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The Power of Surrendering: Let Go of Control to Be Peaceful and Free

Let Go

“The reality is that tomorrow is most certainly uncertain and no matter how many expectations we form, tomorrow will come, tomorrow will go and it will all be what it will be.” ~Lori Deschene

I have never known how to surrender to just about anything. Surrendering is giving up control, and this is something I have never been good at doing.

From an early age I coped with tension and negativity by trying to will things to be different. This caused me a great deal of anxiety because trying to will anything to go your way is not only exhausting, but also impossible.

My efforts always wound up seeming fruitless, and I often felt that many things were out of my control, starting with my home life.

I am the second of five children, so money was always tight. My mom worked two jobs as a nurse and my dad had his own struggles. The financial strain at home was bad, but the emotional one was much worse.

I wanted so badly for my parents to get along, and yet it seemed to always be out of my control. No matter how much effort I put into not creating waves, nothing helped. I never learned to relax. I felt like if I was constantly on some sort of emotional alert, somehow the blows wouldn’t hurt so much.

That was never the case. Soon it seemed I was anxious even in peaceful moments because I always expected those quiet and happy times to be the calm before the storm.

School did nothing to help my anxiety. I had a close knit group of friends beginning in junior high, most of whom I am still very close to now; however, I never truly felt comfortable in my own skin as an adolescent.

I was a beanpole growing up, but then suddenly my body changed in my early teens, and not in a way that I liked. I noticed how much wider my hips were than my friends’, and how I had to wear a size 14 when everyone else was wearing a size 4.

During this time I made a promise to myself that I would grow up to be much different. One day my life would be mine, and I would be able to control it to be just how I wanted. I would finally surrender to the palpable joy of my wonderful life.

This mindset did nothing to cultivate a healthy young adulthood, though. Instead, it led to bad relationships (the “I can change him” mentality) and an eating disorder (I thought I could control my body, if nothing else).

Time did heal some old wounds, and eventually I stepped away from the bad body image and found myself in a happy, healthy marriage. Yet I found that my anxiety had stuck around. I really thought that once I had a wonderful husband and a great job, all of my worries would be over, that suddenly the anxiety I had growing up would cease to exist.

Why wouldn’t it? Clearly I would have nothing to worry about—except I still find so many things to worry about: My parents getting older, my own finances, my dogs’ health, and even my marriage.

It doesn’t help that I’m a fixer. You have a problem? Give me a few minutes and I can solve it. Can’t find a job? I am your woman. Need psychological help? I will forward you my counselor’s information.

The trouble is, most of the time this is unsolicited, and I find myself trying to fix issues I have absolutely no business fixing. These aren’t my problems and, quite frankly, it is exhausting trying to fix other people’s lives while also finding time for my own issues.

I have a hard time understanding that not involving myself doesn’t mean I don’t care. It means I care enough to believe someone else can solve their problems without me.

I have never enjoyed trying to control things. I truly want nothing more in life than to just let go, let things happen for what they are. I have just never been able to loosen my grasp.

The closest I ever came to surrendering myself, mentally and physically, was when I went skydiving. I put my trust and faith (and life) in both the pilot and tandem jumper. I remember the guy I jumped with giving me instructions as we ascended into the sky.

The instruction I remember the most was that under no circumstance should I try and grab onto any part of the plane on my jump out, especially the wing. If I did, not only would I risk getting hurt, but also would risk the lives of everyone in the plane, including my eventual husband.

For a split second I panicked: “What if my inner control freak rears its ugly head and tries to grab ahold of something during the jump?”

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I would not grab onto anything. I didn’t want to get hurt, and I certainly didn’t want to be responsible for hurting anyone else.

And so I jumped. I went free falling out of a plane from 10,000 feet in the air, probably plummeting at about 100 miles per hour.

It was amazing. It was freeing. It was surreal. It was eye opening.

There I was, falling from the sky without the ability of manipulating anything in my favor. For once, I had absolutely no control of an outcome. I had to accept that, put my faith in someone else for a brief moment, and just let the chips fall where they may.

