There is a big difference between giving up and letting go. Giving up means selling yourself short. It means allowing fear and struggle to limit your opportunities and keep you stuck. Letting go means freeing yourself from something that is no longer serving you. It means removing toxic people and belief systems from your life so that you can make room for relationships and ideas that are conducive to your wellbeing and happiness. Giving up reduces your life. Letting go expands it. Giving up is imprisoning. Letting go is liberation. Giving up is self-defeat. Letting go is self-care.
So the next time you make the decision to release something or someone that is stifling your happiness and growth, and a person has the audacity to accuse you of giving up or being weak, remind yourself of the difference. Remind yourself that you don’t need anyone’s permission or approval to live your life in the way that feels right. No one has the authority to tell you who to be or how to live. No one gets to decide what your life should look like or who should be a part of it. No one, but you.
You don’t ever have to feel guilty about removing toxic people from your life. It doesn’t matter whether someone is a relative, romantic interest, employer, childhood friend, or a new acquaintance — you don’t have to make room for people who cause you pain or make you feel small. It’s one thing if a person owns up to their behavior and makes an effort to change. But if a person disregards your feelings, ignores your boundaries, and “continues” to treat you in a harmful way, they need to go.
Breathe. It’s okay. You’re going to be okay. Just breathe. Breathe, and remind yourself of all the times in the past you felt this scared. All of the times you felt this anxious and this overwhelmed. All of the times you felt this level of pain. And remind yourself how each time, you made it through. Life has thrown so much at you, and despite how difficult things have been, you’ve survived. Breathe and trust that you can survive this too. Trust that this struggle is part of the process. And trust that as long as you don’t give up and keep pushing forward, no matter how hopeless things seem, you will make it.
Don’t allow the negative things in your life to discount the positive ones. Don’t let a bad day or month or year make you feel like you have a bad life. Instead of focusing on everything that’s going wrong, start holding onto all of the things that are going right. You may be struggling, but there is still so much to keep fighting for — there is still so much more to life than this pain. And if you keep picking yourself back up and pushing forward, no matter how difficult things are, you will discover it. Maybe not tomorrow or next week or a year from now, but someday soon, things will get better. Someday soon, you will find freedom from this darkness. And when you do, you’ll look back on these days and wonder how you could have doubted your resilience. You’ll look back and marvel at how something as small as refusing to give up could transform your life in such a substantial way.
You don’t have to be what other people want you to be. You don’t have to be interesting or agreeable or entertaining. You don’t have to tone yourself down, quiet your voice, or hide your feelings. You don’t have to be outgoing or spontaneous or sociable. You don’t have to be thin or beautiful or anyone’s definition of attractive. You don’t have to be anyone other than who you authentically are, and you sure as hell don’t have to spend your time and energy trying to convince people that you’re worth keeping around. The right people are going to recognize your worth. They are going to respect you, appreciate you, and accept you, without forcing you to compromise who you are. Life is too short, and your happiness is far too important, to make room for anyone who treats you otherwise.
You don’t ever have to apologize for feeling sad. You aren’t being too sensitive. You aren’t imagining things or being overdramatic. You’re being true to yourself by honoring your emotions, and that is never something you have to feel ashamed of. Whether you have a need that isn’t being met, an old wound that’s been reopened, a person in your life who is making you feel small, a painful memory of something from the past, or an emptiness from the loss of someone you care about — there is always something underlying our sadness, and whatever it is, it’s important and valid. Whatever it is, it deserves to be expressed and felt.
