How to let go of stuff and people
There are some things that you will encounter in your life that may have served an important purpose in your life once, but no longer serve any purpose (or worse – serves to bring you down). These items or even people are often difficult to let go of due to the sentimental value you find in that item or in the memories shared with that person. It may be difficult, but letting go is the best way to give yourself the freedom to let other things and people that or who serve to bring you positivity into your life.
I know this can be a very finicky subject in terms of relationships or friendships, but I feel that I need to share my thoughts on how to let go of not just items, but people. It is because of the difficulty that I feel every perspective is important to share. Thus, I will divide this post into letting go of items and letting go of people.
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Letting go of items
How many of you have difficulty letting go of certain objects because of how they used to make you feel? I’m talking about that old sweater you used to cherish back in high school or university. I’m talking about that TY toy you got with your best friend who you don’t speak to anymore because of circumstances. I’m talking about that pair of shoes that you danced in back in college until holes started to form.
Granted, there is no requirement that you let go of these items, but usually people are interested in how to let go of items if they feel disorganized or stuck in a cluttered space. How many times have you tried to settle down and study for an exam, when suddenly an incredible urge to tidy your room riddles your mind? This phenomenon is commonplace – many people cannot settle down and fill their brains with information when their mind and space are both cluttered.
As the amazing tidying consultant Marie Kondo says in her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing“, each item in your home should incite a spark of joy or happiness in your heart. This may sound silly, but try it. When you pick up an item, how does it make you feel? Think deeply. What did you think about when you were purchasing or receiving this item (e.g., clothing)? Are you using a functional item regularly or have you not seen or thought about it in the last 6 months? Are you keeping a pile of items just for their sentimental value? What is their true value in your heart now?
When decluttering and discarding items, it can help to hold a mental sense of gratitude as you discard them. This means saying to the item, “Thank you for the part you played in my life,” and then letting go of it. It may seem strange, but I know from personal experience that this works for items that come with bittersweet memories – like gifts from an ex, for example. It is important to cherish the value that your items and their associate memories brought to your life, but to also realize that their presence – whether individually or collectively – may be stifling you from living your life with the clarity you deserve.
Letting go of people
Perhaps some of you skipped straight to this part. I don’t blame you – I would do the same thing. For many people, letting go of items does not seem like a monumental task. But letting go of people – especially those that you loved to the ends of the earth and back in the past – is often an incredible challenge. I’m not just talking about romantic relationships that have fizzled out or gone too long for their own good. I’m also talking about friendships that went south after a big irreconcilable fallout, or even friendships that are slowly drifting apart due to distance.
That being said, I have to put a disclaimer here that I am not an expert on how to let go of people at all – I simply have some experience dealing with it for many different reasons. My methods may not resonate with you, because we are different people.
First of all, one thing I should make clear is that I am sometimes prone to performing what is called the “INFJ Doorslam”. Other Myers-Briggs personality types are also prone to this, but essentially when a person causes me emotional pain, I can handle it and am very patient for a long time. My threshold is incredibly high, and I will often attempt many many times to reconcile situations with the person or rationalize the other person’s behaviours and simply settle before I ever think “maybe this relationship/friendship isn’t so good for me after all”. Eventually, when enough pain is inflicted on me, it becomes as if the person is non-existent. My heart guards itself by completely cutting that person out of my life, and I tend to act very differently around that person (not necessarily mean or aggressive, but more like I don’t care much for the interaction). I mention this because it is not healthy to let go of people by doorslamming them. That is – just cutting them out like you would for a magazine collage not only confuses and hurts the other person, but it trains yourself to be less open to deep and fulfilling relationships/friendships.
In my experience, a much better way to go about letting go of people is by following a certain method. I think there is value in attempting a heart-to-heart chat no matter what the scenario, because communication is the only way to iron over any misunderstandings, or to learn what might be causing the distress in your interactions with the other person. But when you know that a person is not good for you, you need to go into that conversation with the intention of it being the last one as friends or as a S/O. And the only way to know that a person is not good for you is to unbiasedly contemplate both sides of the coin.
