Picture this: It’s a Monday morning in July. I wake up at 3:00 am and roll out of bed, climb the stairs to our tiny Brooklyn kitchen, and make coffee. I’m awake because my nerves went into overdrive the second my eyes opened. Falling back asleep is out of the question.
“It’s a blessing in disguise”, I think, squinting into the glow of my phone screen. “A chance to get a head start on the week.”
But as soon as I creep into my office and sit down in my computer chair, I feel a weight on my shoulders. The to-do list weight. The self-care weight. The “should have been more creative this weekend” weight. The “should be acting more like a business owner instead of a hobbyist” weight.
The messy desk. The half-written blog post. The scary news headline. The mile-long list of ideas. The weight of feeling like nothing is happening fast enough, from growth to wellness to fitness and beyond.
All the weights! I’m buried. There’s hardly time to recognize my own existence under this proverbial pile of stressors. I reach one arm out to feel around my desk for my coffee cup. My mind goes to thoughts like, “You just have to power through this week. Don’t waste time. Stay on track.”
I think of the social post I want to share in order to convey this go-getter mentality that grips me on Mondays. Then I wonder if I’m a walking contradiction. After all, I specifically chose not to hustle-and-grind my way through life, remember? I’m freelancer. A free spirit. A free bird.
But I’ve adopted my own kind of toxic hustle-and-grind—one you might be familiar with—that seems to especially plague frazzled creatives.
One task that’s half-buried beneath another task (and another, and another), so that I truly don’t know where to begin sometimes. And why does it matter? Most of what I do will never be seen or appreciated.
Is it any wonder we start off the week feeling stressed with these nasty, heavy thought patterns? I feel my pulse quickening just writing about this stuff. But I think facing them is the first step to overcoming them. That’s why I’m writing this.
Because I want the rest of summer to feel peaceful, even if it doesn’t feel productive. I want it to feel lush, even if I don’t live out some Pinterest-fueled fantasy of what summer is supposed to be.
I want to notice more little things, appreciate more of what’s already good in my life, and stop pinning myself against this fantasy version of myself that’s supposedly waiting for me at the bottom of my to-do list.
Here are 6 things I’m letting go of to honor the rest of summer 2021…
1. I’m letting go of the need to feel “ready” to participate in the world, from artistic creation to human interaction.
This one is a two-part let-go. Let’s touch on the latter, first.
During a recent conversation with my best friend, she pointed out that I seem to have a kind of PTSD from my brush with ‘rona. I think she’s right. In fact, I know she is! And that trauma has created a lot of invisible rules and limitations in my life in 2021.
Here’s that video if you haven’t seen it:
At the moment, I don’t like going out to get the mail, let alone meeting friends outside of the isolated safety of my backyard. If I go to the store without panicking, it’s a huge victory! But it’s frustrating when I remember who I was before this pandemic. Outings and gatherings were lit me up in such a big way. Making plans was the spice of life. These days, I’m hiding.
Thus, the first part of letting go of feeling “ready” has to do with introducing myself back into the world. That means making (safe) plans with friends, venturing out for walks on sunny days, and recapturing my optimism about the future.
I think part of this healing (chilling tf out?!) process will be embracing anxiety and taking those small steps anyway. It has to be informed and rational, but I know I’ll come around.
I’m going to make safe, spirited plans for the future and believe in good things to come, even if the phrase “the future” just gives me anxiety right now.
The second part of this touches on the subconscious rule that we somehow need permission to feel validated in life, whether we have a business idea, want to make a career move, or just want to call ourselves an artist—or a novelist, or a poet, or a whatever—without cringing.
This also means I’m letting go of ideal circumstances for creation: sitting down at my work table whether I’m “inspired” or not because I know making something will light me up. Writing more, making more videos, expressing myself more often in a way that’s therapeutic for me, but also helpful to others.
It means opening my sketchbook and moving the pencil, even when the voice in my head is saying “you’re light years away from the impressive artists out there, no one cares about your doodles”.
