It had started as a rhetorical question.
“What are you willing to give up?” I had asked my students.
“What standard are you holding yourself to that isn’t real or fair or right? Maybe it’s a scale. Maybe it’s the idea of being effortlessly perfect. Maybe it is something else. You have to figure out why it is you don’t feel enough and give that rule up. Because for every day that you don’t feel enough, you really can’t be you. And not being you is the greatest loss of all because we’re all here for a reason. We’re all here on purpose.”
Not long after that, a student shared that she liked to use a measuring tape to gauge her body. Everyday. Compared to the day before. And it broke my heart. And, so, I offered a gentle thought– maybe that measuring tape could be something that she gave up. But I didn’t push it because sometimes we all just need to work through things in our own time. We need to let the idea germinate and see whether or not it takes root for us.
A couple weeks later, that student approached me before class started and handed me a small white circular object. My eyes opened wide, trying to figure out what it was.
“It’s my measuring tape. I am ready to give it up.”
I wanted to hoot and holler. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to make a proclamation. Instead, I just quietly told her how proud I was of her. And slipped it into the side pocket of my school bag.
I thought about that moment a lot over the rest of the semester. But I didn’t look at the measuring tape again until just the other day, when my hands reached into that pocket, looking for a pen, and instead found the round disc.
“What’s this?” I thought.
And then I realized what it was– literally and figuratively. A measuring tape, yes, but more than that, right? A rule. A standard. A soul reducer when the body wouldn’t reduce itself enough.
I was reminded, too, of the question I had asked my students. That rhetorical question, I thought.
What are you willing to give up?
So I am asking it here of all of us today. What belief or practice are you willing to give up in order to quit punishing yourself or rating yourself or diminishing yourself? What practice or viewpoint no longer serves you?
Just for today, I want you to name the thing that no longer serves you– like my student so bravely named her measuring tape. And, in the coming days or weeks- take the time you need, I want you to consider what giving up that thing might be like for you. How might it change your life? How might it allow you to more definitely live your purpose and give your gifts to the world? And I want you to start imagining that the vision can be true. Because here’s the thing. The only way that we can give up that which harms up, that which limits us, is by both imagining that it is possible to give it up and flirting with the life that would come if we didn’t live that way.
What are you ready to give up?
this post was originally published on May 20, 2012