I let go. I have learned over the years, especially since I started giving talks and writing books on the subject, that holding on to that which no longer serves is not an act of Big Wild Love.
As a part of my series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Jill Sherer Murray. Jill is a TEDx Speaker, author, influencer, and coach, who founded the lifestyle brand Let Go For It®, which helps people let go of what they don’t want and find what they do — in love, work, friendship, family, mindset, and wherever else they’re stuck. She’s also an award-winning journalist and communications consultant who can trace practically every success in her career, love life, and more on letting go. Her TEDx Talk, “The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go” has been viewed by millions of people — and her book, Big Wild Love: The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go (She Writes Press, May 2020) has been called “the ultimate manifesto for letting go” and recommended by reviewers and readers alike, as a book “every woman needs to read.”
Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
I have always loved to write and have done it throughout my life — as a little girl writing stories, and then an adult as a journalist, communications specialist, content creator, diarist, columnist, blogger, and an author, and now as someone with a growing platform. While I’ve spent most of my career in corporate America, writing, coaching, leading teams, and helping businesses develop a communications strategy, it’s been writing to end-users and consumers, and public speaking, which are really my first loves.
I got into writing and speaking about Big Wild Love and letting go a few years ago by accident. That’s when I lost someone who meant a lot to me. While I know none of us are getting out of here alive, I never imagined this person would pass so young … he was 59. The fact that he did hit me very hard, reminding me that we don’t have time to waste — something many of us tend to forget as we deal with the distractions of daily life.
That loss inspired me to give a TEDx Talk called “The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go,” which not only went viral and changed a lot of people’s lives, but it changed mine as well, setting me on a path I didn’t see coming. After all, I had no agenda when I got onto that stage, other than to share my sense of urgency.
Since then, millions of people have seen that talk, many of whom have reached out to me from around the globe looking for advice on how to let go in their own lives. Since they were all asking me the same questions, I decided to put my answers in a book called Big Wild Love: The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go, which was released in May.
In it, along with my story, other women’s stories, surprising facts, and thoughtful exercises, I share a tangible process for letting go for love and relationship, in particular, although it works across all areas of life. I know because I use it a lot and so do many of my friends and coaching clients. In fact, I used it just last year to let go of my full-time corporate day job, so I could devote more time to spreading the letting go gospel.
And today, I split my time between writing, speaking, coaching, consulting (with businesses around communications, work I’ve been doing for much of my professional career and I do love), in service of helping people embrace the art and practice of letting go for what they want most. I also teach them, as importantly, how to cultivate the Big Wild Love — self-love with the intention to be bold in service of creating a life they can love — they’ll need in order to let go successfully. Because letting go involves risk. If someone isn’t grounded in self-love, acceptance, and understanding they need to take those risks — knowing that no matter what happens, they’ll always be okay because they’ll always do what’s best for themselves — they’ll never let go. It just won’t happen.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?
I’m in the process of developing a podcast to engage people in conversation around Big Wild Love and letting go. That’s in the early stages, so stay tuned. And I’m always working on more books. I have so many in mind, I’m trying to decide where to put my focus next.
For right now, however, my priority is getting Big Wild Love out into the world, which has been more challenging than anticipated due to COVID-19. With a lot of in-person events canceled, I’ve been working on a virtual book tour and doing media and podcasts. The good news is people are showing up, asking questions, reading, commenting, and engaging overall.
This makes me happy because I think it’s a book every woman needs to read. And not just because of my obvious bias, but because, in doing my research, I discovered that we’re suffering from a collective crisis of self-esteem. I say this with no judgment, only love because I was there. And I wish I had this book when I was. So many of the people I talk to — from all around the world — ask me questions that directly stem from a lack of Big Wild Love. That includes a lack of understanding as to what’s motivating the choices that have them continuously struggling in a relationship.