(Seriously, why is my brain so mean sometimes? Haha)
2. I’m letting go of perfect, clean rooms, pristine desks, and Ikea-looking spaces. It’s just not me.
This is less complicated but equally as important. For years now, despite my catchphrase (“Oh, I’m more of a maximalist…”) I’ve felt the pressure to transform my space into a museum.
I think this comes from vlogging and making content on YouTube. Indeed, the videos I find easiest to consume are usually filmed in pristine homes with empty surfaces, floor-to-ceiling windows, and beige …everything. But is “easy to consume” my goal? Not even close.
The minimalism movement, while nice to look at (and inspiring when decluttering), just isn’t me. I will never be Ms. Beige Everything. I will never be the empty coffee table, single-candle-on-shelf, books-ordered-by-color girl.
And here’s the thing! The only time I even think about pushing my space to that extreme is when I’m comparing myself to other content creators. Just because something is easy to digest online doesn’t mean it’s worth emulating in daily life—unless it IS your ideal environment to thrive in.
But the easy-to-process rooms are, in my book, just a refreshing change from the chaos of everything else in the world. We’re enamored with the nothingness when we scroll through it on Pinterest because our brains can make quick work of deciphering it.
Did you know that the brain likes to put things in categories based on our lived experience in the first few seconds of encountering them? It does this so it can make decisions (“survival” decisions, if you will). If we don’t understand something or it’s overwhelmingly complex, the brain might say “Not interested, I don’t get it. I’ll come back when I understand this”.
So from an aesthetic and brainy POV, I get why minimalism is so grand. But empty space is not my priority. My goal isn’t “nothing is in this room”, but “this room is balanced and makes me feel at ease”. Allow me to demonstrate:
Not my ideal room:
More like my ideal room:
Here’s the room I’ve had on my Pinterest board and saved in every digital space I have access to as a reminder to manifest it:
(I don’t know where it originally came from, I’ve seen it everywhere! If you’re the owner of this image, please don’t sue me, and also, can I come over?)
My ideal space is cool and calm, surrounded by woods, with semi-modern cabin vibes and lots of space to lounge.
It has books, music, cute teacups. It’s appetizing and delightful. No one feels afraid to move things or live in the space. It’s a place to gather and heal from the wild world out there. A place to host dinner parties and craft nights.
Things have a place (it’s not cluttered or chaotic) but there’s nothing rigid about the systems of stuff.
It’s worth noting that one of my big goals for the rest of 2021 is, in fact, decluttering the house. But when I talk about it in my vlogs and here on the blog, I just want to make sure you’re not picturing that first empty room as the end goal. 😉
3. I’m letting go of the unspoken rules I’ve set for myself about how I show up in the world.
We all have secret little rules for ourselves about how we show up each day. From morning to night, we live by them whether we realize it consciously or not. These rules are created over time based on stories we’ve had ingrained and things we believe to be true.
Such rules dictate how, when, and why we create. Whether we go out with friends or grab the fleece blanket and wine bottle on Saturday night. Whether we smoke or don’t. How we nurture our relationships. How we leverage finances. How we approach business endeavors… and virtually everything else.
We don’t make conscious decisions all day long, or our brains would be exhausted. Instead, things “fall into line” for us based on who we believe we are and what we believe to be true.
If you want to uncover some of your own stories, try this exercise. Write down the following phrase and fill it in as many times as you can. If you try to write something down that you don’t innately believe to be true, you’ll feel a mental/physical reaction. You might cringe or tense up.
Here’s the phrase:
I’m the kind of person who…
You can add anything to the end of this sentence and begin to believe it over time, but at first, what you don’t ACTUALLY BELIEVE will feel really weird to say aloud. Try it! It’s fascinating. Add good things, bad things, weird things, and see how you feel right now.
(I learned this from my biz mentor Jill Stanton, by the way.)
A massive amount of our daily decisions are determined based on our identity, therefore, that identity sets rules overtime to avoid confusion and overwhelm. If left unchecked, those rules are eventually designed to keep you small and safe (read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and look into Jim Fotin’s content for more on this).
Thus, it’s not about who you are. It’s about who you think you are—who you see yourself as.
Exhibit A: Me on the beach wondering “Who tf am I…?”