It took jumping out of a plane for me to get it, but at that moment I finally felt how freeing it is to let go and surrender control.

I used to hate people telling me things would be okay. At my lowest and saddest points it seemed like things wouldn’t be okay because I was unable to control any outcome.

I once had a boyfriend who told me this, even as I sobbed on his porch about how horrible my life was. I asked him how he knew that things would be okay. He didn’t have an answer. I was angry that he would tell me things would turn out all right when he could make no guarantee that they would.

Looking back on that day, I realize now how unrealistic it is to expect any guarantee you that your future turns out all right. Life makes no promises and is not obligated to guarantee anything. The way things are doesn’t always follow what we want.

I have spent many of my happiest days clouded by anxiety because I’ve been simultaneously waiting for the other shoe to drop. I need to re-learn the simplest things, like how to just enjoy a moment for what it is without worrying about some impending doom.

I need to allow myself to trust more instead of panicking about everything that could go wrong. It won’t be easy, and it will probably make jumping out of a plane seem like a piece of cake. But just like with the wing of the plane, I need to allow myself the freedom from constantly grabbing for safety.

I once sang The Beatles’ “Let it Be” to audition for a high school play. I read that Paul McCartney wrote it after having a dream in which his late mother came to him during a difficult time in his life. She told him to let things be and that they would all turn out okay in the end.

A simple song has helped me scratch the surface and realize profound beauty in just letting things be what they are.

It is through letting go that I can finally bid farewell to my anxiety and learn to see this life in a new light, one that isn’t controlled. It will be a life in which I allow things to happen as they do and land just where they are meant to land. It will be a life in which I finally learn to surrender.

It’s only in surrendering that we can be peaceful and free.

Photo by Lachian Rogers

Profile photo of Mary Thompson

About Mary Thompson

Mary Thompson lives in the Washington, DC metropolitan area with her husband, their two dogs and a chinchilla. She has her BA in Anthropology from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

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  • littlespawn

    I like this. Insightful post! There is nothing that can be controlled in life, other than one’s mindset. Enjoy the ride~

  • Kyle

    Thank you. Letting go is my ongoing battle as well, I greatly enjoyed the peace.

  • Lisa Agostoni

    I could have written this myself. So spot on. I’m with you, sister.

  • Jackie Paulson

    I love this blog visit daily for inspiration. Keep up the great work, I shared too. Jackie

  • Tara H

    Like others, this hits home for me too. Thanks you for putting words to my inner feelings. To surrendering.

  • Jenny

    How though? How do we accomplish this?

  • Mary Kay

    I saw myself growing up in the same family situation as I read your article. This could be me. I’ll be singing Paul McCartney in my head all day to “let it be…”. Thank you!

  • Emma

    This is me to a T. I have always been a control freak, as people have called me and I suffered with eating disorder as a teenager mainly because it was the only thing I felt I could control. My first relationship was mentally abusive, but I thought I could change him….I am now living in Canada, originally from the UK and am torn between staying here and moving back home because of family…..Scared because I cannot control this….I love family but I love it here and I want both……I need to try and let go and just accept that “whatever will be will be”

  • Mary

    Hi Jenny,

    I wrote this piece and appreciate you asking the question.

    Honestly jumping out of a plane was the first real shake I needed to start to let go of control. I realized when I jumped I had no control over the outcome, but I landed successfully just the same. It was like an awakening – even though I couldn’t manipulate anything in my favor, I still landed on the ground just fine.

    As I mentioned above I have only begun to scratch the surface. Dealing with a lack of control is a challenge for me every day and still causes me to have anxiety. I have to remind myself all of the time to let things go and just be. There are other tools I use since skydiving is not a daily option 🙂 I meditate, I journal, and I force my racing thoughts to stop in their tracks. I have always naturally let my mind go a thousand miles a second when faced with anything negative. Now instead, I tell myself “Ok, what is the worst that will happen? Is this truly life or death?” I am much more mindful of my thoughts now and really think things through before I react. Rather than running from my thoughts, I sit with them and try to understand them. I also see a counselor once a month which is also extremely helpful! I have found that for me it is very important to get objective insight from someone who barely knows me and won’t coddle me and tell me what I want to hear.