In the book, I spend a lot of time talking about why it’s vital to understand what attracts us to certain people, experiences, and relationships. Most people don’t ask themselves this question, and yet what we believe to be true about ourselves and love on a subconscious level plays an enormous role in our choices…and, by proxy, our results. Those people who find themselves asking “Why does this always happen to me?” will find their answers by conducting an honest and thorough self-examination.
When they do, they often find is that somewhere along the line, they’ve acquired a belief system telling them that the healthy love they want — with themselves and another person — is not possible for them, or that they don’t deserve it. They’re often surprised by this … and how powerfully the beliefs, they had no idea they had, were sabotaging their efforts.
Once they connect these dots, they get very conscious about creating new, more benevolent beliefs that will actually get them where they want to go. There’s a very intentional way to go about this, and my book gives people a lot of help here.
Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self acceptance?
I can share the story that I share in both my TEDx Talk and in greater detail in my book, about how I left a 12-year relationship with a wonderful man I deeply loved at the age of 41, after finally allowing myself to see that he would never give me the marriage I wanted. Even though I know he wouldn’t for a very long time, but never did anything about it.
It took me more than a decade to choose to walk away — and yes, holding on is a choice, just like letting go — despite knowing in my heart of hearts in as early as year five that he didn’t want what I did. But I pushed it down. Didn’t want to see it. Didn’t want to leave him. Didn’t want it to be true. Didn’t want to be alone, which I assumed I would be if I left him (I was woefully low on Big Wild Love back then). I saw that relationship as my one-and-only shot at love, so I’d better stick with it. Convinced me that the marriage I really wanted — and he didn’t — was just a piece of paper I could live without if I just tried harder. That I was lucky to have a boyfriend who was loving and kind, after all, not everybody is so lucky. I’d dated a lot before I met him and it didn’t go so well.
Then I had a monster epiphany — -that I talk about in my book — and everything changed.
That epiphany showed me that I needed to not only let go, but I had a lot of internal work to do to not only recover from that experience but find the love I really wanted. I started to do this work by asking myself one question in particular, which was this: Instead of how can I get HIM to love me, I asked how I could better love myself.
It was a question I’d avoided asking for almost half of my life, since nobody ever really taught me about self-love. When I was growing up, winning the love of another person was the prize.
And I was definitely not alone here.
So many of the women I’ve spoken to over the years were also focused on understanding the other’s person’s motivation instead of their own. And yet, where we’re at in love and relationship is never about what someone else does. It’s always about us … why we invited them into our lives and what we believe about ourselves. It’s only when we do our work — and not theirs — that we our able to do better for ourselves.
It’s hard work, which is why so many of us don’t do it. Especially if we’re afraid of what we’ll find, when we go on that archeological dig of our own psyche; and, worse yet, what we might have to do about it as a result.
And yet, it’s the only way forward. Once I did that work, I made different choices for myself. And ultimately found not only my own Big Wild Love, but the healthy, happy, committed love I wanted with someone else.
According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?
This number actually feels high, at least when it comes to women and my research. Many years ago, I wrote a column for Shape Magazine, taking readers on the journey with me to lose weight as part of a year-long assignment. I heard from a lot of women over the course of that year about how they felt immense pressure — from critical mothers, partners, friends, the media, society, etc. — to look and be a certain way in order to be loved and accepted. In fact, I recount one of those stories in my TEDx Talk — about how one girl wrote to me after her boyfriend asked her to strip down so he could critique her body. And how awful she felt after. (Of course, I told her to dump that guy and never let anyone make her feel bad about herself again …)
I’ve also worked at a few women’s clothing boutiques and have personally witnessed how so m any people disliked what they saw in the mirror. How they would wince at their own reflections. And I get it. Before I developed my own Big Wild Love, I used to be one of them.
Until I came to understand where all that negative self-talk came from. For me, from a very loving, but critical mother who taught me at a very young age that I had to be a perfect size six to be loved. Once I understood that, I was able to tell myself that it wasn’t true (because our beliefs are only true if we say so). That I was infinitely lovable no matter how I looked, and that I deserved a healthy partner who would love, honor, and respect all the wonderful things I had to offer them. And I began to make choices accordingly.
