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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