We Have to Let Go of Who We Are to Discover Who We Can Become

“When I let go of who I am, I become what I might be.” ~Lau Tzu

In the spring of last year, a number of events challenged my sense of self and my sense of direction.

In March I realized my tax liability would be much larger than I’d anticipated, effectively depleting my entire savings account. The next month I had my first major surgery, something that terrified me and further burdened me financially.

Less than a month later, while my boyfriend was on a vacation I had to miss because I was recovering, a burglar broke into my apartment and stole everything of significant financial value that I owned.

One month later my grandmother passed away, surrounded by her closest family members. I’d missed the majority of the last decade of her life, but still, I was there.

Never before in my life had I experienced so much loss in one season. It was an overwhelming, emotionally challenging time.

And then, without really understanding my intentions, I tossed another loss onto the heap: I stopped writing every day for this blog, as I’d done previously for almost three years.

A part of me felt this urge to write about the same things over and over. So many times I started blog posts about how I felt uncertain, scared, lost, and sometimes, empty.

I’d write about my inner conflict over living 3,000 miles away from my family, with my boyfriend who’s from California, and how badly I wanted to move home after my grandmother’s death.

I’d write about how directionless I felt, with no desire to make any of the professional choices other bloggers often make—mentoring, coaching, or leading workshops.

I’d write about how ironic it was that so many people emailed me for advice about their lives, when in that moment in time, I had so little clarity about my own.

And then I’d stop. Three or four paragraphs in, I’d shut my computer, realizing I had no endings for those posts, and considering that maybe that was okay.

I was hesitant to believe that—or maybe, more accurately, allow it. I had wrapped my identity up into the idea of daily sharing. It wasn’t just what I did; it felt like who I was.

I was someone who regularly helped people, and this gave me a sense of meaning. The connection and, yes, the praise I received from my regular writing fueled me, motivated me, and in times of trouble, sustained me.

My presence here was the foundation of my life, with all else dancing around it.

Suddenly, I considered that maybe sharing insights every day was preventing me from gaining greater insight.

After nearly three years of mining lessons from my everyday experiences, I considered that maybe I needed to release my grip on my identity to allow myself to transform.

At first this was incredibly hard for me. Every day that went by without a post from me, I felt a sense of guilt and loss.

I thought I was failing you, the community, and I feared I was losing the connection, purpose, and fulfillment I’d enjoyed in abundance before.

I questioned why, after opening up so many times before, I’d shut down right when I had so many emotions and questions to explore.

But that was it, really. Somewhere inside me, I didn’t want to share it. I didn’t yet understand any of it. Instinctively, I just knew I needed time and space to explore it on my own.

So I did. Instead of writing as much as I previously had, I focused on working with other writers to help them share their stories—which was, in fact, my original intention when I started this site.

I put my heart into freelance fiction writing for ‘tween girls—something that’s fun and light, and yet equally fulfilling.

I spent time riding my bike at the beach, and I took an acting class.

I visited my family three more times to help with my sister’s wedding.

I took lots of bubble baths, and sat outside doing nothing, and allowed myself to do it all without trying too hard to find meaning and answers.

Instead, I leaned into the questions. I continued writing here, though far less frequently, but it was no longer the center of my life or identity.

It was part of who I was; in the other parts where that identity formerly extended, there was space waiting to be filled.

In time, I started to fill it. I wrote a comedy screenplay with my boyfriend. I worked on a collaborative book project, reinforcing my original intention to focus on community.

And I started planning for a life that would entail far more time with my family. It was that thing I always talked about doing someday—creating a bi-coastal lifestyle. I decided that someday was now.

In two weeks, my boyfriend and I are leaving LA to spend time with both of our families and work on new creative projects together.

I can’t say for certain I know where things are leading, but I know I’m excited for the possibilities.

After months of giving myself permission not to tie things up with a lesson, I now have a few that I feel compelled to share:

When everything falls apart, it’s an opportunity to look within and ascertain how you want to put it back together.

It’s tempting to get caught up in regrets and what ifs, all the things you think should have done to avoid the changes that have shaken you. But sometimes being shaken to the core is a reminder to connect with it—to look within, reprioritize, and move forward with a stronger commitment to honor the things that matter to you.

