The Art of Letting Go

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt from Yoga is the art of letting go. As a typical type A, this has not been easy – indeed it’s an ongoing practice (and sometimes battle!).

For years I had a tendency to say yes to all manner of requests, taking on way more than I could handle and thinking I was somehow superwoman. Prone to regular burnout, I learned the hard way.

So when I read a British survey* that said women are feeling the pressure to be perfect, and around 40% were close to burn out, I was unsurprised.

Over 1000 women were surveyed, and the results were not good: 

  • Nearly half of all women feel moderately or extremely stressed
  • 50% are having less than 5 hours a week as time out for themselves
  • 80% don’t feel good enough
  • Another 80% say they put far too much pressure on themselves despite achieving an average of 26 tasks a day (26 per day!)

Women seem particularly prone to the ‘doing' disease. We’re often taught as children to be accommodating, nice and polite and in a culture where constant striving, busyness and doing are rewarded, ‘me time' can be seen as selfish or a luxury few can afford.

Why is it so hard to ask for our own needs to be met or to simply say no when someone asks us to do them a favour, work an extra shift or make something for the school? Guilt, over-responsibility and the false promises we make to ourselves about the rewards keep us on the merry-go-round of doing, and over time can lead to resentment and anger.

We tend to believe it’s much easier to say yes, be compliant and keep all the balls in the air rather than face someone’s disappointment or rejection. It’s hard to let down the people we care about and better to give up our precious time than carry their disappointment or let things fall over.

So how do we change something that can be so unconscious? Firstly, it’s about raising our awareness, getting honest with ourselves and recognising the pattern.

Then it’s about making a different choice, and for that we need to be present, which is hard when we spend much of our lives on auto-pilot.

Do you need to let go of any or all of the following?

  • the need for others’ approval
  • the need to look/sound/ be ‘perfect’
  • the idea that you have to shoulder the responsibility for everyone and everything
  • the idea that you have to do something just because you were asked

Sound scary? Changing a habit takes practice so here's a little challenge for you over the coming week. Can you say no to doing 1 thing that you might normally say yes to? Think of it purely as an experiment and know that other women will be doing it alongside you too. If it helps, get a friend involved and compare notes.

See how it feels and notice any thoughts or feelings that come up. Keep a journal of your experience and if it feels right, reach out and share your story – I’d love to hear from you.

Be kind to yourself - there’s only one of you!

*You can read the results of the survey here