I’ve been thinking about the meaning of the phrase “letting yourself go”.
In the context of the working world, being let go means either being fired or laid off. In the world of relationships, letting go of someone means a breakup or a divorce. Sometimes, people are able to transform a romantic relationship into a friendship, or in the case of parents, into an effective co-parenting relationship, but often, the relationship is simply abandoned altogether. In the world of Buddhism, letting go means ridding yourself of attachments that cause suffering.
So what is letting yourself go? Sadly, sometimes it means neglecting and abandoning yourself for either failing to live up to society’s standards— or just getting tired of doing so. I’ve started to suspect that the degree to which we let ourselves go is in direct proportion to the amount of effort required to gain social acceptance by maintaining our public image. Every binge becomes a middle finger to a society that bases its acceptance of us on what we look like, how much we weigh, how much money we have, or who we know.
Nobody is more abused or rejected than celebrities for letting themselves go. There’s a whole industry that revolves around the paparazzi getting photos of them looking less than fabulous. Maybe that’s because it’s their unwritten role to exemplify the current standard of fashion and beauty. They’re set up to be the examples that we are expected to emulate. After spending so much time and money doing so, we expect them to uphold the standard they set. Insanely enough, we are both hateful and grateful to them when they fail. Hateful because we’ve spent so much valuable energy comparing ourselves to them and trying to measure up, and grateful because if even they can’t maintain public perfection, we can’t be expected to, either.
Letting yourself go can also mean relaxing and feeling free to be yourself without worrying about what other people think. Whether that’s bursting into song while in line at the supermarket or just being brave enough to wear mismatched socks, we all need an occasional break from both inner and social censorship. The one thing that all these forms of letting go have in common is that they provide a temporary escape from society’s measure of our worth. The question is how can we escape it more often without neglecting or abandoning ourselves in the process?
I know I get tired of compliments being dependent on how I look, rather than who I am. But I’m also tired of periodically neglecting myself to rebel and having to lose the same ten pounds over and over. I want to be able to care for myself consistently for the right reasons, rather than fear of non-acceptance if I don’t. So I went looking for some alternatives and here are a few ways to let yourself go without having to ingest anything like alcohol, drugs, sugar or fast food to silence your inner critic.