The power of letting go

Walking away from a decade-long relationship in her early forties, Jill Sherer Murray learned that the biggest love story we ever have is with ourselves

She let go of a love that wasn’t working. She moved across America, from Chicago to an artists’ community on the East Coast. She changed her life without knowing what was ahead. In being open to change, Jill Sherer Murray created a world of possibilities. She has since presented a TEDx talk that has earned over 2.5 million views, become an award-winning journalist and published her first book: Big Wild Love: The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go.

‘Big Wild Love is not love with another person, but self-love with intention,’ she says. ‘The kind that gives us the courage, confidence and sense of safety we need to take the risks inherent in letting go. When we’re standing at the edge of the cliff, peering over the edge to see if there’s a net, Big Wild Love reminds us that we are the net.’

Sherer Murray told us how changes in her life forced her to look in the mirror and ask hard questions. Answering those questions allowed her to understand and love herself enough to be bold: ‘I no longer sleep through my epiphanies, or make choices on autopilot. I don’t ignore my instincts, or let other people define me, or decide what I have and what I don’t. I no longer fear change. I embrace it.’ She has now been happily married to her husband Dan for fourteen years.

Can you identify the point at which you decided to make a change?

I was in my thirties, dating a wonderful man I deeply loved, but who didn’t want to marry me. I knew in my heart that he wouldn’t change his mind, but spent over a decade hoping for it anyway.

It wasn’t until we were together for twelve years, when he failed to turn up to a house viewing we had planned, that I finally allowed myself to see the truth. It was a moment that brought me to my knees.

Had I not been ready to embrace change and let go of the relationship, I might have pushed it under the rug or convinced myself to ignore it. Our epiphanies push us to the mirror, forcing hard questions and answers. Do we want to keep holding on; knowing that if we do, we’ll always have what we have, nothing more and nothing less? Or do we take a big breath and let go?

Why do we find change hard?

We fear risk and loss. Fear means we don’t have internal grounding, so we go back into the house. The house isn’t awesome, but we know it and it’s safe. Since we are hardwired for safety, that’s okay with us. Until it isn’t. Again. And again. And sometimes again.

Sometimes I talk about change as being stuck on a windowsill. You’ve got one foot inside and one outside, and it is uncomfortable. You have a choice: put the other foot in the house or get out. Go in the house, and you’re right back in the limitations. There’s nothing freeing about that: you’re drawing walls around what’s possible. But if you push yourself outside, what’s possible is endless.

How does change make you feel?

Terrified. Exhilarated. Hopeful. Proud. Confused. Curious. Sometimes panicked. Change conjures up a kaleidoscope of feelings. And that’s appropriate. If you do something that changes your landscape and don’t have any feeling about it, you’re just moving numbly through life. Or repressing your feelings because they’re too painful – burying them so deep that you need a surgeon to get at them. If you create change on the outside, without creating change inside, that change won’t last or have the effect you want it to.

I knew I needed to let go of what was no longer right for me, and any expectations that what came next was going to be easy. I prepared myself for the highs and lows, especially since I was starting over at forty-one. I was older than the last time I’d been on the dating scene and had limiting beliefs to contend with. I had to do the hard work to cull those limiting beliefs, so I was empowered to get what I wanted.

What has been the hardest thing?

Letting go of someone who was truly good. Hector had an enormous heart and did the very best he could for me. I always knew he cared and that he loved me. He just couldn’t go the whole distance. It was hard to drive away from him. But in the spirit of ‘him or me’, I had to choose me. Big Wild Love is about choosing ourselves – not in a selfish way, but in a self-loving way. I knew that if I didn’t give myself a shot at finding a partner who wanted all that I wanted – including love and marriage – I’d be on my deathbed with a lot of regret. And so I bet on myself.

What is the best advice for facing change?

Look inward first. Prepare yourself for it, as if you were training for a marathon. You need to consider who you are, what you want, what you need to do to get there, and how you’ll push through the difficult moments. Two acts – love yourself and let go – have never failed me when it comes to creating positive change. I reach for them almost reflexively whenever I get that itch that something needs to shift. It’s a powerhouse. • Big Wild Love: The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go (She Writes Press, £12.99)

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