Mastering the Fine Art of Letting Go

I’m starting to realize that a lot of my anxiety about what to do next with my life is rooted in the fear of being outside of the “circle.” I seem to have an intense fear that I won’t be able to get another law firm job or work in BIGlaw and that keeps me here. Couple that with the sunk costs fallacy and it seems I’m sunk.

Think about that for a moment.

I am afraid to leave a job that is a bad fit because I am afraid that I won’t be able to obtain another such job in the future. Say what now?!

I guess this is classic “Feeling” over “Thinking” at work. Fortunately, over the years I have learned to speak to myself in words I can understand, e.g., “Hey, think about how you’re depriving the person who would actually be a good fit from getting this opportunity.” (See guilt I get more clearly than reason.)

I claim that I’m having some kind of existential crisis. In reality, I am having a real crisis letting go of the impressive, focused, goal-oriented, successful image that I built up for myself. Wait! I guess that is exactly what an existential crisis is. According to Wikipedia it is

The moment at which an individual questions the very foundations of his or her life: whether his or her life has any meaning, purpose or value.

I say that I did this thing or that thing for family, but isn’t it also likely that I did this all for my own sense of self-worth? Because I need to feel put together and responsible and like I have some sense of direction? Because that’s the faulty way in which I have been defining “worth?”

Now some of this is about the cash-money no question. Who is going to keep the lights on while I mess around and “find” my “self?” I can’t move in with my parents when I am concerned I may need to move one of my parents in with me. So the money matters, but not nearly as much as one might think. But it glitters like gold and distracts me. It isn’t gold, though.

But what else is this about?

Why does someone who doesn’t even want to do something care so much about not losing the chance to do more of the same?

Is it that I actually do want to do this? If so, why can’t I admit it?

Am I afraid of some sort of loss of identity or relevance?

Why am I job hunting like someone who wants to work for a big law firm? Why am I worried about losing face with my peers?

Maybe we hold on so tightly because we don’t know what it will be like out in the world without.

Words to live by: in order to receive something new, you have got to let go of what you’re holding onto.

You cannot simultaneously keep your grip and open your hands.

And for me maybe that means letting go of the image of myself that I’m trying to project — probably unsuccessfully anyway.

What does this image look like anyway?
Straight hair?
Tailored dresses?

There was a guest post on Zen Habits that said

Define yourself in fluid terms. We are all constantly evolving and growing. Define yourself in terms that can withstand change. Defining yourself by possessions, roles, and relationships breeds attachment because loss entails losing not just what you have, but also who you are.

I have been fantasizing about escaping my image for some time. I stopped straightening my hair for instance. And I have had this bohemian fantasy of myself in a long white linen dress in a wheat field spinning around wild and free.

Maybe that’s a little too far-fetched.  Or maybe it’s OK to dream. I do wonder, though, what I would be open to receiving if I was able to open my hands — to let go.


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