How many of you cringed just reading the words “Let yourself go”?
From a very early age we are exposed to external forms of control. Parents tell us when to go to bed and when to wake up. They tell us when, what, and sometimes how much to eat. Moms and dads buy clothes for us that they like and feel are appropriate. They take us to their church or no church. Parents talk about their politics at the dinner table, and we absorb it all. That’s the way families work.
Later, the cool kids at school dictate the clothes we should wear, how our hair should be styled, what music we should like, even the types of language we should use to fit in.
Media parades super-thin, super-fit bodies in front of us, preach the latest diet or “healthy” food plan with religious fervor, and post videos of extreme and “highly effective” workouts that we should be working into our already over-scheduled schedule.
Magazines and websites profile models of success that include six-figure salaries, 80+ hour work weeks, and corner offices with skyline views.
We’ve all been programmed.
Whether we realize it or not, we have all been programmed–by family, society, school, media. Any and every person or group that we are regularly exposed to, whether their intent is positive or negative, shapes our world view, and we begin to internalize their “shoulds” and standards of measurement.
Then, we begin to control ourselves and shape our lives according to beliefs and rules we rarely consciously choose or agree to. We even believe that if we ease up on ourselves, if we aren’t diligent in our efforts, our lives will spin radically out of control. Perhaps this is why we often feel dissatisfied and deeply stressed.
It is time to let yourself go. Freedom is possible! All it takes is willingness and a new perspective. Here are some ways you can begin to honor yourself and break free from damaging forms of self control.
Let yourself rest when you’re tired.
American society has been deeply shaped by the Puritan work ethic. We even compete verbally with our friends to see who is the busiest. Just stop. Responsible people still rest when they are tired. Sit down. Take a nap. Meditate. Just be for a while. Honor the call to rest, whether it comes from your body or your mind.
Let yourself eat what you want.
Stop believing that life is about weighing and measuring and controlling what you eat based on someone else’s prescription. Nobody knows what your body needs more than you do. Nobody knows when you’re hungry or when you’ve had enough. Let yourself eat what your body calls for in amounts that satisfy you. Food is one of life’s great pleasures. Give yourself the freedom to enjoy it.
Let yourself wear what you like.
Have you ever made yourself wear something that doesn’t fit exactly right or that you don’t feel comfortable in just because you spent good money on it? Let it go! Forcing yourself to wear that uncomfortable shirt won’t magically put the money back in your account; it will just make you feel uncomfortable. Give yourself permission to sell it in a garage sale or donate it. But don’t spend one more minute of your life wearing something that isn’t “you”! If you don’t love it and feel great in it, don’t wear it.
Let yourself “waste” time.
Our value is not determined by what and how much we accomplish. We cringe or make excuses if we are discovered doing anything not considered “productive.” We buy into this mindset, and it keeps us living as if the purpose of every moment is to build our resume. Begin to break free by choosing to do at least one thing each day simply for the pleasure of it. Take a walk. Skip a stone across the water. Daydream.
Let yourself speak your truth.
Often, we aren’t even sure what our truth is. We are taught to agree, to go along, to obey. Years of this type of programming stifles our voice and makes us a stranger to our truth. Begin to listen to your spirit and allow yourself to acknowledge what feels true to you, what resonates in your heart. Then start speaking it. It might be scary at first. It’s okay to begin small by speaking your truth in places that feel safe to you. Your courage will grow, and so will your voice.
Let yourself move in ways that feel good to you.
You don’t have to do a hundred situps a day or run a 6-minute mile to honor your body. Do what resonates with you. I love walking and I do it almost every day because it feels good. I love practicing yoga because it feels good to my body, mind, and spirit. Choose movement that feels right for you, and healthy exercise will be a joy, not something you have to discipline yourself to do.
Let yourself feel what you feel.
Your emotions are your own. Instead of stuffing them down, ignoring them, eating or drinking your way through them, or finding other ways to avoid them at all costs, simply feel them. Feel your feelings. Sit with them. Allow them to be. You might be surprised to find that they will actually begin to dissipate very quickly. Suppressing your emotions is like trying to hold a beach ball under water. It just pops up again later, in another place. Your emotions will, too, until you permit them to take their natural course.
Let yourself know what you know.
Very few of us own and acknowledge our own knowing. We doubt ourselves and give our authority away easily. We believe the “professionals” and the “experts” know more about us than we do. This is not true. You know. Deep inside, you know. Make friends with that part of you again. Rest in it. Consult it when you make decisions. Allow yourself to trust that precious, valuable part of you.
Let yourself “Be weird.”
We aren’t here on planet earth to be carbon copies of each other! Let your “weirdness” be your guide! Your particular propensities, your gifts, your talents, your longings–these things are what you are here to express! You are meant to be unique. Honor your weirdness! Revel in it! Let yourself be who you really are!
Saying goodbye to self control.
Life is not meant to be a perpetual “no,” a constant reining in of the self. We are here to live in freedom, to embrace life with a spirit of adventure. Of course, there are times when we must act for our own highest good. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, following the dietary guidelines the doctor provided is a smart thing to do. However, can you shift perspective? Can you do it from a positive place of self-care rather than from the negative perspective of self control? Even within the restrictions, can you choose what you like, what makes you feel good, what honors your whole self?
You hold the keys to your own freedom. You get to choose. Let yourself go! Follow your heart. As one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, inquires, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”