That meant no longer limiting my life experiences because of my insecurities, or accepting less than I deserved. Because when we don’t like the way we look, these are the things we do. We date and/or stay with men who don’t treat us well or give us what we want, because we think we can’t do any better or that they’ll be our only shot at finding love. We attract and are attracted to people and experiences that reinforce our limiting beliefs, because we are always subconsciously looking for proof. If we believe we don’t look good, we’ll find evidence to support that belief. If we believe we are perfect just as we are, we’ll find that evidence too.
When we don’t like how we look, we also deprive ourselves of pleasures like going to the beach or on a tropical vacation, because we don’t want to expose too much of ourselves in a bathing suit, shorts, or warm-weather clothing. We don’t want to get up on that stage or apply for that job or pursue an opportunity that sounds really exciting, because it requires us to be on camera or visible, and we just don’t “look” the part.
All of these behaviors have us standing in our own way, shortchanging ourselves from realizing all that possible for us, and just enjoying life!
As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?
For all the reasons I mention in the previous questions…and then some. When we love ourselves, we’ll never find ourselves stuck where we don’t want to be. Because we will come to know instinctively and reflexively to take a pass when something is not right for us.
When we love ourselves, we will no longer accept less than we deserve — in love, work, friendship, health, mindset, and life in general — because we know what’s possible for us.
When we love ourselves, we’ll stop looking for love or anything from a place of fear and desperation, but rather with a sense of adventure and play. (This will, as a byproduct, make us more attractive to healthy, loving partners, because confidence is appealing. But that’s not the main reason to do it.)
When we love ourselves, we’ll never hesitate to take the risks inherent in letting go, which means we’ll never overstay our welcome, or wait for someone else to tell us whether we can have what we want most. We know we can always choose for ourselves.
When we love ourselves, we’ll stop looking outside of ourselves for the safety net, because we know instinctively that we ARE the safety net.
When we love ourselves, we’ll no longer attract or be attracted to what which is not worthy of us… we’ll have less tolerance for disingenuous behavior, game playing, and drama. We know that love with another Big Wild Loving person doesn’t have to be hard or tricky. To the contrary…
When we love ourselves, we’ll never find ourselves helpless, trapped, or beholden to another person’s bad behavior. We’ll always know when it’s time to let go and never fear doing so.
The bottom line is that when we love ourselves, life begins to open up in a whole new, positive, hopeful, and wonderful way. It’s not to say we won’t ever have problems or feel sad or broken-hearted or have to do hard things, but rather, we’ll never hesitate to do what’s best for us. Because we know we deserve good things and they’re possible for us.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
There are so many reasons why people stay in relationships that just aren’t serving them. Many are holding onto childhood and other wounds that tell them the love they want isn’t possible for them, so if they’ve got someone to love, even if they’re not so great, they ought to stick with that person anyway.
They don’t know how to extricate themselves from a bad situation or make the changes necessary inside of a relationship with promise, because it’s not always about letting go of an entire relationship. Sometimes, it’s about letting go of an issue or set of issues inside of an otherwise good relationship, in order for both the relationship and the parties inside of it to thrive.
They’re scared and unsure when it comes to taking the risks associated with letting go because there are no guarantees. What if they let go and they wind up alone? Or, they never find anybody “as good”. The stakes are too high.
They don’t want to see the truth of their situation because it’s simply too painful to go there: The devil they know is way better than the devil they don’t.
They think letting go is normalizing, accepting, or coping inside of their situation, and they’re already doing that. They don’t understand that those are just short-term strategies designed to help them get through the moment. Or, that letting go is about complete detachment — physically, mentally, and emotionally.
They aren’t ready for change. They don’t want to open themselves up for epiphany — which tells them it’s time to let go — because that would force them to action, and they’re not ready to act.
