Actress Melissa McCarthy spoke the words, “See you soon…or never again!” in the brilliant Hulu series, “Nine Perfect Strangers,” written by David E. Kelly. When I heard this line in the moment, I laughed. McCarthy’s delivery was spot on—a throwaway line delivered with just the right amount of attitude. It wasn’t until later, upon reflection, I thought to myself, “Wow. There’s a great message in there.”
Are there people or things in our lives that we really need to say good-bye to?
True story. A man was working for a boss who made his life miserable. Over the course of his 10 years on the job, the man went into therapy, where he was asked to explore the depths of his relationships with his father and other dominant male figures in his life. He did this diligently and yet still felt miserable. One day the man decided to leave his therapist and find a new one. At the end of the first session, the new therapist said, “Why don’t you quit your job?” The man did. He found a new job. His life got better.
While life isn’t always that simple, sometimes, quite honestly, it can be. Sometimes it’s about taking a pause and asking yourself, “Who or what doesn’t belong in my life now?”
Here are some tips on how to get rid of who/what you don’t want so that you can get who/what you do want:
• What Doesn’t Bring You Joy?
The pressure to find joy and follow joy and live in joy can be enough to suck the joy right out of your life. While our search for happiness and joy can be rewarding, it can also be unbelievably stressful. According to psychotherapist Dr. Deborah Adamy, “Identifying what you don’t want in your life can lead you to discovering what you do want.” In our interview, Dr. Adamy emphasized the importance of taking the time to stop (or at least pause) to identify the things that don’t make you happy. Some “things” are big—your job, marriage, relationships, friendships. Some are small—your usual workout, that third cup of coffee, even your pillow or mattress.
Ask yourself: What “old things” in my life can I let go of that will open up the opportunity for “new things” to enter?
• Zoom Out
Nope, not that Zoom. We’ve all pretty much exhausted the act of sitting on our computers in Zoom meetings. This “zoom” is all about taking a new perspective. Are you wondering just why things don’t feel right in your life but can’t seem to put a finger on exactly what is going wrong? Sometimes we’re so close to our own lives that we can’t “see” what’s really going on.
“Imagine that you’re looking at yourself from a birds-eye view. See yourself in that meeting or in that marriage and view the scene as if you’re watching a movie.” That’s the advice from Ian Warburg, marriage/family therapist and organizational development expert. In our interview, Warburg emphasized the importance of stepping outside of oneself in order to gain clarity on what’s inside. Once you’ve established this view, you can act as your own life coach.
Ask yourself: Am I in the right place in my life right now?
• Check the Expiration Date!
Don’t you wish that friends or jobs came with an expiration date? That would certainly make life easier. Actually, if you look closely enough, they do. In the process of growing up and into your adult self, you might notice that friends or jobs or marriages that used to be right for you in the past are no longer right for you in the present. You have a choice. You get to choose who you surround yourself with.
By allowing yourself to let go of the people/things that don’t serve you now, you allow for the possibility of new people and things to enter your life.
Ask yourself, “What do I really want?” If you want love and happiness and other good things, then look around you. Are your surrounding yourself with people who are happily showing you love and supporting you on your journey? If so, keep them around! Are there people in your life who are energy vampires? So-called “friends” who are negative, envious or unhealthily competitive? Then say “Good-bye” to them. Let them go. The more you surround yourself with your own support system, the more you will move forward in your life.
• Don’t Repeat. Don’t Repeat.
Sometimes when we let go of someone or something, we experience a void—one that can affect us on a physical, psychological and/or emotional level. In order to feel better, we often race to fill in that void. The problem is that it usually gets filled with the same person/thing (as in, going back to the marriage or job) or something very similar. We tend to gravitate toward the familiar. Here’s the thing. Repeating patterns can cause you the same lack of fulfillment as before. In order to overcome this, take time to live in the void. This is where serious self-reflection comes into play. Examine your feelings. Think about what was wrong in your life so that you can determine what is right.
• Know that “No” is a Complete Sentence
Sometimes it feels just too difficult to fully cut someone or something out of your life, especially if it’s a family member or a job you really need. The next best thing to removing the people/things that don’t serve you is to create boundaries. In an interview with psychotherapist Michelle Chalfant, she states, “Creating boundaries is the key to stepping into your power as a healthy adult.” How can that translate into your life? As host of “The Adult Chair” podcast, Chalfant suggests saying “No” to things that don’t serve you—dinner with the in-laws, extra Zoom meetings, or social events that feel like “shoulds.” Even creating emotional distance can help. Don’t be so readily available to take care of everyone else’s needs before your own.
• Say Good-bye to Guilt
Even when we do finally extricate or distance ourselves from unhealthy relationships, we’re often left with an overwhelming sense of guilt. That guilt might be the result of knowing that the other person is hurting, or because intellectually we rationalize that we “should” stay in the relationship. In either case, remind yourself that it’s healthier to experience guilt than to stay in a toxic or unhealthy relationship. How do you handle the guilt? Sit with it. Accept it. Know that the feeling will pass.
• “See” What You Want
As you let go of what you don’t want, visualize what you do want. Use your imagination to “see” yourself with the love of your life or in your new job. Studies show that visualization is a powerful tool in terms of manifesting your life’s goals. You can use other tools as well—journaling, creating a vision board, or simply sharing your dreams with friends. Take a proactive approach to getting what you want.
One final message…You are the architect of your life! Allow yourself the time and space to rebuild and redecorate as you move forward on your journey. Create the life that’s right for you and fill it with the people and things that will help you experience happiness and find your true self.