It’s okay to not know where you’re going.

For some people, direction is a vision, a plan, an exact idea of where they want to go and how. I admire those people, but I’m not one of them. Rarely in my life have I known exactly what would fulfill me in the future.

I’ve learned that that’s okay. As long as we lean into each moment and listen to our intuition, we will eventually discover the next steps that feel right for us.

It’s only in letting go of who you are that you have an opportunity to discover who you can become.

It will never feel safe to shed a role that provides a sense of identity, meaning, and fulfillment. Oftentimes, there’s no reason to do it. But sometimes, we know deep inside there’s something else waiting for us. We just need to be courageous enough to create a little space to discover what it is.

I will always write for Tiny Buddha as I am able and inspired. But I now realize that it’s okay to change, grow, and try new things. In fact, it’s imperative.

Things rarely stay the same in life. When we force ourselves to do that, we feel limited, conflicted, and stuck. The key to freedom is allowing ourselves to crack open and evolve.

Photo by breahn

As a side note: I recently realized a ton of emails have gone into my spam folder, many from the contact form—and prior to this past month, I didn’t check that regularly. If you emailed me and never received a response, please accept my apology! I now check that folder daily to ensure I receive every email that comes to me.

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!
  • Yari

    I have been feeling the same way. For some reason as human beings we allow fear sometimes to get the best of us and get attached to an image of ourselves that feels comfortable in our head and that only prevents us from growing and expanding our minds. Letting go of that Image we hold is a great way to experience life in a happier state. Namaste

  • Fiona C

    Hi lori
    I so get your post. Excellent timing for me personally. Last year was a difficult year for me too and I can so identify with all you have written above.
    Thanks for sharing. It is nice to know that sometimes the people you have great admiration for are human too.
    Good things to you : )

  • Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That’s how the light gets in
    – Leonard Cohen

    Thanks for reminding us all about the light, Lori.

  • Nalicia

    This couldn’t have arrived on a more auspicious day.I can completely relate to this post. Interestingly enough, yesterday was my breaking point, the day inner change finally began after a year and a half of struggling against the forward motion of life. Let it go, relax, and don’t get so shaken by the storms, roots go deep, and just because you change, doesn’t mean your not you (I write as much for myself as well… maybe a little more). All the best to you and yours. May your journey be ever filled with love and light.

  • M Sonnier

    This brought tears to my eyes. I was wondering what happened to the Tiny Wisdom posts, and now I know and understand completely.

    I think it’s wonderful that you’re healing and evolving. I’m so sorry about everything that happened to you last year. I admire your strength so much because simply reading about everything you went through back to back to back rattles me. I thought about you a lot around the time you wrote about all of that, and I’m so glad you’re doing better. Time heals everything. 🙂

    And it’s so great to hear about what you’ve been up to aside from running this blog.

    Thank you for sharing these vulnerable and inspiring thoughts. I’m going to pass this post along.

    <33 Madison

  • Lori, that was a tough time you went through. Do they happen because we’re locked into something that has narrowed our vision? I don’t know. Sometimes it takes one event and sometimes it seems like a series of events lead to changes in life. You said: “As long as we lean into each moment and listen to our intuition, we will eventually discover the next steps that feel right for us.” Yes!

    We often need reminders to just listen to ourselves. And listen so deeply that we allow the revelations to create new ventures and adventures. You’re doing that! 🙂 I’m sure we can all learn from this … life evolves. Personally, I’ve been allowing change and free effort like never before. And for those of us that tend to over structure and organize, maybe we can let go a little more and see what unfolds!

  • Claire Gillenson

    Thank you for a lovely, heartfelt and soulful post. Kudos to you for going within and allowing the loss to flow, crack open, and through it make your way back to the light. As a grief coach, one of the things I see often is the “suffering” we engage in unconsciously. We feel like we need to “do time” somehow for what’s gone awry. Light to the reminder that we always have choice to move towards the light.

  • Lori, I wish you the very best in your explorations of your geographically-expanded lifestyle, increased family involvement, and new creative projects. If there’s one thing I know for sure about you, it’s that you make the most of all opportunities for growth, including the challenges you faced last year and the changes you’ve adopted for this year.

