The Courage to Let Go (Tough Love/Part 2)

“It takes more courage to reveal insecurities than to hide them, more strength to relate to people than to dominate them, more ‘manhood’ to abide by thought-out principles rather than blind reflex.  Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles and an immature mind.” – Alex Karras, a former football player and actor.

Imagining being linked arm-in-arm with my carefully grown circle of those who love and respect me, I am stepping it up in courage and saying one of the biggest “Nos” of my life.

In this big leap into the unknown of creating a new boundary of self-respect and love, I consistently and fervently visualize this strong team of competent and secure people beside me, tightly connected, in honor of growth. 

 At the same time, I am intentionally building an inner fortress, freeing myself to live at higher levels of authenticity, joy and freedom.   A fortress, according to one definition at, is “any place of exceptional security; a stronghold.” 

Often a nurturer who provides a shoulder to cry on or a safe place to land for others, I also am becoming a force to be reckoned with.  Take advantage of my goodness and generosity or deceive me in any way and you are out.  Door closed. 

A new stake in my mind has been placed, a boundary no one can cross.  Before acquiescing to anyone or anything, I stop, pause and ask:  “How does this serve me or others at my highest levels of integrity?” 

While it may look like I am detaching temporarily from a few people who hurt me, on a grander scale I am letting go of a behavior that no longer serves me.  Conditioned as a young girl to take care of others at the expense of myself, I have long assumed too many responsibilities.  Thinking I was “protecting” others, I served as an enabler and rescuer, letting some people use me for their good without any concern for my needs or well-being.  Learning to take beyond simply receiving is a new journey for me, and many other caregivers I know.

I am giving myself the same compassion I teach my clients to embrace when they see a behavior about themselves that they do not like.  I also have created periods of quiet to grieve the hurtful ways I allowed others to treat me, thinking their happiness and ease in life was more important than my own.  Even the Bible says “Love your neighbor AS thyself,” not more than, or instead of, yourself.

This over-responsible behavior, in the DNA of my hands (check out this powerful, scientific work with leading- edge coach Linda Salazar at  has been so hard-wired into how I have functioned in the world, and with those who I have loved, that letting it go has been both terrifying and exhilarating.  Nights of terror sobbing into my pillow have been greeted by mornings of increasing lightness and a greater sense of well-being.

Each brave step forward of saying “No” is causing noticeable shifts in me, where friends and colleagues have recently commented on my new aura of grace.  A few weeks back they were sensing my stress, asking if something was wrong.  Some heard me cry from that deep place within where I felt in every cell of my body that I was being torn apart in pain.

“Hitting a wall,” when I felt I had no resources left, I came to this divine place of self-preservation where it no longer mattered what anyone thought of me.  My sense of worth, whether or not I had a damn thing to give anybody, had to be claimed.

We all have stories or behaviors from early life conditioned into how we express ourselves as adults.  Some people live in relationships numb, afraid to embrace conflict, thinking expressing appropriate anger will damage them.  In truth, telling someone when they hurt us can be healing and deepen a relationship, not make it go away as those with abandonment wounds sometimes fear in speaking up. 

And, if someone leaves us because we express a hurt or need, he or she was not mature enough to be in be in a healthy, long-term relationship with us.  Communicating by listening, negotiating and compromising are part of the glue that holds a relationship together.  Bullying, stonewalling or withdrawing are polar opposite behaviors that destroy relationships.

Releasing people who act disrespectful towards us can be seen as an act of love, for in teaching healthy boundaries we give these others the chance to step into their own personal responsibility.  And for those who we love unconditionally, we can pray that in the right time, they who have hurt us will return to us in new ways.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness.  Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.  Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength.”  –August Wilson, American writer.

Next week’s blog, the final in a 3-part series, Tuesday, March 27th:  “Blind-sided by betrayal into new levels of authenticity.”

(To read Part 1 of the “Tough Love” blog series, which ran last Tuesday, March 6th, click  here:


1.  I allow myself to find the courage to release behaviors or patterns in my life that no longer serve me.

2.  I allow myself to build support within and from a team of competent others to honor me in moving forward in healthier, new ways.

3.  I allow myself to initiate an action or have a conversation with another that brings my life back into integrity.

Beth Shedd’s photo of the substructure of The Eiffel Tower reminds us to focus on the webs of strength and support within and from others when we are most tested.









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  • Grace says:

    Gail – I have always admired you for having the courage, strength and faith to walk through the fire and sit with your deepest fears and feelings. I see you arise from these dark and difficult places with more clarity and compassion for your Self and even more commitment to higher purpose and integrity for all. This helps me trust that I, too, can emerge from my own painful journey with fierce grace, renewed strength, and a healthier balance of giving and receiving….loving and being loved. With Gratitude, Grace

    • Gail says:

      Grace: Thank you for noting the ways you find me courageous. I am grateful that sharing my vulnerable “growth spurts” has inspired you to move forward in your own painful journey with “fierce grace.” I have no doubt by feeling and releasing your pain that you will emerge with that greater sense of loving and being loved in healthier, more balanced ways. Wishing you much love, compassion, gentleness and support as you let go and integrate the new. Anticipating much lightness for you, Gail

  • Cynthia says:


    Beautifully written and profound.

