If you're anything like me, you were raised to "never give up." As a kid and young adult I was encouraged to stick with something, sometimes long past the time I had realized it wasn't the right fit for me. And while it is important to have the ability to see things through when necessary, I feel like most of us have internalized this message of not giving up to the point that it can interfere with our health and well being.
Giving up is often seen as weakness in our society. We are to PERSEVERE. We are to PUSH THROUGH. Anything less is seen as a sign that we aren't strong enough to cope with the demands of life. For many of us this is leading to chronic illness, injury and stress, or more subtly a feeling of general malaise and dissatisfaction with life. We are constantly receiving messages about not giving up. How many movies can you name that have a "not giving up" montage, in which the athlete or performer trains or practices through all sorts of adversity to prove that they are worthy of the final competition or performance?
The problem with the mindset of not giving up is that it encourages strong attachment to outcomes. If we are imbuing every commitment we make with our sense of self, then when things don't go the way we hoped, we feel inadequate. We internalize this sense of failure to the point that it affects everything we do. We start to believe there is something inherently wrong with us, when often the circumstances in the particular situation were out of our control. Ah, that pesky need for control! Not giving up implies that we control outcomes, which can be true on occasion, but in the complexity of real life, most outcomes depend on multiple factors, most or many of which are completely out of our control (whether or not we are willing to face that fact).
Non attachment to outcomes is SO DIFFICULT to achieve, especially when we have internalized this idea of not giving up. We can get caught in an obsessive loop of thoughts and questions. What if I had...? What if I hadn't...? What will people think of me if I "fail" at this? What does it say about me if I can't achieve the outcome I was expecting? Letting go of our attachment to outcomes allows us to let go of those expectations that often set us up for disappointment, which can be far more devastating if we are tying our self worth to whatever it is we have deemed "success."
I spent almost six years doing fertility treatments. Time and again they failed, and when I finally did get pregnant for the first time (without medical intervention ironically) it ended in an early miscarriage at six weeks. I went on to do more treatments and ended up having numerous "chemical pregnancies," or miscarriages that happen between a positive pregnancy test and the first ultrasound (typically performed around six weeks). I continued this process long past the time I knew the likelihood of my having a baby was slim to nonexistent.
Why couldn't I give up even when it was clear that it was hurting me, emotionally and physically, to keep going? And why, when I finally did stop striving, was I unable to let go of the feeling that there must be something wrong with me because I can't carry a baby? Why was my sense of worth so connected to the "success" of having a baby? And why did I have so much shame about something that was so utterly out of my control?
It is only more recently, when I have finally been able to really release my attachment to an outcome I had no control over to begin with that I have begun to feel some peace about this, and some freedom from the shame of being infertile. But first I had to recognize and acknowledge that I had internalized this "never give up" attitude to great personal detriment. I let my entire sense of self worth become so tied up in the "success" of having a baby that I couldn't let go of that outcome, even though continuing to try to achieve it was causing extreme pain and disruption in my life.
My suggestion to begin to work with changing this "never give up" paradigm is the shift from the idea of giving up to the idea of offering surrender. The word surrender unfortunately also carries some negative connotations, but a true act of spiritual surrender is an act of love and courage. Being able to stand up and say, "I can't control this outcome, so I step into the flow of the Divine and trust that it will work out for the highest good" is one of the hardest acts we can undertake. But like any practice it does get easier with repetition. And the results can be astounding.
Released from our need to hold on so tightly, we free up an immense amount of energy. We are open to stepping back into the flow of life rather than fighting those currents. The difference is instantaneous and palpable. Issues still arise, as they always will, but releasing that attachment to the outcome allows us to maintain our self love because we are not tied into that need to control, to avoid "giving up."
The process of Spiritual Integration is what allowed me to finally start letting go of some of the grief and shame I was carrying about being infertile. In fact, at one point the message I received from the Divine was, "You're meant to birth a book not a baby." But I couldn't step into the Divine flow of receiving this gift and then communicating it through a book until I was able to start to release some of my attachment to the outcome of having a baby. It was a process. As I stated, it is only recently that I have started to feel real freedom from that attachment, but what a sweet and beautiful journey it has been. I wouldn't trade all that pain at this point, because the lesson I learned about letting go and getting out of my own way was clearly part of this message I am here to share.
The next time you find yourself thinking in terms of giving up, allow yourself the gift of re-framing that thought pattern into the idea of offering surrender. An offering is made with love rather than frustration. Offering surrender is a form of art; like any art, it requires practice and patience to become skillful. With repetition we gain the ability to ask the ego to step aside gracefully in order to merge back into Divine flow, which is always working for our highest good. We say to the Universe, "I have enough trust to release my attachment to the outcome, to release my need for control. I surrender to Divine knowing and guidance." We can free ourselves from the idea that our worth as a human being is tied to our achievements and start to acknowledge that we are inherently deserving of the unconditional Divine love that is our birthright.