    Please be ok with “leaning on” us, your readers, from time to time. We don’t expect perfection of you and we appreciate your humanity, the way you find the light shining within adversity, and your devotion to helping us each find our own light. We all learn more from life’s lessons when we share our trials and our paths of learning with each other. I enjoy reading all your authors here, so even if you are writing less, you are still a guide in the way you select what we might read.

    I look forward to reading about your new directions this year and the ways in which they give you joy and renewal. Rock on!

  • Very inspirational Lori — glad I got my subscription fixed just in time! 🙂
    You write many good ones. Many. The highly personal ones, not surprisingly, are particularly amazing. Thanks for sharing and good luck with all and have fun with the bicoastal stuff. Very cool!

  • So true. Letting go always feels like a risk. My boyfriend likes to say “No risk, no reward.” I think that’s the part we often forget–that there is often reward on the other side of letting go!

  • You’re most welcome, and thank you for thinking highly of me! Good things to you too. 🙂

  • I love that quote. Thank you, and you’re most welcome. 🙂

  • That’s a great reminder–that changing doesn’t mean losing yourself. Thank you so much for the well wishes. I hope your cracking open leads to wonderful new possibilities for growth and joy. 🙂

  • Thanks so much Madison. It was an emotionally loaded year, for sure. (And the end of the year actually brought another tragedy–the loss of my boyfriend’s brother. I haven’t written about it because it’s still so raw for everyone.)

    I know that we are both strong, we can and will lean on each other, and we have a lot to look forward to, individually and together. We’re both excited for our screenplay, and we have an idea for another site that we might launch in the next few months. And of course, we’re both grateful to spend some time with our families. We both believe family is everything, and now we’re going to make that our top priority.

    Thank you again for thinking of me. 🙂

    <3 Lori

  • Thanks Carmelo! I certainly need reminders to listen to myself, and to be patient in accessing my intuition. Sometimes it takes me a while to know what I really want and need. Giving myself permission to not know has been life-changing for me.

  • Thanks so much Claire. I think sometimes it feels tempting to rush to the light and avoid the darkness; other times, it feels tempting to dwell in the darkness. I suspect the healthier choice is taking time to be in it, knowing full well the goal is to eventually move through it.

  • Thanks so much Kate. I want to be able to lean on the community, which is why I’m about to launch forums in a couple of weeks. (I actually intended to launch these in October with a redesign, but the person I hired kept pushing the project back!) I like that this will allow anyone to simply write a sentence or two and engage without having to follow the format of this blog (which is about sharing experiences and lessons learned from them).

    At the time, last year, I just didn’t feel like I had much to say other than “I feel confused. I feel scared. I don’t know what I want.” And at the same time, I was receiving hundreds of posts from other people who had a lot to say–many of whom had never before shared with the community. It just seemed to make sense to share their stories and give myself time and space for more personal reflection–something that felt bizarre after being so public for so long! I hope that going forward, I will share as I feel able and inspired but create a better balance–both in my own life, and with the focus on this blog.

    I really appreciate your kindness, support, and encouragement. You made a difference in my day. 🙂

  • Thank you David! It always feels cathartic to share something personal like this. I’m so grateful to be able to do that–and also grateful to know it makes a positive difference for others.

  • Kathy

    Hi Lori – Glad you are moving forward from such a difficult year, and so sorry to hear about your boyfriend’s brothers death. I’d known from your posts about your grandmother’s death and your surgery, and with everything else on top you must have felt like you were in quicksand. I’ve gotten something out of every post I read last year from you, so I think that maybe writing less helped you not only to have the space you needed to deal with all that was thrown at you, but also to write even more powerfully when you weren’t fighting for words to come. Writing can be like breathing sometimes, but I think of the quote from Hillary Cooper – ‘Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take out breath away.’ I;m sure you’ll enjoy time with your family and a fresh perspective. Thanks for publishing me!

  • Robert Tyszko

    Only the second time reading your blog post…but its great. I too had a crappy 2012, but all of it because of fear and anxiety. Nothing truly bad really happened. I regret that my imagined fears have confined me. I see some space for openings in my future, if I am as brave as you to face them. Please keep writing. You have a talent and a gift.

