Letting go of expectations is hard. Giving up some of the control we exert over every part of our life takes practice. It’s a exercise in freedom. In flying wild. In accepting surprises and quirks and amazing gifts that land in our laps.
So how do you be free? I’m no expert. But believe me when I say I’m practicing letting go every single day.
How to Be Free: A Beginner’s Guide.
1. Let go of expectations regarding success.
Forgive yourself if you suck at letting go of expectations. Try again. And again. Ponder and journal and over analyze the orgins of your expectations. Who first told you that you had to go to college and get a job and make a lot of money to be successful?
Let go of figuring out who first told you that you had to go to college and get a job and make a lot of money to be successful. Instead, spend your time thinking about how you want to be successful.
Ask yourself questions about what you want to contribute to the world. Questions about what you have to share. Questions about how you want to show up each and every day.
Realize that you loved going to college. Make a gesture of gratitude for whoever told you to go to college. Let go of the expectation that going to college equaled success. Understand that it was part of your journey, but just the first little itty bitty part.
Realize that maybe, someday, you would like to go back to school. But it will be because you want to, not because you should.
Realize that you really liked some parts of your assorted jobs that you were “supposed” to get. Accept that you’ll probably never want to go back to a “job.” Say a quick memorial for 401ks and employer covered health insurance and meetings spent doodling on your steno pad.
Let go of the general consensus that not having a “real job” makes you a bit odd. Realize that for you, success doesn’t mean playing it safe and having a “real job”. Savor the fact that you understand yourself so well. Even when it’s hard, you know what’s right for you.
Let go of everyone’s expectations towards success, except your own. Once you’ve figured out your version, jump in! You are free! Don’t forget you can towel off and start over if need be. It’s all part of the journey.
2. Let go of expectations regarding beauty.
Take a long look at yourself in the mirror. Accept all your beauty. Accept all your perceived flaws. Try really hard to remember that they are not flaws. They are you. And you are beautiful.
Forgive yourself if it’s really hard to let go of your learned expectations of beauty. We’re surrounded by fashion magazines and TV shows and commercials full of society’s definition of beauty. Resolve to stop buying the magazines and watching the shows if they make you feel less worthy.
Stop looking in the mirror for as long as you can. You’re still there. Whole, contributing, dancing, showing up, leaning in. Resist the urge to look “just in case”. Practice feeling beautiful, strong, present without relying on on confirmation from the mirror.
Realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Realize that the only beholder you have control over is you.
Practicing saying, “I am beautiful”. Practicing believing, “I am beautiful”.
Understand there is so much more to beauty than the size of your jeans, the length of your lashes, the cool factor of your style. Let go of unrealistic expectations combed from media, your mother’s neurosis, your girlfriends better whatever, your own striving towards perfection. Let go of striving. Live. Love. Accept. Relax.
Realize this is hard. Practice for your daughter’s sake. Understand that accepting your own beauty means you are free.
3. Let go of expectations regarding happiness.
Catch yourself every time you play the if, then game. If I get this promotion, then I’ll be happy. If he asks me to marry him, then I’ll be happy. If she @’s me on Twitter, then I’ll be happy. Realize this is a trick you play on yourself. An evil, disappointing, unrealistic trick.
Happiness is an inside job. Happiness is not nearly as dependent on outside factors as our expectations have led us to believe.
Shower yourself in love. In acceptance. In understanding that quirks and passions and taking an active role in your own life is what brings about joy. Let go of what others say “should” make you happy. Practice understanding what tickles you, makes you smile, gives you the sense of being gloriously alive. Hot? Cold? Only you know.
Realize that you are happy painting your days away in your pajamas. Realize that you are happy on a walk in the autumn leaves. Realize that you are happy winking at the gas station man. Understand that it’s okay to be happy.
Allow yourself to wake up happy every morning, regardless of the situation, instead of waking up stressed out and anxious about the day ahead of you. Practice this until it feels normal.
Start doing the things that make you happy more often. Let go of the expectation that this means you are selfish, flighty or wasting time. Stop doing so many of the things that make you unhappy. Understand that it feels odd.
Share your new outlook with others. Be okay with the fact that many of them will say they “can’t” stop doing the things that make them unhappy. Hope that someday they’ll realize that they can.
Accept that by taking control over your own happiness, you have set yourself free.