Chapter 2: Let it go, let it go.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”
Isiah 43:18 (NKJV)
Question….did you start singing your best Elsa voice when you read the title of this chapter? It can be a rhetorical question because I 100% know that you did….just like I did in my head the vast majority of the time I spent righting this chapter. And just in case you’ve been living in a hole since 2013, I’m referencing a song in the Disney film Frozen…but again, let’s not pretend you didn’t already know that.
While it’s one of mine and my daughters favorite Disney tunes that will easily get stuck in your head for a week, it also has a pretty good message that applies perfectly to this chapter of the book.
Elsa’s problem had always been how concerned she was that everyone would find out what she was. What she had done. She was focused on concealing everything from everyone for fear of what they may think or say about her. She put on a front and felt like she had to act a certain way. She didn’t want anyone to see the real her or know about her past or abilities. She was insecure and scared and embarrassed and simply wanted to keep it all hidden away inside. Because of that, she felt alone and isolated.
Fear has a pretty amazing ability to do that you know. Make you feel insecure and terrified and alone. Make you feel like you are the worst person for whatever it is that you are agonizing over and that everyone would be ashamed of you if they knew about it.
But as the song goes on and Elsa’s true self is reveled to everyone, something incredible happens. She finally feels the freedom of letting go of the past and her fears and insecurities about who she is and what she has done. She finally experiences true freedom and stops caring about what everyone else around her thinks or says about her. She realizes in that moment how powerful she really is. My absolute favorite part of the song is this:
It's funny how some distance makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can't get to me at all
It's time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
Can I get an amen please? Who knew there could be such profound wisdom in a Disney song? But seriously, this sums it up. If we can allow ourselves to step out of things in the past…move past mistakes we’ve made, regrets we have, things that are holding us back or our fear of what others will think of us, then you can really step out and be unstoppable.
Letting go of the past can sometimes be easier said than done. It’s easy to feel like our past defines us. That the things we did yesterday dictate the way tomorrow will go. And while yes, of course, your actions have consequences, that doesn’t mean that your past mistakes have control over you or your future. Sometimes our past serves as a learning experience that we can use to do better next time. And sometimes it just serves as a moment where you ask yourself “what were you thinking?,” laugh about it, and move on and put it behind you.
I wanted to start this book with the topic of working on your ability to let go of things. I think that we first have to be in the right state of mind in order to begin to identify and see those unicorn traits and abilities that are inside of us. We first have to let go of the things that might be holding us back or causing us fear. The things that have happened in the past that are convincing us that we are unworthy or unlovable. That we can never be enough. That we can never attain the goal. Or accomplish the task. The things that keep us feeling stuck and trapped and judged.
Let me give you an example in the form of a personal story of mine that should give you a good laugh.
It’s 2004 and I’m a 21 year old college Junior. It was a Thursday night and my best friend Kim and I were heading up to the Jolly fox, a local bar/dance hall, for a night of fun. We got there early and took two seats at the bar as we had a friend bartending that night. I can vividly remember telling my friend Kim “I’m gonna find someone tonight.” I was on the prowl. Single and ready to mingle.
We had positioned ourselves in such a way that we could easily see each person as they started steadily flowing in the doors that night. As I sipped my drink I eyed each and every guy that made his way through the door. About an hour or so in, a group of a few guys walked in and I immediately said to my friend, “check out that guy” as I pointed towards a tall dark headed guy walking in the middle of the group. He was super cute. They headed our direction and sat at a table directly behind us.
“I’m going to introduce myself,” I said to her. Then I decided to wait it out a bit and build up a little more liquid courage if you know what I mean. About thirty minutes later I took a deep breath, smoothed my hair, asked my friend for probably the tenth time how I looked, and then got up from my seat, turned and headed straight to the table behind me. I walked right up to him in the middle of that table of strange guys, stuck out my hand as if to shake his, and said, “Hi, my name is Penny.” So smooth right? We started chatting and spent the rest of the night hanging out and dancing.
The next day when I woke up I was sitting in my living room with Kim and couldn’t for the life of me even remember what he looked like. I remember asking her if he was cute. Turns out I wasn’t the only one with a foggy memory, as she couldn’t quite recall if he was actually attractive or if perhaps the liquid courage had gotten the best of me. Super classy, I know.
The only thing I could recall is that he had two gash marks in his eyebrow. Like 2 lines shaved in his eyebrow. What in the world was up with that? I decided to blame the fact that I couldn’t remember much about him or the evening on the fact that it must have just not been that memorable….not that the southern comfort (now I’m dating myself because who even drinks that anymore???) had anything to do with it. We exchanged a few texts back and forth over the next couple of weeks but nothing ever came of it and I didn’t give it much thought after that.
Fast forward a few weeks.
My best friend Kim and I were at the Jolly Fox. I was on the prowl. Single and ready to mingle. Sound familiar? It was packed that night, people everywhere and barely any room to move around. As I was leaning against the bar talking with Kim I looked over and noticed a super cute guy standing with a group of people not far from us. “I’m gonna go introduce myself to that guy,” I told Kim. I quickly downed my drink and headed over. As I walked up to him I stuck out my hand and said “Hi, my name is Penny.” I mean I had some serious game right? (face palm emoji)
After I said it he looked at me with a weird look on his face and didn’t really say anything. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. In my head I was like “hello did you hear me, my name is Penny!” And then he turned his phone around to face me so I could read the screen. It was a text conversation between him and I…several texts. And he goes “yeah I know.” Oh dear lord. It was the same guy! (insert all of the most embarrassing emojis you can find here).
And somehow, clearly only by the grace of God, I married that guy 7 years later.