  • Kris

    Lori, simply amazing, since I started coming to Tiny Buddha I have found so much inspiration and so many times have found a post that is exactly what I was needing at the moment. I actually came to this realization about myself just yesterday. 2012 was a year of great loss for me as well, and I have been struggling to find something to learn from it all. One of the losses was my career as a nurse for the last 25 years. This loss was by choice but a loss none the less, for years it had been sucking the joy out of my life and I knew I had to find another path. I have not worked for the last several months trying to decide what I want to do in the second half of my life and although we are not destitute finances are tight to say the least. I’ve been applying to many different jobs just to bring in a little extra money for the time being with no luck. As I was thinking about my situation I suddenly thought maybe I was given this opportunity to create some desperately needed inner peace and calm, and to restore my strength that had been so depleted by stress over the years. Then I read this post basically saying the same thing, so maybe I’m on the track after all. Thank you

  • Thanks so much Kathy. I appreciate knowing the posts I did share were helpful! And I absolutely love that quote. As for time with my family, I couldn’t be more thrilled to finally make changes to enable that (as well as more time with my boyfriend’s family).

  • Thanks so much Robert. I know what it’s like to get caught up in fears and anxieties. I’m glad that you see space for openings. That’s a great start to creating change. 🙂

  • You’re most welcome Kris! I can imagine it would be challenging to make that decision after 25 years–but I can also imagine how much stress would come with that job. I hope this is the start of a wonderful new phase in your life, with time for reflection, relaxation, and rejuvenation!

  • M Sonnier

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your boyfriend’s brother. That’s awful, and my heart goes out to his family and yours.

    I agree that family is important. As of recently, I’ve been trying to be more involved in the lives of my family members after going through a long period of sort of shutting everyone out. I want to try to stay in touch more than I have been. I’ve been opening up more and embracing opportunities to spend time with them. And all of my relationships have improved as a result of that. It’s like a domino effect. Love, in general, is truly the only thing that really matters. I’ve realized that more than ever in recent months.

    And I’m excited to learn more about your upcoming projects. I’m especially looking forward to the forums you’ve mentioned. 🙂

    I genuinely hope this year is better than last year for you, and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts and lessons. <3

    ~ Madison

  • Thank you for the condolences. I felt kind of weird not writing about it, in a separate post or even with this one. But I really couldn’t find any words about what happened, at least not so soon after. Also, I know my boyfriend plans to write a post about it some time soon, and I thought I would leave that for him alone.

    (Incidentally, my boyfriend is the author of this post:

    That’s wonderful, the domino effect of your relationships improving. 🙂 I’m with you, on love being the most important thing. And I’m also really looking forward to the forums! I think it will be great to be able to just chat with people in the way we can in blog comments.

    Have an awesome weekend!


  • Hi Lori,

    I’m so sorry to hear about all you’ve been through in the past year. Sometimes it’s all we can do to find a quiet space and just be to get through the dark times. I always find it interesting how the dark times are often followed by creativity and a flurry of activity that has a way of propelling us forth. I think Tiny Buddha is a very fertile community apt for growth and endless possibility : ) Shine on!

  • I truly appreciated this post. I come from a Native American back ground and was told at a very young age I would be one others would reach out to and ask for help from. I have indeed been helping others since I was very young – even tried to run from this “destiny” many times – but it is who I am. I have recently with in the past few years come to terms with this and have become a spiritual coach and looked into possibly becoming ordained. – I am glad to read that you found peace in your path and a balance.

  • This post really resonates with me as well Lori and has so much wisdom in it! Especially this line: When everything falls apart, it’s an opportunity to look within and ascertain how you want to put it back together.

    I think we have two choices when going through challenging times. We can get out-challenged and let the circumstances get the better of us – spiraling into our life’s lowest point . Or we can look within, examine ourselves and find the strength to move forward and create the life we want. It’s the best time for inner-reflection and soul-searching and time to connect with who we really are.

    And if you come out living more centered to your true nature, your soul shining through and with more clarity and purpose, then the circumstances and challenges were all worth it. It is in fact an opportunity but I feel it’s in our power to make that choice to treat it as an opportunity for growth and reflection.

