Let me take you back to the summer of 1998: Two of my cousins had come to stay for a few weeks and we spent our days playing Goldeneye on my cousin’s Nintendo 64 (no weapons, “slaps” only) that he had packed along with him. My stepfather had also made one of his regular trips to Eastern Market in Detroit, so our garage fridge was filled with meat (I promise this is going somewhere).
Being teenagers with no culinary skills who were left to feed ourselves while my parents were at work meant that I had to rely on what I knew – I could make eggs, and I could overcook a steak. Growing up in the Midwest I was definitely a meat and potatoes girl, but in this case, I was a meat and eggs girl.
Fast forward a few decades, I have grown to love a good tender steak and exploring the best steakhouses in town. That is until Lent rolls into town. During Lent, like most that celebrate it, my family and I give up certain things individually but also collectively. Collectively, we stop eating meat and drinking alcohol (the adults of course – the children know better). My husband gives up Starbucks (those who know us know this is a HUGE sacrifice for him) and I turn in the password to my Amazon account, an equally hard sacrifice for me.
“Giving up” had become the norm in our house – until recently.
A few years ago, I had a conversation with someone much wiser than me about Lent. As we were discussing what we had chosen to give up that year, they posed this question to me: “What if, instead of focusing on what you have given up, you focus on what that has allowed you to lean into?” A spark was lit in that moment.
It’s a common discussion: “What did you give up this year?” or “Have you thought about what you are giving up this year?” but rarely do we focus on what that “giving up” actually makes room for. Giving up meat as family is more than just making a sacrifice – it means we spend more time together meal planning, which turns into family discussions and spending time reconnecting. It allows us to get creative and explore different options around the city that we normally would walk past. My husband also enjoys the money aspect, as we tend to find cheaper options when meat is removed from our diet even for a short period of time.
There’s so much more to the power of giving up.
Giving up the need for acceptance: When we stop trying to be who we think people want us to be, we embrace our true selves. Leaning into Authenticity creates space for us to start creating real and meaningful connections. Sometimes this means letting go of relationships that no longer have room to celebrate the person we are growing to become. Being okay with who we are and letting go of the need for acceptance does exactly what we have been striving for – it puts us in places where we can be seen and heard by those who value us for who we truly are.
Giving up the need for perfection: When we give up trying to be perfect, it allows us to lean into Growth. When we let go of this notion of perfection, it allows us to see the beauty in getting things wrong and trying again. There is no creativity or growth in perfection. Growth is messy and sometimes painful, but at the same time, it’s beautiful and makes us stronger. I often use the story of “The Boy and the Butterfly,” specifically how the butterfly has to go through a painful transformation to have the strength to fly. Letting go of perfection allows us to step out of our comfort zone and grow in ways we could never imagine. I didn’t get things right in my 20s, but it's exactly what led me to this place I stand today.
Giving up the need to do it all: “Hustle Culture” is still alive and well, but imagine what you could accomplish if you gave up the need to do it all. Getting still and focused allows us to lean into Possibilities. When we go-go-go all the time, we don’t have time to focus on what is right in front of us. We often confuse what is truly priority with urgency – which is not the same thing (sorry Merriam-Webster). When we are training clinicians, we tell them that they can’t be everyone’s therapists, and encourage them to get clear on what work in therapy they are both skilled at, and also on what work they love, and to focus there. When we let go of the need to “do it all and be it all,” we get to just be. Be who we are today, be who have always dreamed of becoming, and focus on what is truly important. Achievements mean nothing if we just keep moving on to the next thing hoping the next thing will be the one. Sitting in stillness allows us to explore all the possibilities with what we have right in front of us.
I gave up trying to be a friend to everyone, and I leaned into those who embraced and celebrated all parts of me – including accepting that I won’t answer my phone after 9 pm and will take two days to return that text that I answered in my head, but those that truly know and appreciate me also feel free to call at 6 am, because they know at 6 am I got you!
I gave up trying to be the textbook-perfect therapist with a huge following and alphabet soup behind my name, and I leaned into leveraging the power of connection and collaboration to be authentic to the work I do and love.
I gave up perfection to lean into the art of being me – someone who is perfectly imperfect and okay with leaning into the power that comes with giving up to make room for what is right and just.
What do you need to give up today to be more aligned with who you are truly meant to be?