“. . . let go of the knowledge and opinions that are no longer serving you well . . . “
Let’s start with three questions:
- What are some of the things you learned (often like the back of your hand) that are still present in your mind and heart but really don’t “fit” anymore?
- What are some of the opinions you inherited and imbibed from your family of origin, from the culture, and about yourself, that sit within you unchecked and undisputed?
- What are the precepts, doctrines, even rules you took in (and took on) over the years that, when you look closely, are things you don’t actually believe or follow anymore?
Until we honestly name the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that have shaped us, we can’t hope to let them go. Four personal examples (of many) that I grew up with:
Knowledge: a clean house is imperative.
Opinion: anything less is unacceptable.
Belief: my worth is connected to, even measured by, not being messy (yes, in my home and other spaces; but more, in life).
Knowledge: vote “yes” for any and all tax increases.
Opinion: not voting “yes” for tax increases is ignorant and wrong.
Belief: intelligent people vote the same way as me.
Knowledge: thin is healthy and desirable.
Opinion: not thin is lazy and irresponsible.
Belief: my weight determines the quality of my character (and others’)
Knowledge: attending church every Sunday is the right thing to do.
Opinion: goodness is equated with discipline and devotion.
Belief: my value (and eternal security) is based on my obedience.
So, if I do not name these specific things — the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that have shaped me — it is dangerously easy to wander through life believing that:
- my worth is connected to perfection
- people who aren’t like me are stupid
- if I’m not thin, I’m not a good person
- unless I’m devout and faithful, I’m doomed
But when I do name them, I can see them for what they are and intentionally let them go.
- my worth is a given, no matter what
- difference is respected
- my weight has nothing to do with anything
- my value is intact and inherent; religion has nothing to do with it
I already know these four things, of course. Over time and in so many ways I have “let go of the knowledge and opinions that are no longer serving [me] well.” Still, to see them in black and white — where they came from, how they were reinforced and interpreted, and then intentionally releasing myself from their grip? Mmmmm. Good stuff!
Then there’s this: I can reverse-engineer this same process to discern and affirm the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that I WANT to hold onto, even develop and deepen:
- What is the belief that I want to hold?
- What opinions / thoughts would support that belief?
- What knowledge would support that opinion and thought; what can I learn?
[For the record: I grew up with lots of knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that I still value and cherish. I’ve chose some very obvious and overly-blatant examples here in order to make my point.]
Let me add a final example by way of a story:
I believed in my heart-of-hearts that divorce was NOT the right thing to do. I had a whole truckload, a whole lifetime, of opinions and “knowledge” to back that up. So, when I found myself in the hardest seasons of my marriage, I could not let go of that belief. I argued with myself (and others) from every angle, trying to see a way clear, a way through, a way out, but because that belief was so deeply entrenched, I stayed cemented in place for a very, very, very long time.
I was unable to let go of the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that were no longer serving me because I didn’t ever consider the possibility that I could! Was such a thing even allowed? They felt like they were in my DNA, in my bloodstream, part and parcel with who I was.
I remember waking up early one morning to a thought that had never crossed my mind:
Maybe, just maybe, my value and worth were not defined by me-as-couple. Maybe, just maybe I was of value and worth because I was me, period.
I know! This sounds so obvious when I type it out. But I’m telling you: it was a radical idea for me, given the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs I’d grown up with.
To consider the possibility that I could change my mind, change my beliefs, and let go of those that were no longer serving me felt radical and shocking. But once this new thought had taken root, I could clearly see what was NOT serving me. I couldn’t not see! And it wasn’t too much of a leap from there to consider that maybe, just maybe, divorce wasn’t right or wrong at all. Maybe, just maybe, it was a way to honor myself and even my husband (though he wasn’t quite as convinced of this) because I would be honest, in-integrity, and whole.
When I let go of that belief, I was finally able to hold onto myself. I have so many stories like this one, so many experiences of becoming aware of a belief that was so deeply embedded and reinforced that it didn’t occur to me (until it did) that a) it was definitely not serving me; and b) I could actually let it go.
I’ve listened to thousands of stories from women over the years and witnessed the same: seemingly poured-in-concrete beliefs (often about self) that, once exposed, can be released — allowing for freedom, strength, and sovereignty. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.
I wonder what stories have come to mind for you today. I wonder what knowledge, opinions, and beliefs you hold that no longer serve. I wonder what you might let go of in order to hold onto yourself. And I hope that you will do just that.
May it be so.
If my writing resonates, I’d be honored if you’d subscribe to A Sunday Letter. A long-form email every week, from my heart to yours. Learn more.