They don’t trust themselves to make good choices going forward and not make the same mistakes of the past. They don’t see a path for getting where they want to go.
They often don’t know where they want to go. And if it’s somewhere good, with someone good, they don’t believe they deserve it.
I think most people who stay in mediocre relationships fall into one or more of these categories.
When I talk about self-love and understanding I don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?
There have been so many times that I’ve had to do this, but the one that stands out as being most powerful is in the example I mention above, in my book, and in my TEDx Talk: When I left my long-term relationship of 12 years after having an aha moment that I couldn’t “un-see.” And that, in no uncertain terms, told me it was time to let go.
Once I’d had that epiphany, I realized that I had a lot of inner work to do in getting to the healthy love I wanted with another person. After all, I spent a lot of time in all of my relationships, trying to understand the other person’s motivation for not loving me or giving me what I wanted. I’d armchair diagnose them, figuring that if I did so correctly, I could fix them or keep the situation afloat by simply being more accommodating, conforming, or persuasive in terms of convincing them they really did want me.
It never dawned on me that diagnosing and fixing them wasn’t my work, but theirs. My work was to figure out why I chose them, why I stayed with them, what I believed was possible for me in love.
And so, after leaving that 12-year relationship, I finally got in front of the mirror and went there. Instead of asking why my ex didn’t love me, I asked why I didn’t love myself. Instead of asking what he was afraid of, I asked what I was afraid of. Instead of asking why he chose to spend so much time with me even though he had no intention of marrying me, I asked myself why I stayed so long in a relationship with a man who couldn’t give me what I wanted. Instead of asking what the future held for us as a couple, I ask what I needed to learn from the experience — and those leading up to it — so I could let go and find healthy love I wanted going forward.
It was only when I went through this exercise, that I was able to attract the right person into my life. And not only find the love story I wanted with myself, but the one I wanted with someone else.
So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?
It’s not just important, it’s absolutely critical. Being alone, especially on the heels of a failed relationship, allows us to take stock. Take a breath. Find the ground under our toes. To go through an important process of looking inside of ourselves to take our lessons, understand our role in whatever happened (because it takes two to tango), forgive ourselves for any missteps, and figure out who we are, and where we want to go next in love and life in general.
Being alone allows us to work through these things in an unencumbered way — outside of the limitations of a particular situation, to which we’re physically, mentally, and emotionally tethered — and without having to worry about compromising with another person, or deferring our own needs in order to meet theirs.
Spending time on our own also reminds us that we don’t need another person to be happy — and that other people can’t do that for us anyway. Happiness is an inside job.
Being alone reminds us not to fear being it. That it’s not so bad, to the contrary. That a lot of great things can happen to use when we’re alone. That it can actually be fun. This knowledge offers us much-needed leverage once we’re back in coupledom — it tells us that if things goes south, it’s okay to let go. That being alone isn’t punishment or consolation or something to be avoided at all costs. That we don’t have to cling desperately to what’s not serving us … we have options.
When I left my long-term relationship, and before I met my husband, I had no idea what lay in wait for me. Still, I decided that no matter what happened — whether I found love and marriage or I didn’t — I’d be happy anyway. I’d enjoy the time on my own. I’d embrace the solo journey of self-discovery, do whatever I wanted without worrying about other people, enjoy my friends, take risks in my job, pursue my passions, give myself the freedom to imagine the possibilities…and decide what came next. All without feeling like I was under the thumb of another person.
Living life alone and on my terms only was a very fruitful period. It also reminded me how joyful life can be when we’re reveling in our own company.
How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?
When you love and understand yourself, you are freer to be authentic, to put yourself out there, and to give over to getting close to another person, because you’re not afraid of being rejected or hurt. You know if that happens, sure it might not feel like a day at the spa, but you’ll get over it.
Once I cultivated Big Wild Love, and had spent the appropriate amount of time being alone, I dated from a place of curiosity and play because the stakes were low. While I wanted to find someone, I didn’t feel any pressure in terms of the outcome, like I had in the past, when I saw the results of dating as a direct referendum on my worth as a person.
