
But funnily enough, the “worse” things looked on the outside, the better things felt on the inside.
I got my first “B” in a class. From the outside, it looked like I was letting my grades slip. On the inside, I knew that one mediocre grade wouldn’t kill me.
I quit my sport and became one of those kids who goes straight home after school. From the outside, it looked like I was giving up. On the inside, I knew that what I was giving up was obsessive, disordered exercise habits.
I stopped trying to please people. Where I saw a problem, where I saw ignorance, where I saw racism or homophobia or hatred, I spoke out. I stood up for myself and for those around me and I cut out people who didn’t fit in my life anymore instead of trying to whittle myself down to make room for them. From the outside, it looked like I was losing friends left and right. On the inside, I was much more content with those who I spent my time with, and my relationships, now intentional, became so much closer.
Soon, I found myself feeling so much more energized and awake and present and purely alive. I had witnessed firsthand one of life’s greatest secrets come to fruition: you will go so much further when you let yourself go.
Think about it this way: we all have a backpack that we have to carry on our shoulders for the duration of our lives. Most people fill theirs to the brim with expectations and aspirations and all the boulders of “could of” and “should of” and “would of”. These are the people who live in the valley at the base of the mountain, and every day, they look up at the cloud-covered peak and say that someday, they’re going to climb it. But they aren’t ready now; their packs are too heavy.
These people wander through their weeks, stuck and solidified in routine. Their backpacks don’t allow them to reach new heights, to explore new elevations. But instead of taking some things out, they complain constantly about how much their shoulders hurt (or how tired they are, or how busy, or how overwhelmed).
But they never seem to realize that those packs do not contain cement.
We are free to remove things at any time.
When we do so, the people around us may snicker as we race towards the mountain. They may say that we were simply too weak to carry as many weights in our packs as they could, that our emptying was an act of surrender, that we are letting ourselves go with the things that we let go.
And when they talk, keep climbing. Keep your eyes on the upward trend ahead. Recognize that the only way to reach your peak, your full potential, is to let that s**t go.
The view at the top will be so beautiful that I guarantee, you’ll be glad you “let yourself go”.