    If you are dealing with anxiety and cotrol issues I highly recommend reading another piece from the Tiny Buddha blog (link below). This post by Arielle Baston is very powerful. It is actually how I found the blog 🙂 I was having a meltdown one night and Googled “Why do I choose Anxiety” and found this. I can’t even describe how much it helped because it literally felt like I could have written it myself.

    http://tinybuddha.com/blog/the-gift-of-anxiety-7-ways-to-get-the-message-and-find-peace/

    The progress I have made in the last few months has astounded me.
    I hope this helps answer your question!

    Mary

  • Mary

    Thanks to everyone for your comments- It is always nice to know you are not alone in your struggle 🙂

  • robbi

    That was great Mary. Let’s all let it be as much as possible.

  • Great post. Love this, “It doesn’t help that I’m a fixer. You have a problem? Give me a few minutes and I can solve it. Can’t find a job? I am your woman. Need psychological help? I will forward you my counselor’s information.” Because I am so like this. Now, if I give my hand to {simply} help. I detach from the outcome. And let it be.

    Jumped out of a plane. I am struggling with this, as I keep saying I need to do it. Precisely for the lessons you learned during that experience. Congrats.

    And I often have anxiety about waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like every moment of my life. I am trying through meditation to let it go.

    Thank you for this wonderful post. 🙂

  • C

    i had crippling panic attacks and anxiety growing up beginning at the age of 3. my mom would always say “let it be” to me throughout the years, and it still serves as a reminder. <3

  • C

    I am the same. had an eating disorder around age 17. I am from California but have been living in the UK for over a year now, which has been my dream for ages. I’m loving it here, but I feel I am losing control of things back home. I miss my family so much, and I miss my hometown and friends. I don’t want to lose it. I’m so torn between both.

  • MrsB

    I feel like you stole the feelings right out of my head and wrote an explanatory, helpful story with them. I felt like I was reading my own exact life story, but reading it in someone else’s words was so much more comforting. Thank you for taking the time to do this; I really needed to read this today <3

  • Marsha

    This just explained to me why I worry that my decisions are not the right ones and want to get reassurance from friends that it was right. I can’t prove that any of my decisions will turn out the way I want so I stress out. Thank you for posting this. I will learn to walk away from the worry of a decision I made and let it be.

  • Nicole

    Tears are in my eyes. What a refreshing read. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one when I feel crazy and spiraling.

  • Mary

    Hi again to all who wrote- I am moved by everyone’s comments about anxiety and letting go of control. It is amazing to be able to relate to so many of you: I have always wanted to live abroad like some of you are doing now (some of my most euphoric moments have been while traveling); I have also had some horribly crippling moments of lying in a ball sobbing and shaking at the foot of my stairs from overwhelming panic and anxiety; and I have tried desperately to fix the lives of others.

    I actually wrote some of this blog post as “homework” for my counselor a few months ago. She wanted me to put into words how it feels to surrender. I had a hell of a time coming up with anything at first, but then as soon as I thought about my experience sky diving, it suddenly became so much easier to put my feelings into words.

    I have spent most of my life thinking I was the only person who felt this way. I have often examined the faces of strangers, wondering if their thoughts were racing as much as mine. I have always been in awe of people who have had horrible experiences (suicides of family members, victims of incest, etc) and yet seem to go through life with their heads up… because I could barely cope in my own every day life. I have sometimes described it as having a pilot light in the back of my brain always turned on. Everything was so crippling to me because I was always on alert that something terrible was going to happen if I didn’t gain control of my surroundings right that second. I always looked pretty put together on the outside, but I was crying for help on the inside. Control was everything to me. Hence trying to fix men in bad relationships and the eating disorder. It isn’t easy, but each day that goes by gets easier and easier (probably why I am writing a lot of this response in the past tense, lol. I truly believe in my heart of hearts that one day this will all be in my past).