This aura of self-confidence and even whimsy made me more appealing to others, and dating a lot more fun. It put me in the driver’s seat in terms of what I accepted from dating and other people, and what I didn’t and how I approached each experience. I no longer worried about whether someone liked me, and instead, wondered if I’d like them. I never feared having hard conversations or asking big questions — ones I would have never asked in the past, for fear of putting the other person off or scaring them away. I no longer felt the need to be self-protective or guarded, prove anything, or be someone I wasn’t. Being fully and authentically me gave the other person permission to do the same, which invited in intimacy, honesty, and vulnerability, which led to deeper connection. It was kinda awesome and so very freeing!
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
There’s not much other people or society can do to inspire someone to do the work involved in cultivating Big Wild Love — especially if they’re not ready for it, don’t know they need it, or don’t value self-love as being important. Because wanting to love yourself and the doing the work necessary to get there is intrinsic.
I’ve found that most people come around to the idea of self-love when they tire of being in pain, suffer the same mistakes over and over without understanding why, have an epiphany they just can’t turn away from, or find themselves at a hard crossroads — one that forces them to see the truth of their situation for perhaps the very first time. And decide to do something about it, once and for all.
The people who arrive at this place are more likely to be open to help from a trusted source. In that case, I’d recommend doing things like role modeling Big Wild Love in action, pointing them in the direction of credible resources, and showing them how cultivating self-love can benefit them in a tangible way. How it can alleviate their pain, help them avoid the mistakes of the past so they can be successful in future endeavors, understand themselves better, and get the most from an epiphany in terms of taking hard but important action steps.
As importantly, you can remind them that if they’re feeling stuck or struggling in a situation, they don’t have to stay there. They have options. Big Wild Love is the way out of what they don’t want, forward to what they do, and oftentimes, the road back to the selves they may have lost.
What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?
1 — I practice Transcendental Meditation because its benefits are incredibly well-researched. And I really enjoy it. It frees my mind, gives me clarity, helps me to feel positive in the face of negativity, and reminds me to always love myself first and most… if and when I lose my way. Because we all do. It takes work to not only develop self-love, but to keep it burning brightly. Because so often, we’re working to rewire beliefs we’ve had for a very long time — so it takes vigilance.
I can always tell, when I begin to feel on-edge or I start to go into the void of negative thinking, that I need to get back to my practice in a deeper way — especially if I’ve missed a day or two. While I’m meditating, I’m reminded that I’m good, life is good, and I’ve got this.
2 — I listen to my body. Our bodies are always trying to tell us when something is off and listening is an act of Big Wild Love. If I can’t sleep, if I’m feeling especially anxious, or achy for no reason, I’ll ask myself what I need to feel better. This past weekend, for example, it was just a break from work, since I haven’t had one in months, what with a book coming out in the midst of a global pandemic — and the need to pivot pretty much everywhere. When you love yourself, you know your wellbeing takes precedence.
3 — I remain vigilant in terms of managing my beliefs because old wounds and limiting beliefs are always calling us home, especially when life changes, or we change, or we’re living in uncertainly, and we crave safety. We reach for those old ways of being and thinking because they’re familiar. But we must resist. For example, when I learned that all my in-person book tour events were cancelled due to COVID, I immediately reached for the limiting belief that I’m a victim. Here I am excited to launch a book, and I can’t even. That nothing good ever happens to me, like it does to other people. It was a belief and talk track I used to tell myself when I was stuck in love. And it loves to resurface whenever I feel deeply disappointed. I give it air for a day — because we have to acknowledge our feelings in order to deal with and then dismiss them — and then I swat it away. I also remember: It’s okay. I’ll have a virtual book tour and, sure, it won’t be the same. But it will be just as powerful!
