How to Let Go of What Holds You Back (Overcoming Self-Sabotage)

What are you holding onto right now that no longer serves you?

It might sound like a silly question at first…”Why would I hold onto something that doesn’t serve me? Wouldn’t I realize it?”

But no matter how it sounds, we do this all the time! (Though usually without realizing it.)

Here are some signs that you’re attached to something that’s holding you back:

  • You feel a little out of whack, but you aren’t sure why
  • It seems like things are going well, and you should be feeling better than you are…but for an unclear reason, you aren’t
  • It doesn’t feel like anything big has shifted, but at the same time, you know something has changed. But you aren’t sure how to get to the bottom of it.

Here’s another way to frame the prompt: What thoughts are you holding onto that give you a small payoff right now…but in the big picture, don’t actually help you show up at your best?

This gets at the heart of the matter. And the reason why it happens.

Short-Term Payoffs

Why do we hold onto things that don’t serve us in the big picture? Because they DO serve us in a small way in the short-term.

It’s a bit of a brain-warp when you slow down to think about it. So let’s slow down, and examine that again.

Everything you hold onto in life benefits you in some way. (Including negative states like anger, sadness, and fear!)

Maybe not in the big picture.

Maybe not serving the vision of you at your highest.

Maybe not what you really want at the end of the day.

But you’re still getting something from it.

For example, anger can give you the immediate payoff of feeling “right.” And fear can give you the payoff of retreating into comfort. And sadness can give you the payoff receiving sympathy.

It’s like when a kid breaks their arm on the playground. They show up at school with a brightly colored cast. Their friends sign it in permanent marker. And other kids feel jealous! Other kids actually wish that they broke their arm. Because the payoff of a broken arm in elementary school is receiving attention and sympathy from others.

Kill The Devil You Know

And that’s why we get stuck. Because we let the little payoffs keep us where we are. Comfortable. Complacent. Attached.

Instead of letting go of that little payoff to step into the potential of something new, we stay cooped up in familiar territory.

“Better the devil you know,” as the saying goes…

But screw that!

No more playing smaller than you’re meant to play. The devil you know only survives when you give it attention.

Kill the Devil you know by letting him go.

You Need Courage

Can you muster the courage to let go of what doesn’t serve you?

Because it DOES take courage.

Letting go of something means opening your arms to something new. And new is uncertain.

But new is also where the growth happens. It’s where you expand. It’s where you access your potential. It’s where you explore. And it’s where you learn the most.

Holding onto what you have is no strategy for welcoming in something new.

Just picture yourself walking up to a stranger with clenched fists! How welcoming is that?

So how can you expect to welcome something new into your life if you’re white-knuckling your current situation?

It could be anything…

  • a habit
  • a perception
  • a judgment
  • a desire
  • a goal
  • a fear
  • a thought
  • an idea

If it’s not serving you, there’s no point in holding onto it. Even if it’s what you’re used to.

At the heart of it, these thoughts have a similar root structure. “If I don’t ________ then I won’t be okay.”

But 99.9% of the time that’s not true. If this way is holding you back, you can find another way. If that way doesn’t work, you’ll find another. There’s always another way forward.

Easing Your Grip

Letting go is not about banishing, putting up walls, or resisting. You can’t hurl a negative thought pattern into the river.

Letting go is surrender. It’s easing your grip, and opening your arms.

It’s allowing what’s there to be there–but nothing more. Not identifying with it. Not exerting effort to keep it there. Just allowing it.

And by not giving it energy by attaching to it, it’s free to pass on.

So, I’ll ask again.

What are you holding onto that no longer serves you?

We all have something. Is today the day you’re finally willing to let it go?

Who would you be if you did? How would you feel? How would you walk through the world differently if you let it go? What might be the impact of that?

As I write this, I’m letting go of my fear of judgment, and my subtle desire to please everyone. And I’m letting go of its payoff of avoiding conflict and being “accepted” by more people.

Trying to please people goes against my more important goal of forming deep and authentic relationships with others. And that happens best when I openly, and lovingly express my truest self.

Life is all about quality over quantity. This is one place where I’m focused on living that.

Put it Into Practice

Grab your pen and paper. Download the worksheet below. Slow down. Quiet your mind. Rest a hand over your heart and listen within as you respond to these questions:

  1. What are you holding onto that no longer serves you?
  2. What are the payoffs you get from that thought/habit/belief?
  3. What’s the bigger picture, more important goal you have that this thought obstructs?
  4. Who would you be, and how would you show up if you let go of that?
  5. Are you willing to let go of [payoffs] so you can pursue what you actually want instead?

PS: I also created a free worksheet you can use to work this process at any time. Download it below. Share it with someone who would benefit from it.

Download the Letting Go Worksheet

A straightforward 1-pager to help you let go of what isn't serving you so you can step into your potential.

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