    The keys for me have been to face my anxiety head on and also reminding myself to take each day as it comes and stop trying so hard to plan ahead for absolutely everything. I have had to make myself pretty uncomfortable and stop avoiding things that cause me some pain, but I will tell you the result has been far more rewarding than any amount of unpleasantness.

    Good luck to all of you struggling with this- I have no doubt that one day you will get passed it 🙂
    Warm regards,
    Mary

  • lilyish

    If I may offer my own experience of how I learned to let go: This summer I was having experiencing crippling anxiety, which I have off and on since I was preteen. my mother, just back from volunteering and studying with a guru in India, stunned me into silence with this thought: “only worry about permanent things. nothing is permanent.”
    “Okay, what’s permanent?” she asked me next. And nothing, not the pain I was feeling, my job struggles, my wedding planning, the toxic friendship i was extricating myself from, and even the great things, like my love for my husband-to-be… none of it was permanent. it will all one day be gone. so, suddenly I realized I couldn’t control it either, and I stopped feeling so crushingly anxious and worried.
    I also found sticking with regular yoga and deep breathing exercises for longer than 2 weeks reduced my anxiety symptoms significantly. I think the most important thing is to TRY. to believe you can and should feel at peace and keep trying to find ways to diminish your anxiety.

  • Cas

    I very nearly thought that I was reading an entry to my own journal. I too have been struggling with anxiety and control since a very young age. It feels like I can’t help it and the people around me don’t understand why. I am working on it daily. I am trying to love myself more and teaching myself that people are responsible for their own lives and I for mine. I am trying to teach myself that it’s ok to relax and give my body some much needed rest. Easier said than done on most days though…

  • Mary

    I concur with your comments! Especially doing things on a regular basis. Congrats on your progress 🙂

  • Thank you

  • gloria

    IM STARTING MY LIFE WITH BABY STEPS FROM RECOVERY. I USE ENJOY ALL THINGS PEOPLE DO MOVIES, DINNER ETC. I LOST SOMEONE I LOVE WHO PASSED AWAY AND RELSPSE . NOW I SEE ALL TIME LOST WITH LOVE ONES I DONT DWELL ON IT JUST SHOW THEM SO MUCH LOVE HUGD IT FEELS GOOD TO BE ALIVE AGSIN THKS GLORIA

  • gloris

    THANK YOU ALL FOR GOOD STORIES IT HELPS ME REALIZE WORRY LESS JUST LIVE LIFE. MSINLY IT FILLS MY HEART WITH HOPE CONFIDECE HAPPINESS AND 1;LOVE

  • jasmine

    This just pulled on my heart strings and I couldn’t help the tears. Thank you for sharing.. love and light 🙂

  • Mel

    HI. I really like this blog a lot. I do have a question though as it seems to keep popping in my head.

    You suggest that you should just let thinks be. You can’t control the outcome of certain things in life and you’re right. However I’m scared that there’s the danger of ending up being too passive. Where do you draw that fine line?.

    I’m sorry maybe my question sounds banal but I’m new to this frame of thought and I have loads of doubts and queries…

  • Mary

    Thanks to everyone for your comments. I have been struggling the last few days with a few things and decided it was time I revisited my own words to remind myself the beauty of letting go of control. Re-reading all of the comments was just what I needed to remember the power of sharing our experiences with each other. Life is such an amazing gift, but it comes with many trials and quite a bit of pain at times. It is during these times I try and focus on the resilience of the human spirit and how we all have each other to lean on in our darkest hours. So my heartfelt thanks once again for your honesty.

  • Leoni Van Leeuwen

    What did you ended up doing? Same situation here (everything) ….

  • Leoni Van Leeuwen

    What did you ended up doing?

  • Aivy Soriano

    I found this article right on time. I was holding on too tightly on a dream. I was given the opportunity but because of the irrational fear of losing it while undergoing the process, I was the one who eventually let it slip through my fingers. I was devastated for months. But now I realized that if something is meant to happen, it will. And yeah, it’s so liberating to finally surrender and just let nature take its course. My faith is restored.

  • Bobby G

    Thank You- this post was great so many parallels for me.
    my favorite quote ” let go or be dragged”