Being strong doesn’t mean hiding your pain. It doesn’t mean forgoing help when you’re struggling. It doesn’t mean denying yourself things that feel good for the sake of practicing self-control. It doesn’t mean refusing to show sadness and vulnerability. And it doesn’t mean carrying the burdens of life all by yourself. Anything that prevents your healing and stifles your growth does not correspond with strength. Being strong means refusing to tolerate people and things that wound your soul. It means practicing self-care when you’re hurting. It means honoring your feelings by actually allowing yourself to feel and express them. It means treating yourself with compassion and kindness, even when you feel like you don’t deserve any. It means doing what makes you happy and being with people who make you feel good, regardless of outside judgements. It means asking for help when the weight of the world has become too much. It means giving yourself permission to get your needs met by setting boundaries and using your voice. It means forgiving yourself on the days that you’re struggling and can’t be brave. It means challenging the voice telling you that you’re inadequate and worthless and reminding yourself, repeatedly, that you are enough.
If you’re struggling, you deserve to make self-care a priority. Whether that means lying in bed all day, eating comfort food, putting off homework, crying, sleeping, rescheduling plans, finding an escape through a good book, watching your favorite tv show, or doing nothing at all — give yourself permission to put your healing first. Quiet the voice telling you to do more and be more, and today, whatever you do, let it be enough. Feel your feelings, breathe, and be gentle with yourself. Acknowledge that you’re doing the best you can to cope and survive. And trust that during this time of struggle, it’s enough.
Just because one person rejects you doesn’t mean you need to reject yourself. Just because some people choose to disregard your worth and treat you without kindness doesn’t mean everyone will, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to imitate their behavior. The truth is that the way other people treat us isn’t about us—it’s about them and their own struggles, insecurities, and limitations. You don’t have to allow their judgement to become your truth. You may not be able to control what other people say or how they act, but you can always choose how you treat yourself. You can choose who you surround yourself with, and who you let go of. And no matter what your circumstances, you can choose to believe in yourself and your worth. Because at the end of the day, trying to please everyone is exhausting and impossible. No matter how you change or who you become, there will always be someone who doesn’t approve. So instead of wasting your energy in a futile attempt to become someone that other people want you to be, give yourself permission to be exactly who you are. And know that who you are is exactly enough. The right people will find their way into your life. These are the people who will love and accept you wholeheartedly and without conditions. These are the people who matter. Let go of the rest.
It’s okay to say no. You shouldn’t ever have to compromise who you are and what feels comfortable in order to make someone else happy. If a person doesn’t respect the boundaries you set, then they aren’t worth your time, effort, or friendship. Your feelings matter, and if something doesn’t feel okay, you have the right to voice it. I know that you want to make other people happy. I know that you want to be accepted and well-received. But putting other people’s feelings ahead of your own is not the way to do it. At the end of the day, you have to do what is best for you. You have to make your happiness and wellbeing a priority. Because you matter. And because you are deserving of a life that corresponds with your authentic self.
Let whatever you do today be enough. Let go of the judgement you have about what you should be or could be doing, and today, allow yourself to simply be. Comparing yourself and your journey may be habitual, but it gets you nowhere. It makes you feel worse and it keeps you stuck. So stop fixating on where everyone else is, and start giving yourself permission to be exactly where you are. Quiet the voice telling you to do more and be more, and trust that in this moment, who you are, where you are at, and what you are doing is enough. You will get to where you need to be in your own time. Until then, breathe. Breathe and be patient with yourself and your process. You are doing the best you can to cope and survive amid your struggles, and that’s all you can ask of yourself. It’s enough. You are enough.
It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to say no to someone you love. It’s okay to say no to a friend. It’s okay to say no to a parent or child. It’s okay to say no to a job or relationship. It’s okay to say no to sexual advances. And it’s okay to say no to a person who’s romantically interested in you. Even if it hurts someone’s feelings, even if you disappoint people, even if you’re judged and ostracized — it’s okay to say no to anything and anyone that causes you pain or makes you uncomfortable. You’re allowed to put yourself first. You’re allowed to set limits and boundaries. And you deserve to make your happiness and wellbeing a priority. You don’t ever have to settle for something or someone that doesn’t feel right. And you definitely don’t have to compromise yourself for the sake of making other people happy. You have to take care of yourself, and if that means saying no, it’s more than okay.
— Daniell Koepke