I thought it was fitting to open up with that story for a couple of reasons. First off, to give you a good laugh. I used to hate when people would ask me how Bryan and I met. In the beginning I would never even tell the story, I would just mumble something about meeting in college. Because seriously, how embarrassing is that? What does that say about me as a person? That I drank so much one night that I couldn’t even remember what someone I met looked like? Or that I was a floozy out there hitting on guys every week at the bar?
After a few years of being married I started to tell the story occasionally and people would think it was the most hilarious thing ever. And that’s when I realized a couple things. First, your past doesn’t define you. I realize that this example is a pretty funny one, but the moral of the story is the same. We have all done things that we may not be super proud of. We have all made mistakes. We have all failed at something at some point in time in the past. We all have regrets. We all have situations that if faced with the same scenario again we might do things differently. But here’s the thing. Those are all learning experiences and part of life. Things that we might be able to learn something from to help us move forward better than before. But they aren’t meant to be something that weighs us down. That makes us live in embarrassment or shame or fear. They aren’t meant to hold us back or fill us with feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy.
When I started writing this book, this story instantly came to mind as one to share. I mean….it’s pretty freaking funny right? But I struggled so much for so long about it. I was so focused on how it made me look and what people would think. I was also focused on the example I wanted to be and that was obviously not a reflection of that example. Is that what I would want my girls to read about when they are older? So was it worth sharing? Was there something good that could come from it other than a good laugh? Could it actually prove beneficial and something that God would want me to share? And the answer I came to was yes.
Because, when I look back on that moment in time I wouldn’t change a single minute of it because if I did, I may not have ever met Bryan and started this beautiful family that we have. That said, there are things I could obviously learn from that situation.
The key here is to focus on two things when you think of a situation, decision or circumstance in your past that is holding you back in some way:
1. Identify if there is something you can learn or takeaway from the situation that will help you moving forward. Is there is something that will help you do better the next time or make a better choice? Be a better example? Sometimes that exists, and sometimes it doesn’t. In either case, the next step is the same.
2. Let it go and move on. Simple as that.
You may have noticed the verse that was at the very beginning of this chapter but in case you missed it I’ll put here again for you.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
Isiah 43:18 (NKJV)
God never intended us to dwell in the past. To wallow in self-pity over mistakes we have made. To relive over and over times of bad judgement or just sheer moments of being an idiot. But we do that all the time don’t we? I know I do. If I start a fight with Bryan over something ridiculous or lose control and go off the rails yelling at my kids at bedtime, I think about it for FOREVER. I run through the scenario over and over again in my head, recalling how poorly I acted. How terrible the things I said were or how bad the look on my face must have been when I was screaming at my kids. It’s like we lay down in front of the bus and then we also drive it back and forth over ourselves again and again, beating ourselves up over the situation.
But I’m here to tell you that God never wanted us to stay focused on those things. Of course he wants us to learn from our mistakes. To try and grow and always do better. But he doesn’t want us keeping our focus there. The point is to learn, grow, and move forward.
So, before you move onto the next chapter of this book I have a call to action for you.
Spend a few minutes, right now, and think about what you may be holding onto from your past. And know this – the past could be 20 minutes ago or 20 years ago. Doesn’t matter. What’s something that you are re-living over and over again and feeling ashamed or embarrassed of. What is something that has you convinced you are a failure, or you can’t do something? It might take you more than a few minutes here but be patient and identify it.
It might take some soul searching or it might be readily obvious. But once you find it, I would encourage you to give it up. To recognize it for what it is, something in the past. Something that may not have gone the way you would have liked it to, but it’s over and done with. Now go back to the above two points I made of how to handle those past issues.
1. Identify if there is something to learn and take away from it to help you grow. (writing this part down can be incredibly helpful and therapeutic….at least it is for me).
2. Let it go and move on.
And I’ll add one more here. Give it to God. Ask him to take whatever that thing is off of your shoulders. Ask him to help you to learn from it but let it go and move forward. Ask him to help you do what he instructed you to do which is not dwell on things of the past.
Take a deep breath and just hand it over. Picture his outstretched hands in front of you waiting for you to pass it over. To give it up. To lift the weight from yourself. Take a deep breath and exhale your past. Exhale your pain or hurt or betrayal. Exhale the guilt or shame or judgement. Exhale what’s holding you back and keeping you down. Breathe it out. Because once you do that, it allows you to inhale what God has for you. Inhale your strengths. Inhale your talents and gifts and uniqueness. Inhale the plan and purpose he has for your life because when you exhale the past regrets, it gives the ability to see his plan, breath it in, and start living it….but only once you exhale the past and let it go.
And when you do that, let the feeling of freedom rush over you for a minute. Sit and stay in that moment of feeling him take that burden and remove it from you. Picture him telling you that it’s ok. That you don’t have to carry around those feelings of regret, or failure, or embarrassment and shame. That your human. That we all make mistakes.
The funny thing is, sometimes you don’t realize something is an issue until you try and focus on finding it. You may not realize the impact that something that happened in the past has on you in the present, but many times the impact can be profound.
If you can do the above and identify the things from your past that your holding onto, learn from them and let go of them by giving them up to God to carry, then you’ve taken the first step on the path to being open to identifying the unicorn abilities and strengths inside of you.
You’re at the start of an amazing journey of self discovery, self reflection, and self realization. And it’s exciting. If you work to let go of what’s holding you back, and instead use that energy to focus on finding the things that you do well and excel at it’s like nothing else. That’s when you start to identify the purpose for your life. Identify the things that God gifted you with to use for a greater purpose. To fulfill the plan for your life while being a reflection of him and the gifts he has given you. To be a light in a dark world. To be a unicorn.