When It’s Time To Let Go
As wise man/recording artist Neil Sedaka once so sagely said, “Breaking up is hard to do.”
In my experience, this is the case no matter who or what you may be breaking up with. Particularly if you’re stubborn as hell like me. Sometimes, it’s good to stick around…fight the good fight, climb uphill, use that persistence and that tenacity and that flat-out defiance of failure to accomplish something real and important and revolutionary for oneself. But sometimes…sometimes, it’s not only good to walk away, it’s critical to self-preservation.
How do you know which time is which? It can be really hard to tell, that much is certain. I believe that there are a few litmus tests, no matter if you find yourself in a personal or professional break-up situation:
- Are you being used or abused? This can happen with friends, family, significant others, employers, colleagues, and whomever else you interact with on a daily basis. It can mean that your talents and skills are being taken advantage of, such as working tons of overtime consistently or doing too much free work or never being given credit for what you’ve done. Or maybe your friends or significant other seem to never have anything to offer you in terms of support, love, presence, but seem to want you to give of yourself constantly to help them get through their situations. I am a firm believer that there are times when we need more from others than we can give, but it shouldn’t be all the time and the pendulum should swing the other way as well, at times. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you need to seriously evaluate what benefits there are in sticking around–loyalty and being scared of leaving are not likely good enough reasons. Also note: if you ever find yourself in a situation where your well-being is threatened or harmed in any way, you need to get out as fast as possible, and potentially find a professional to talk through the issues with you.
- Are promises constantly being broken? Anyone who has been assured a promotion whose arrival date keeps being put off knows the frustration that comes with it. If you feel like every time you meet with your boss, you’re being given more hoops to jump through, it might be time to walk away. If your friend is flaking on you every time you get together, it might be time to bring it up and see how things progress from there. If your significant other talks a big game but never delivers or does the exact opposite of what he or she is promising, it might be time to think about finding greener pastures. Following through on one’s word is critical to maintaining positive and healthy relationships–if you keep finding yourself on the broken end of that, start to think about putting an end to the excuses and straight-up asking for what you need. You don’t necessarily need to give an ultimatum, although you may find that one could help your individual situation. If you’re going to give them an opportunity to fix the situation, though, you need to be mentally and emotionally prepared to walk away if the solution never happens.
- Do you find yourself always biting your tongue? Good workplace situations and relationships should allow for the opportunity to be oneself and express one’s ideas, concerns, frustrations. Do you have a boss that you are constantly tiptoeing around and not being straight with, for fear of repercussion? Are you in a relationship or friendship where being honest means a blowout tenfold? Remember that your thoughts and opinions and feelings are valuable and deserve to be valued by others in your life. When was the last time that those things were taken into consideration by those around you? Start to ask for what you want…if you’re not being heard, then it’s time to think about removing yourself from a place where your silence is valued more than your contribution.
- Finally, are you unhappy all the time? Sitting in a client’s office today, I saw a sign on her wall that said, “The purpose of life is to be happy.” At first, I found myself balking at it–We can’t be happy all the time. Is that really the purpose? I mean, happiness can be extremely overrated, right? But then I sat there, unable to think of what another, better purpose for life might be…and I couldn’t think of one at all. At the end of the day, at the end of your life, the times that you should remember are the ones that brought you the most joy. If you see yourself changing into someone you don’t like, or if you find yourself upset/irritable/crying/angry all the time, it may be time to seriously reevaluate your situation. Be careful to distinguish, however, whether this might be a medical concern or a situational one: these feelings cannot always be fixed by changing your situation, and it may have nothing to do with how you are handling things. If you are seeing yourself unhappy all the time, despite your situation, there is never any shame in seeking out additional help to bring you back to that happiness.
It is never easy to let go. In my own situation, in the situations of so many people around me lately, I hear the same thing: “I’m just so afraid of starting over.” The devil one knows is said to be better than the devil one doesn’t. But…nothing ventured, nothing gained. No one should live in unhappiness, misery, or even mediocrity. Making your best life for yourself includes taking chances and throwing your unhappy situation to the wind–the change can be terrifying in a crippling way, but the happiness you can discover when truly seeking will make up for that pain a thousand fold. Let go of your grip, jump off the cliff, and see what amazing safety nets await you at the bottom of it all.