1. Think deeply on your own about your own perspective of the person and their actions/behaviours.
This is where you will write down all the points that you immediately think about the other person’s actions/behaviours. How do they make you feel? What are things that you wish you could tell them but are scared to? Try to think both about the good and the bad.
2. Think deeply on your own about what their perspective could be – but do not settle or sell yourself short on your own standards.
This is difficult, but do your best to think about why they may be hurting you. Are they doing it on purpose or is it more complicated than meets the eye? Don’t overrationalize their behaviours – just think about feasible reasons why they may be acting a certain way to cause you pain. Reflect on yourself as well – how might you be adding to the tension? Have you attempted to alleviate the tension on your own end? How did they respond?
3. Think deeply on your own about what an outsider or third-party or trusted friend might think about your relationship/friendship. (Hey, sometimes it helps to actually go talk to that trusted friend, depending on the situation!)
Imagine you are in some reality TV show and some random other person who is not affiliated with that friendship or relationship was watching your interactions. All of them. What would they think about your relationship or friendship? Write about what kind of environment they’d see – the dynamics between you two, the building of tension, how you handled conflict in the past, your chemistry, your similarities and differences. Would they suggest this is a friendship or relationship worth staying in?
4. After all the above, make a decision.
Whether you rely more on intuition or logic, you should know by this point if you truly should stay in this relationship or friendship. I’m not saying drop all of ‘em, guys. These are just necessary steps to understand the dynamics, sources of tension, sources of joy, and all the goodies that make up any human relationship or friendship. It really can go either way at this point. Provided you were interacting with this person for some time (which would make it difficult to let go of them), you should have enough prior experiences to know what the future might be like if you go further. This is especially the case for relationships, as in 99.9% of cases, one partner truly cannot change the other partner. No matter how much one may dream and try.
Now, we reach a fork in the road. In some cases, meeting with the other person to have a formal conversation may be a little strange or unnecessary, in which case you may elect to slowly remove them from your life (e.g., don’t hang out with them, slowly increase your response times, etc.). This will be much easier knowing that you have thought deeply about both sides of the coin and an outsider looking at the coin before making your decision. However, sometimes, like in a case with a S/O, a conversation is needed. So then we move on to the fifth step.
5. It is time to set a time to have a civil conversation with them in a public place.
In a public place so that there is less risk of an emotional outburst that can leave loose ends and a lack of closure. Civil because this again, is the best way to go for closure. Let them know that you would like to speak with them about something important ahead of time, so that they don’t think of the occasion as something casual. Before going, take some serious time to contemplate your decision and what led you there, and what you are going to say when you meet. I can assure you that these things can get messy, and oftentimes things will come out that you didn’t initially plan. So don’t go too crazy with the preparation – just try to emphasize the things that went well and not well with that person, and plan to end the conversation civilly.
When you meet, state your intentions for the conversation very directly and clearly at the beginning. “I have decided after some thought that it might be best for us to break up,” or “I noticed that we are bringing each other down, and it may be best for both of us if we do not associate with each other anymore”. In any case, try to make your point be about cleanly severing the bond you share, not just about how they caused you pain. Going about the conversation in this manner, thinking less you or I and more about ‘us’ – will make it more likely that you will end the conversation civilly. Remember the two sides of the coin, and remember the outsider’s perspective. As much as you will want it to be all about you, remember that severing any bond is painful for both parties, not just you. It will also open the conversation up for discussing how perhaps you have caused them pain as well – always useful to know for future relationships/friendships (and will also bring you more closure).
Remember, whether it be an item or a person, every interaction or memory serves a purpose in your life. Even if thinking of an item or person brings you pain now, it or they once gave you a lot of happiness and hope in your life. So present you may not consider them a present, but past you definitely did. I am a firm believer in ‘everything happens for a reason’. No matter what, these experiences help you to grow as a person. So give gratitude, even if it might sting a bit. You’ll be better for it. Trust me.
Always remember to BKTY (be kind to yourself),