    Thank you for writing this post and your continued inspiration – and for inspiring (and editing) other writers like me who have shared our life lessons here with the Tiny Buddha community.

  • Li-ling

    Several years ago, 2007, to be exact, we too went through a harrowing time, extreme work stress, redundancy and a very close, very sudden, young death in our family.
    It really made me reassess our priorities in life and rethink what it was that I really wanted, which essentially came down to living a happy life. I hope that it may give you some consolation that we now live a life that we would have only dreamed about then.
    As you say, very insightfully at the end of your article, that the key is to allow ourselves to evolve, to embrace change. I wish you well on your exciting new journeys, may it be all that you wish and more. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • This is an insightful, thought stimulating article, thanks so much for posting. I think this article makes some really important points about the perils of clinging to the past, and not allowing ourselves the space to grow and flourish. After all … anything that is stifled and restricted becomes repressed and stunted … and the fear we have of change can usually create that. Many thanks Lori 🙂

  • Vesna

    Hi Lori.
    “Its okay to not know where you;re going.” . . . this struck me like thunder on a storm! Not to mention that most of the storms that came my way, were indeed the “storms|” before the “break of day”. What our heart desires if indeed would bring “enrichment” , the universe would provide.. For this am grateful for this moment that I came across your article and the things you have shared.. .

  • Thanks so much Vesna. I have found that as well–that things generally work out, even if not as we planned. Like the Rolling Stones suggested, we may not get what we want, but we often get what we need!

  • Thank you Luna, and you’re most welcome. I can almost feel a literal feeling of restriction when I’m holding myself back. It’s like my body’s telling me, “You need to expand!” I think I’m getting better at listening to and acting on that instinct!

  • Thanks so much Sheila. I see a lot of possibilities here as well, and I’m excited to see explore them! Mostly, I’m psyched about the continued connection in the community. I love that people help each other and engage with so much heart and positive intention. 🙂

  • Thanks so much Trinton. I’m curious about what that was like for you, knowing from a young age that people had that expectation of you. I know you mentioned you tried to “run” from this at times. Are you happy and fulfilled in your choice now?

  • Thanks so much for sharing your experiences–and I am so sorry to hear about your loss. It sounds like you’ve adapted your life to focus on the things that matter the most. I hope to follow your lead!

  • You’re most welcome. Thank you for being part of this community and sharing your experiences and lessons!

    I love what you wrote about living more centered to our true nature. I think we pile layers and layers on top of it over the years, and then, when we’re ready, we start the journey of peeling them away and finding ourselves again.

    I definitely closer to myself these days, and I’m grateful for that!

  • M Sonnier

    I really am sorry. I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose a brother. I can’t help but think of my own brothers—I have two of them.

    It’s always difficult to find words in the midst of loss and tragedy. But when the time is right, whether you write a post or your boyfriend does, I’m sure it will help anyone who’s going through a loss of their own.

    And I like that post you linked to. I think I vaguely remember reading that one before. He’s cute, Lori. 🙂

    I hope you have an awesome weekend as well. Take care. <3


  • I agree–he is kind of cute. 🙂

  • Ru

    Hi Lori, thank you for the post. I wonder if you got into this mode because you have done a such a great job maintaining this website and come out with new articles everyday to help others that it forced to be perpetually in a state of reflection to find lessons, tips from obstacles of other people. It stops you from fully being happy and engaged in other connections in your life.

    To quote one of the tips from one of the articles here, it says whenever you have a moment of feeling conflicted or wronged or depressed, ask yourself “what do you need this moment? what do you want to hear from the other person?” Usually you can answer that and do it for yourself. Then you are fulfilling your own wishes. Maybe if you tried that, it can lead to more answers.

  • Hi Ru,

    You’re most welcome, and thanks so much for this food for thought. I definitely have focused more on lessons from obstacles over the past several years. I remember reading once, many years ago, that people who journal with the intention of identifying lessons tend to be happier than people who journal just to vent, because they’re looking for something to help them in the future as opposed to dwelling on pain in the present.

