Why Letting Go Is the Ultimate Superpower.
Rock bottom is the moment you decide to stop lying to yourself.
My rock bottom moment was sitting in my car after the 4th round of blood tests to figure out why I was so exhausted. I opened the results with trepidation because, of course, you imagine the worst-case scenario, and the results were normal. Physically, I was in perfect health.
It turns out that when you undernourish your body and overtrain, you will get exhausted. Consistently do this for a few years, and you’ll get to a point where your body has just had it with you. I sat in the parking lot of the clinic in my car and just sobbed from pure frustration.
It was in that pathetic instant that I made the most profound decision that would shape me forever. It was a decision no one prompted me to make; no one forced me to do.
I chose myself. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s massive.
I have had a love/hate relationship with Anorexia for over twenty years. It was my way to gain control over my world. When everything was not going according to my perfect plan of how life ‘should be’, I knew I could always control how I looked. Even if it wasn’t best for me, it was a means of creating certainty and safety.
When I fell pregnant, I overcame it because I had to transcend for something greater than myself. Pregnancy was my permission device to be kind to myself.
Now that my kids were older, there was no reason to stay ‘normal’, so I reverted to old habits. It was like reuniting with a long lost friend; we just picked up from where we left off. Sadly, I was happy to have her home.
In that rock bottom moment, my greatest realization was that no one was coming to give me permission to change. No one was coming to tell me that if I didn’t make some drastic shifts, I was on a path to self-destruction.
It was a profound moment because I decided that I am worth making a change for.
Moving into unchartered territory.
‘We do not fear the unknown. We fear the loss of the known’ — Anthony De Mello, Awareness.
When you decide it’s time for a change — be it a pattern, habit or self-talk that no longer serves you, you need to take yourself out of the known.
I had to step out of my identity of a highly functioning self-sabotager to a new identity of self-acceptance and ultimately unconditional self-love.
Choosing myself meant having an internal funeral to let go of the old version of myself who was no longer serving me with her destructive patterns and habits. Uncharted was deciding to make decisions in my own best interest because I’m worth it and sitting in the extreme discomfort of trusting a new process and ignoring the familiar voice of the vicious inner critic.
Logically, I knew exactly what steps I needed to follow to gain control of my weight. I knew I was back in old patterns, but quite honestly, I didn’t care. Knowledge was not enough for me to make a lasting change.
To truly let go of this old version of myself, I needed a new toolkit. I realized this time around that to move out of this comfort zone, I needed a new set of questions to move into my courage zone. Here are the questions I used to provide perspective and finally close the gap between knowing and doing.
How can I develop greater self-compassion?
“You cannot force yourself to be worthy. It’s the actions of treating yourself as worthy” — Steve Chandler
It took me a long time to truly understand what self-compassion meant. Being an A-type personality, I wanted an Excel spreadsheet with steps I could tick off to ensure I was doing it perfectly.
Through a lot of personal development work, I came to understand that self-compassion meant daily acts of kindness, whether giving myself a morning to work on a new writing piece or taking a Friday afternoon off to take my kids to the park. It wasn’t one grand gesture but being my own best friend.
Unconditional self-love is a heavy concept, so I adopted the Buddist concept of Maitri, an unconditional friendliness towards oneself.
The most crucial daily act of kindness was doing the right thing when the inner critic screamed at me to skip a meal or cut the quantity. I have learnt that the inner critic is like a toddler; if you indulge in the tantrum, it will continue to get louder. If you ignore the child and walk away, they eventually realize this is not a winning strategy and calm down.
I had to turn down the volume of the critic’s comments and focus on the process of doing the right thing. This didn’t happen overnight; it was one micro decision at a time that created lasting change.
It is easy to do the easy thing; it takes courage to do the hard thing.
Self-compassion is the ultimate vaccine.
You can get the flu vaccine and still get the flu, but your symptoms won’t be as severe, and you will bounce back quicker.
Like any addiction or bad habit, you will fall off the wagon. Adopting a lens of self-compassion allows you to identify it with gentler self-talk that allows you to get back up quicker and with minor criticism.
How can I show up to my authentic self, not my perfect self?
I was trying to replace one form of control with another. This pseudo control was gained through the lens of ‘self-Improvement’.
