As we age, it seems we have to actually think about things to let go of to be HAPPY and work on them. Do you remember when you were a child and, when instructed to do something, would freely exclaim, “I don’t have to!” Then, as you got older, you just started to absorb the guilt of so many standards and norms you felt you “have to” do to get along in the modern world?
When, and how, did we go from freewheeling youths to robotic drones of adults living our daily lives by someone else’s norms or irrational pressures we put on ourselves? You know how the saying goes: the only things we “have to” do are pay taxes and die.
I was listening to a self-care podcast about a year ago, and a listener called in and stated that she had chosen to free herself of feeling like she “had to” do certain things that our society seems to dictate, like wearing Spanx and heels. Her realization blew me away. I thought, “Yeah, why do we put pressure on ourselves to feel obligated to wears Spanx and heels to fit in?”
I thought about how I had worn flats to my sister’s wedding and had extraordinarily more fun and comfortable time not thinking about how much my feet hurt in heels. Wasn’t that more important than looking a certain way?
I continued to think about how many times I told myself I “had to” do something for a reason other than it truly worked for me. And I came up with three ways in which I looked the patriarchy straight in the jaw last year and yelled, “I don’t have to!”
These are things I have worked on over the past year or so:
Things to Let Go of To Be HAPPY: What I Did Last Year
First, I said, I don’t “have to” follow trends.
I made the decision over a year ago that I had been wasting too much money on things that were currently popular, but not truly “me” down to my core, then inevitably hating them a season later. It was a cycle that was bad for both me and the environment.
It would start by seeing an Instagram influencer, usually much younger than myself and possibly from the cast of The Bachelor, wearing something hip and figure-flattering. Then, I would think, well she looks great in that and she probably knows “what’s in” far better than I do, so a cold shoulder top it is! I’d wear it once or twice then stare blankly into a closet filled with shirts with gaping holes on the shoulders.
Instead, I found some bloggers who had classic, preppy style that seemed to match me more closely and read a few books about getting things started. Then, I defined in very specific detail how I wanted to present myself (everything from brands to styles and easy-to-maintain materials), and I am now constantly mindful of asking myself whether something is a 100% match for me long term and if it’s worth a permanent loss of my money to purchase it.
It’s been so incredibly freeing to feel like my clothing is an outward expression of my inward self and to know that the pieces I choose are long-term investments. It feels like I have found myself.
- The Conscious Closet (Life changing! One of my all-time favorite books!)
- Classic Style (Another one of my favorites)
Second, I said, I don’t “have to” allow bad behavior because someone is “family.”
This is a difficult one, and I certainly won’t name names, but there are a few people who consistently exhibit very bad, very toxic behavior in my extended family. It can be complicated, because no one wants to ruin holidays or visits, and it’s often easier for everyone else to choose the high road to keep things moving.
When I have spoken up and stated that certain behavior is not ok, and I don’t accept it, I have been told I “have to” just deal with it, because the person is family and I can’t change their behavior.
It’s true, someone will not likely change unless he or she really wants to dig in and do the work. However, I made the decision for myself that people do not get unlimited free passes for consistent bad behavior because they are family.
I will not hold on to anger (there’s power in forgiveness) or cause a scene in public, but I will make personal choices that distance myself from the person and the bad behavior. Simply making this acknowledgment to myself has liberated me and allowed me to better protect myself. I do not have to be a helpless sponge to toxicity; I have choices.
- The Gift of Forgiveness – Instant New York Times bestseller. A book that will forever touch your heart with the stories of the well-known and unknown, including Elizabeth Smart, who learned to forgive her captors; and Sue Klebold, whose son, Dylan, was one of the Columbine shooters.
- The Best Family Drama Books (ironically, my favorite genre)
Third, I said, I don’t have to be an extrovert.
I am an introvert, I have always preferred reading and writing and reflection to social engagements and, until I was able to label myself as an introvert and understand introversion, I was shamed for introverted behaviors.
If I was quietly sitting or sipping a drink at a bar, men (always men) would too often say something like, “Why aren’t you having any fun?” — as though I needed to be dancing on a pool table to have a good time.
And often on group vacations, friends and family didn’t quite understand my need for some personal space after a full day of extroverted activities and would label me as unfun or wonder whether there was something wrong.
When I learned that these were just classic introverted behaviors used to recharge, not personality defects, I was able to embrace who I am as an introvert, explain it to others and no longer pressure myself to act more extroverted.
It also helps to know my boundaries and communicate them, especially in advance, so I don’t feel pressured once I am in a situation. I’m fine, and it’s ok to be introverted.
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – New York Times bestseller. This popular book truly sees and gets introverts
Things to Let Go of To Be HAPPY: You don’t “have to” either!
I was so enlightened by the life-changing power of freeing myself from things I don’t “have to” do that I asked others their own things to let go of to be HAPPY, and the responses were overwhelming.
I have listed some of my favorite things to let go of to be HAPPY below, and I encourage you to think of the freedom of saying, “I don’t have to!” to each of these sentiments and consider your own affirmations:
- I don’t “have to” get married or have a baby!