    I noticed a big shift in my life when I started thinking and writing in this way. I don’t think I felt that looking for lessons prevented me from being happy and engaged in other areas of my life; but I think perhaps sharing those lessons so frequently created some imbalance. Though my posts were short, I actually put a lot of time into writing them–and then with every post, there were comments to respond to, and emails that came in from people wanting advice. Since people often shared stories of tragedy with me (and still do) it was (and can be) emotionally draining at times.

    When I was dealing with so much fear, confusion, and uncertainty last year, I just felt I needed to scale back and figure out what was going on in my head and my heart. Ultimately, I realized sharing less frequently was a wise choice–both for me and the site. When I write less frequently, it allows more space in my life for other projects; also, it allows more space on the site for others, and I love being able to feature stories from so many different people.

    I think I’m actually the one who wrote those questions you wrote at the end of your comment. Thank you for the reminder to fulfill my own wishes. 🙂


  • Hi Lori, great post, it’s true that tough and traumatic situations actually make us grow. Even though it’s hard to see it at the time, it’s a known fact that people who have gone through some sort of hardship are later happier than those that haven’t, and the more hardship we go through the more we grow. It looks like that’s what is happening to you, and I’m wising you the best of luck on your journey of discovery.

  • helen

    Thank you for sharing this. At a crossroads with ex – we’ll either be stuck in conflict & sadness albeit familiar territory & safe/easy, or the awful big ask of loneliness. I can’t tell which path presents the bigger darkness, both require strength & work, neither seem right for us & son. But the one certainty is change. Like you say, it’s ok to not know.

  • Liz Roberts

    I love your honesty and openness Lori! Freedom of choice is truly a blessing and we all have to embrace what it is that resonates with us, or what is starting to come to light. I applaud your being in the moment of your desires for the changes you wish to create! Exciting times 🙂 Light and love, Liz

  • You’re most welcome Helen. I’m glad this was helpful to you. You and your son are in my thoughts!

  • Thanks so much Liz. I feel excited about what’s ahead. 🙂 Love and light back to you!

  • anne copeland

    helen – the adjectives you use to describe where you are are so very familiar to me that i feel compelled to respond to you. whatever you decide to do there will be times when you think “this is too much”. but i will tell you that it took almost three year for my sons other parent and i to work out where we were going. we no longer live together – that is how our story unfolded. whatever you decide is best for you and your son…know that there is an abundance of love and support out there – and in your own inner beauty and knowledge!

    it will all unfold – be true to yourself. and love on your son as much as you can.

    namaste friend! xo

  • Mercedes

    Please don’t abandon tiny buddha 🙂 We’ll miss it! But I guess, if that is the case, we’ll have to adapt to the changes in life and that’s ok:)
    Love, from Uruguay

  • I’m not going to abandon Tiny Buddha! I’ll continue to run the site as I have over the last eight months–with one weekly post from me and all other posts from other contributors. I’m just no longer writing every day, as I did for the firs three years.

  • Thanks so much Marie. Last year felt like a major growth period for me. I felt like a made a lot of progress in connecting with myself and identifying what I want and need. I suspect you’re right, about traumatic situations. They have a way of making us stronger and even proud of ourselves, once we’ve healed and moved forward.

  • Letting go and evolve,that is the mantra…I fully agree.We have to take on the sufferings as opportunities to grow and bring our full potential out that we possess inside us.

  • Maya

    Such a touching story. Thank you so much for sharing it. It is the most confusing a painful times that lead to the most change and growth. About two years ago my husband and I went through a very difficult crisis, which has caused me to question everything that I’ve known. But in the end, I came out of it completely different, and a lot stronger.

    I love how much you explore in your own life and try different things. You are great role model.

  • Thank you so much for reading! I’m glad to hear you came out of that tough time stronger. This discussion reminds me of a quote I recently added to the site: “The pain you feel today will be the strength you’ll feel tomorrow.” It’s so true.

  • CRemoroza

    All my life I’ve been surrounded by surefooted people, thinking that being a thirty-something “nomad” is plain wrong. I’m still having a hard time accepting the idea that it’s all right to not know where I’m headed, but knowing that someone has been down this round before gives me more hope. Thanks for this post.

  • CRemoroza