We’ve all heard the old adage, “Life is a delicate balance of learning when to hold on and when to let go.” More times than not, we’re reminded of this, when facing a turning point in our lives.
Change is the only constant in life. It is a necessary component of any form of growth, learning, and aging. Often times change includes letting go, or saying goodbye to people, places or situations that we’ve loved dearly, and for which we hold sentimental value.
Unfortunately, for the most part, society has been conditioned to believe that all loss is bad. We tend to desperately cling to what is familiar, rather than saying goodbye to our actualized outcomes. Even when faced with the reality that what we had hoped for hasn’t or cannot be, many people still determinedly tend to hold on to what they know, rather than reaching for the unknown.
Loss is a natural, unavoidable part of life. Every relationship, situation, and friendship are not meant to last. People pass through our lives, some staying longer than others, some staying longer than we should allow, and some not staying long enough.
All of our relationships teach us about ourselves if we take the time to reflect on them. Although it may be ingrained in our minds to believe that all loss is negative, we should consider that if we have learned something valuable about ourselves, then indeed no goodbye can be considered a total loss.
I encourage you to think of each loss and goodbye, as a stepping stone in the journey of life. Although, while facing a loss may be painful, indeed, a necessary component of growth and opportunity, is closing the door on one situation, in order to discover other doors that lead to opportunities.
This is not to deny that loss, regardless of the circumstances, may bring sadness, heartache, or regret. However, each loss propels us along the path that we are meant to be on. When we decide to “settle” or consciously accept less than what we deserve, we stunt our development and hinder our progress to obtaining what we desire.
By not letting go of relationships or situations that no longer have value, we imprison ourselves from acquiring the true happiness we desire. Our fear of losing things ultimately causes us to suffer the greatest loss of all; the loss of our happiness and growth, having cheated ourselves out of these things when we become stagnant in fear.
In time, memories fade and losses become more distant. They will weigh less, as they are replaced with new life experiences, new people, and new memories that foster our growth, add value to our lives and are emotionally rewarding.
We are born with intuition, but more often than not, we betray our gut feelings, when we sense that something isn’t right or is “off” in some way. We let our emotions at the moment over-rule our instinctual knowledge, when determining who or what to hold on to, and who or what to say goodbye to.
Silencing our intuition often comes with a steep price. Short-term happiness is never worth the cost of a lifetime of melancholy, but the difficulty lies in being comfortable in short-term sadness or fear, knowing that time will heal, and offer new opportunities and experiences.
When it comes to personal relationships, it’s important to remember that nobody has the right to treat others poorly. An individual should never feel compelled to repeatedly “prove” themselves to others. Generally, if you’re in a relationship where you consistently feel as though you’re never good enough, you’re in a relationship that is toxic. You should never feel guilty for saying goodbye to toxic people or situations.
There is a difference, which is often a fine line, between giving up and knowing when you have had enough. Letting go is not giving up. Letting go is accepting that some things cannot and will never be. Saying goodbye is declaring, “I deserve better.”
Knowing when or how to let go or say goodbye is never easy. Nor is living with pain, angst, and hopelessness. No person or situation is worth holding onto because of what they once were or how great they used to be. It’s difficult to relinquish the picture of imagined futures, but one must, in order to move forward and continue to grow.
Don’t let the fear of the unknown, become a trap of rationalizations as to why you should settle for the familiar, despite however unsatisfying it may be.
I’ve seen many people hesitant to let go of relationships that are toxic because they are fearful that they will never meet anyone new. This is not a reason to stay. Given the immense number of people alive in the world today, it would be highly unlikely that you wouldn’t meet anyone new. In reality, you may meet many other people and experience new relationships; as time progresses, each of those relationships offering you new experiences and growth. Also consider, that perhaps you don’t need to find someone else, but rather, discover yourself.
If a person or situation isn’t enriching your life, has an unbalanced weight of maintaining the relationship, and isn’t adding positivity to your life, it’s time to let go and time to say goodbye.
Sometimes, to reclaim and rebuild yourself and your true happiness, you have to let people go, or say goodbye to situations that are not rewarding and hinder your growth.
There is sage wisdom in the mantra, “Not everything that you lose is a loss.” It’s important to recognize, that there is much “good” that is ushered in, after saying a necessary “good-bye.”
Bree Bonchay, LCSW, is a psychotherapist with over 18 years of experience working in the field of mental health and trauma recovery. She specializes in helping people recover from toxic relationships and shares her insights about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and psychopathy in her blog FreeFromToxic. Her articles have been featured in major online magazines and she has appeared on radio as a guest expert. She is also a dedicated advocate, educator, and facilitates survivor support groups and workshops.
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