4 — I journal because I’m a writer and that feels good for me. Although there is a great deal of research that supports journaling as a form of self-reflection, meditation, and personal growth. If I am struggling with a problem or feeling challenged by a situation, I will wake up early and journal for 20 minutes around it for several days in a row. That always helps me to find the perspective I need to move forward — the stuff I can’t always access consciously, but I know is in there, if I just dig around for it. Journaling allows me to get the low-hanging fruit of the day out of my mind, so I can get deeper into my subconscious and mine it for insights.
5 — I let go. I have learned over the years, especially since I started giving talks and writing books on the subject, that holding on to that which no longer serves is not an act of Big Wild Love. Whenever I find myself grappling with a situation I don’t want to be in, I remember to let go. I immediately put myself into my own six-step process, which I outline in my book. It works every single time.
For example, last year I let go of my full-time corporate job after being there for 10 years because I simply couldn’t keep up with it and a growing side hustle to help people to let go. I had also outgrown the job, so I knew it was time for me to move on and pursue my purpose, which is devoting more time to writing, speaking, and teaching people how to let go for what they want most.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?
I enjoy listening to anything from Cheryl Strayed as “Sugar”, Armchair Expert (because it’s so fun and silly), and the occasional podcast from other people. I don’t really attach to any one particular podcast in general, because I like to hear a wide variety of perspectives. For that reason, I don’t attach to any one voice. This is a leftover from my training and work as a journalist — I believe you need to hear from a lot of different people in order to formulate your own point of view. I kind of live by that sentiment.
As far as who I follow for self-help and intimacy subjects, in addition to Sugar, I love Mel Robbins. Her work, approach, and wisdom resonate with me in a deep way. I also connect to her from a personality perspective. We both have what I called “The Big” (aka, big personality). She feels like an old friend. I very much appreciate her vulnerability — it makes me trust her. She’s just a real person, trying to get through the day like the rest of us, who’s picked up some very helpful stuff along the way. And she’s sharing. Same with Brene Brown. I think we live in an age where we’re craving that authenticity and connection. We want our role models, mentors, and teachers to be human, like us.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…
Well, first of all, that’s lovely. So, thank you.
And secondly, I’d like to think that I’ve already begun doing that with my talk and my book in inspiring people to let go of that which no longer serves them. And, actually giving them a process for doing it! The coveted “how.” That’s the movement — the movement to LET GO. And, not least importantly, to cultivate the Big Wild Love to create a life they can love — and, not least important, so they don’t take any you-know-what from anybody. Because when we’re big wild loving, we aren’t just taking good care of ourselves, we’re fully present to give back to others. We’re always coming from a place of abundance instead of scarcity.
I’m excited to keep doing this work, helping women value themselves first and most, so they’re most inclined to take the risks that are inherent in releasing what they don’t want, in order to free up space for what they do.
I want them to have the courage and confidence Big Wild Love gives them to be bold with their lives, and never settle. Because they deserve the best. We all do. Because again, it’s only when we let go that we can realize the possibilities.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
Well, that’s an easy one: “If there’s something you want to do, don’t wait. Instead, make a plan and act. Let go for it.” This is how I end my TEDx Talk and I speak it whenever I need to remind myself and others that time is not ours to waste.
Whenever someone comes to me struggling in a situation they don’t want, afraid to create change for fear of what other people will think, or asking whether I think they should take a chance on themselves and finally go for that thing they’ve always wanted to do or be, I ask them: If not now, when?
Listen, life is too short and too long to keep ourselves tied to anything that is not meeting our needs or our objectives. The key is to let go in a way that has you always cognizant of what you’re letting go for. Which is Big Wild Love first. Because it will always keep you honest, in terms of acting on your own best interests … time and time again. It will inspire you to let go whenever you find yourself stuck where you don’t want to be, or questioning whether to take a chance on yourself. You’ll instinctively know what to do and how — if you read my book — which is to take your graceful exit, wish whatever and whomever you’re letting go of well, and keep on trucking.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!