    • Gail says:

      I am touched by your very kind words, Cindy. One never knows how he or she will be received as writer–especially when talking of “pain.” Looking forward to sharing the resulting joys, too. Gail

  • Jennifer says:

    This lesson is as important in business as it is in the rest of life. It’s easy to take on more responsibility for others in the workplace than you should. When it’s your boss, it can be especially hard to say no. With peers, we feel pressure to be team players even when someone else isn’t pulling their weight. If it’s your own business, you may feel that you can’t afford to lose the customer. But when you let go of these “relationships” or put up boundaries, you will find that you actually do better work and get further ahead.

    • Gail says:

      Great points, Jen, in “letting go” of super-responsibility (or overcompensating) in work and business relationships as well. Thanks also for your insight on how setting boundaries helps us improve our work, and often achieve greater success.

  • Flo G. says:

    Letting go of being over responsible & turning equal attention to your own needs & WANTS (you mean I can have wants too? )is so terrifying because it is such a major identity shift…. from “I am someone who cares for others” (and get my sense of self worth from that) to “I care for myself (too). It’s totally OK to take care of my own needs and wants first.” Boy that’s really pushing it.
    Saying NO is not only an act of courage, it’s an act of defiance against the status quo, my old programming, what people expect of me. What is being torn apart at a cellular level is the old identity to make room for a fuller truer identity, like a snake shedding its old skin to become bigger.
    Self worth is NOT dependent on how much I give. Self worth is my birthright because I dare to take up space on the planet and breathe air!
    Releasing people who are dysfunctional, disrespectful is an act of love towards oneself. I will not live with/around toxic people. I have too much respect & regard for myself & my health. It’s just not OK to treat me this way, whether parent, child, partner, ex. Loving unconditionally does NOT mean putting up with bad behavior or abuse.

    • Gail says:

      Flo: Thanks for your eloquent elaboration on my thoughts (and vulnerability) around releasing being “over-responsible.” As a teacher of worthiness, (my most powerful and transformative workshop is “CLAIMING YOU ARE ENOUGH”–teaching it again this Tuesday, 3/27 in Danvers) I particularly like your line, “Self-worth is NOT dependent on how much I give. Self-worth is my birthright because I dare to take up space on the planet and breathe air!” Being called to experience another round of this healing at a deep cellular level as you noted, I appreciate your analogy to a snake shedding its old skin to become bigger. We all have an innate bigness, a unique reason for being, that is ours alone and not contingent upon someone else’s needs or approval. With gratitude for your valuable insights…and encouragement. “YOU GO GIRL” is such a welcoming invitation to step into one’s own bigness.

  • MaryAnn says:

    I am so happy that you share your writing life with me! Your message is always so straight to the point, poignant and touches my heart and soul. I am reminded of a Yoga class of long ago…I think you were there – when just letting go a breath seemed difficult. It is so encouraging to know that with every letting go breath we get closer to our true selves and even more able to share ourselves with the world. Thank you.

    • Gail says:


      And I am so happy you enjoy the sharing of my writing. Thanks for reminding me how far we’ve come in “letting go”–from a breath, to a behavior or pattern that no longer serves us, to toxic relationships or environments. We’ve both come so far–as healers, leaders, single mothers and SPEAKERS (you will be GREAT at your next event). Lots to celebrate. Many blessings to you.

  • Patty says:

    This is a blog you can’t just read. You need to read it and sit and think about it. The first questions I asked were, “Who are my true friends?” and “Are these relationships genuine?” How often have I heard, “I’ve been meaning to call, but have been really busy”. Really, “Who isn’t busy?” If you really needed that person for support, would he/she be there willing to help? Then there are the takers, that expect you to drop everything for them, but when you need help they are too busy. “Reciprocation” is my new favorite word. My closest friendships are with my childhood friends and reciprocation is something they understand. During a recent illness, the most common comment I received from friends was, “Consider yourself lucky it isn’t cancer”…end of discussion. It is the typical statement and allows the responder to move on and not focus on the situation.It is time to find friendships that have the right balance!

    • Gail says:

      Patty: Thanks for sharing your thoughts on ‘reciprocity’ and really, truly authentically paying attention to those we care about. It takes some thoughtfulness, kindness, and stepping out of our own egos to “be there” for others. Sometimes, it isn’t until a crisis hits, like with your recent health challenge, that we learn to be more discerning. That old saying, “the more, the merrier” is not always true. A few close people who can be relied is often more fulfilling than several acquaintances. I hope in going forward that you experience much more support, RECEIVE it in, for all you give to others.

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