- I don’t “have to” stay in the wrong job!
- I don’t “have to” dye my hair!
- I don’t “have to” live in the perfect home!
- I don’t “have to” smile and be happy all the time!
- I don’t “have to” diet or be thin!
- I don’t “have to” be “perfect”!
- I don’t “have to” go to church every sabbath!
- I don’t “have to” wear dresses!
- I don’t “have to” allow society to dictate my happiness!
- I don’t “have to” politely laugh at inappropriate jokes or statements!
- I don’t “have to” have more accomplished!
- I don’t “have to” always be in control!
- I don’t “have to” care what someone thinks about my life!
- I don’t “have to” look the same as I did years ago!
- I don’t “have to” wear makeup!
- I don’t “have to” always be doing something!
- I don’t “have to” meet everyone’s expectations!
- I don’t “have to” stay the same!
- I don’t “have to” consume alcohol in social settings to make others feel comfortable!
- I don’t “have to” make excuses for saying no!
- I don’t “have to” be liked or understood by everyone!
- I don’t “have to” worry about things I can’t control!
- I don’t “have to” be attached to my phone/email!
- I don’t “have to” punish myself forever for something I did in the past!
Are you holding onto expectations, mistakes, anxiety, regret, negative thoughts, shame, self-hate, toxic people, fear, resentment, self-doubt or comparison?
Will you join me in doing as they do in Frozen and let it go?
Things to Let Go of To Be HAPPY This Year: I don’t have to say “yes” to everything!
As I thought about my own things to let go of to be HAPPY this year, the biggest thing I have been struggling with recently as my blog grows is feeling like I “have to” say yes to everyone who asks me, as a blogger. This has been coming up A LOT with requests to read and review a book, without any compensation other than a copy of the book.
It’s HARD to say no, especially when I know that the other person is hustling too — an indie author, perhaps. But, I am working a full-time job during the day and running the blog in the morning, at night, on weekends and on holidays. And, while I am so extremely passionate about it, it’s becoming overwhelming to commit to approximately ten hours of my time to read, review, photograph and promote each book I’m pitched, especially for no other compensation than a book, which I can loan from the library for free!
Plus, the monetary costs of running a growing website are also growing.
For a while, I said yes to some requests simply because I felt bad. And I have never asked for compensation — yet.
More recently, I knew my growing schedule simply could not allow for another project even if I felt bad about it, but I would still panic every time I got such a request. Then, I would take as much time as I possibly could to craft a response that said “no” as kindly as possible.
One of my favorite bloggers, Grace Atwood recently re-shared some tips from Danielle Prescod on how to say no and how to ask for compensation in just this circumstance, and it felt so life-changing — like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Below are their shared tips, which I will be using:
- “Thank you for thinking of me, this sounds like a great fit, can I just check whether this is a paid opportunity?”
- “This sounds like such an interesting project! Here’s a link to the current services I offer, I think xxx would be the best fit” or “…here’s a copy of my media kit, which includes my rate card.”
- “Thank you so much for considering me for this. Unfortunately, I’m unable to take on any unpaid projects at the moment, but if that changes in the future I’d love to get back in touch.”
- Thanks so much for your inquiry! Out of respect for my paying clients, I’m unable to give detailed advice via DMs, but here’s where you can book a consultation, and I have a wealth of free resources at xxx.”
Recently, I responded to a few requests for free publicity by simply saying (paraphrased), “Thank you so much for thinking of me. For a variety of reasons, I have to pass at this time.” I like this way of saying, “No,” because although “no” is a complete sentence it’s awkward to just say “no” and nothing else to a kind request. But, at the same time, I am alluding that there are reasons why I cannot do it without full-on making excuses.
I talked about this more in my blog post about setting boundaries to find peace in your life.
Things to Let Go of To Be HAPPY: I don’t have to be like others to belong!
I started thinking about this one in January 2021 when the state of current affairs in the United States had become especially polarized and violent. It drove me into an extended state of panic in which I wanted to be a positive force and do and say the “right” thing, but there were so many people screaming so much rhetoric I felt frozen as to what was actually the right way for me to speak my mind in a world where social media IS real life due to the pandemic.
I dove back into a Reese’s book club pick I read in 2017, and it’s been a saving grace and my guidepost for navigating communication in 2021.
I wrote a full blog post about Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown if you want more information, but, for now, I’ll make a few points about what it’s helping me with:
- being 100% my authentic and imperfect self, with an independent belief system;
- existing in and relating to communities of others who share both similarities and differences; and
- having tough conversations and holding others and myself accountable with a strong back, soft front and open heart.
I feel like Brene Brown has been my therapist and I am learning so much about how to manage to live with purpose and intention this year.
Reading and feeling each of the above affirmations of things to let go of to be HAPPY makes me so empowered I want to sing George Michael’s “Freedom” from the rooftops. There is so much beauty, growth, self-realization and depth in saying, “I don’t have to!” to something that is imprisoning your mind. Speak it, and make it your mantra.
Lastly, pin these tips for Things to Let Go of To Be HAPPY to Pinterest because you can refer back to them when you need the motivation and inspiration!