Part of letting go of this old version of myself was to craft my new identity, which meant embracing my passion as a writer. I never had a formal qualification and battled to allow myself to explore this passion I was so drawn to.
I read book after book with the intention of ‘fixing’ myself. I never trusted myself, and I never backed my ideas; I had to keep learning more so that only then I would be ready to share my ideas with the world honestly. I was holding back my secret sauce, my essence.
I had to stop trying to show up as my perfect self to embrace my authentic self. The solution was to show up to my ideas, even if they were terrible ideas. I had to trust myself and write with my unique voice rather than replicate someone I admired.
I had to replace self-control for self-acceptance, and the solution was replacing perfection for progress.
Niel Gaiman is a prolific writer, and he said we all have about a million bad words in us that we need to purge before any of the good stuff can come out. When I started initially, I reminded myself that it’s just the process I need to break through the first layer.
It was my way of taking my advice and trusting the process, and believing that with practice, I will get better, it will start to flow, and I will display my unique voice.
It was so uncomfortable at first because I felt like an imposter, and it’s not pleasant to start at the beginning again. Looking at my first blog posts, I shared other people’s messages and insights because I wasn’t confident enough to share my ideas. Then with time, I began to find my stride and relate real stories and experiences.
To my surprise, these were the ones people resonated with because I was revealing my imperfect self.
How can I create a better form of control?
Although I was back on track physically, I had to solve the missing piece. In hindsight, I realized I never had a problem with food; I had a problem with me.
The solution wasn’t just about how I looked physically; that’s the Band-Aid. It never got to the root cause. Now I was willing to face it and break the emotional shackles of my former self.
I replaced the false sense of control that food restriction gave me with the practice of yoga and meditation. This spiritual practice gave me the tools of faith, and a means to let go safely. I never had control of my external world; life happens irrespective of my preferences for how it should be.
Meditation provided a safe space to shut down the monkey mind and my ruminating anxious thoughts. My meditation teacher’s famous line is, ‘You don’t do Yoga, Yoga does you. You don’t do the poses; the poses do you’. By showing up on the mat, I didn’t have to figure out how shifts were happening but trust the process.
Have you ever been the host of an event or function? It’s awfully stressful, and you can never enjoy it because you are worried about everyone else and being the ultimate hostess. When you show up to someone else’s function, it’s a different story. You can enjoy it with a peaceful heart and enjoy the experience.
Meditation has allowed me to view myself as the guest of my life rather than the organizer. I don’t need to figure out how to control every aspect of my external world, only my inner world. My role is to show up, take action and enjoy the process without attachment to the outcome.
How can I reframe my experience?
I had successfully let go of this old version of me, but there was a risk of throwing out the good aspects as well, which posed an interesting question:
How do you reconnect to the parts of yourself you have disowned?
Rather than resent this old version of me, I thanked her.
You can never change the past, but you have the power to change the meaning you ascribe to it. I decided to stop seeing my Anorexia as something that happened to me but rather something that happened for me. The 13th-century poet Rumi famously said:
‘The Wound is the place where the light enters’.
I chose to see it as my greatest teacher because it has given me the gifts of compassion, empathy and an opportunity to develop courage and strength. As Patsy, my meditation teacher, so aptly says, ‘The wound is no longer the place I bleed but the place of strength and courage’.
You can decide in a moment to reframe how you view your past and acknowledge the person you are as a result of it. We discover a depth to life and inner courage we never knew existed by walking through the pain and incorporating the wisdom.
The inner critic cannot be destroyed, only managed, which leaves me open to the possibility of a future failure.
My ultimate goal is that when I fall off the wagon, I will bounce back quicker with less judgement and more unconditional self-love, friendliness and compassion.
My current self is way ahead of the old version of me, but fortunately, she is imperfectly perfect. My current self and future self have joined forces to integrate my valuable lessons and continue to evolve.
What I have learnt is all I can do is let go of the story and keep the lessons. The wound is no longer the place I bleed but the place I heal from.
How do I know I have let go of this old version of me? When I slip up, I genuinely care.
I choose to be authentic to my future self and the person I aspire to be with a gentle acceptance of the past versions which have shaped me into the person I am today.
Here’ to letting go,