If you’re not consciously leaning into optimism, endless potential, and explosive love when you look at yourself in the mirror, your brain is busy justifying small, limiting actions all day. It’s sending signals to your subconscious to do less, stay put, and just get through another day.
In the end, these subconscious downers keep us from sinking our teeth into life.
I have a lot of limiting beliefs that feel like cement slowly drying over my motivation and inspiration these days: “I’m too disorganized. I’m too out of the loop. I’m too out of shape. I’m too frantic. I’m too fragile. I’m too prone to panic. I don’t fit in. No one really understands me…” blah blah blah
The first step to replacing these thoughts with better ones is to stay conscious of them, verbally acknowledge them, and “cancel” them, as Jill says.
Keeping a journal of negative thoughts has been hugely helpful for me. I write down the shitty thing that just popped into my head in one column. To the right, I transform it into an empowering statement. It might sound cheesy, but it changed my life back in 2019 when I started doing it regularly.
This letting-go will involve staying conscious of my subconscious and lovingly replacing negative self-talk with empowering inner dialogue.
4. I’m letting go of the idea that a “good day” is one without anxiety.
What does a “good day” mean for you? It’s usually a day without the thing you fear most. For me, that’s my anxiety.
I live with panic disorder. Sometimes that means waking up from night terrors with a pounding heart and a vague, ominous feeling that I’m going to die (and that feeling can linger all day). Sometimes it means a word, image, or thought can trigger a feeling of low-grade electrocution: stomach cramped, fingers cold and aching, body shaking.
Sometimes I have to do something simple like walk to the post office, but I feel a deep, strange fear. So I delay actually leaving the house by doing a hundred random things until “oops, it’s too late!”.
Sometimes I just feel so uneasy that I cry or throw up.
It’s not fun! But these extreme things don’t happen daily. Usually, my anxiety is a more chilled-out companion who just pokes at me like an evil little ghost. It bothers me just enough to make me feel tired, and sometimes enough for me to say “this day sucks”.
It’s probably not hard to see how my “good days” are void of anxiety. The thing is, sometimes I have miraculous days (or a batch of days) where I don’t feel panicked or ominously upset! I feel stable, peaceful, and aligned.
On those days, I think “Wow, what a great day! I sure hope anxiety doesn’t eff this up.” And I spend the day trying to enjoy myself while periodically wondering when panic is going to descend.
But recently I’ve realized that I’ve had plenty of awesome days where I’m anxious, too. If I do something despite anxiety (going out for a coffee, landing a new client contract, repotting plants, sewing a skirt) I find that anxiety takes a back seat and my day’s quality is determined by things I’m more in control of.
Exhibit B: A particularly anxious day that was still a good one. I played great music, poured some hot coffee, and did some creative stuff in my studio.
My best days, in fact, are days where I don’t focus on “when is anxiety coming!?” but pat it on the head like the little monster it is and continue with my life.
Thus, I’ll be letting go of this inaccurate measurement of a good day, embracing my zany nervous system the way it is, and consciously creating good days for the rest of 2021.
5. I’m letting go of constant comparison to other creators.
I remember being in high school and getting inspired by a small collection of things I had in my room. Magazine clippings, art books, letters from friends, little mementos I’d written myself, VHS tapes of indie films.
Feeling “inspired” was just a side effect of consuming neat things—especially recommendations from my much cooler older brother.
When the internet took over my life (as it does), I was slowly exposed to the endless sprawl of inspiration out there, which has multiplied with wild abandon over the past decade or so. These days we have virtually everything at our fingertips to the point where everyone is mentally and creatively exhausted.
It’s hard to be a creative soul who makes things from an authentic (or just a whimsical) place when the first thing you do in the morning is scroll through the finished products of 100+ other creators. It’s hard to sit down and come up with fresh ideas for projects when you were up until 3 AM hoarding images on Pinterest.
We’re buried in the things other people are doing to such a degree that our lives are tipped off balance. Creators who should be creating are stuck consuming.
We’re watching other people upload polished achievements, clever approaches, beautiful art, all while surrounded by the thriving communities and emoji-encrusted enthusiasm. They’re younger, edgier (or sweeter), more productive, more unique, more interesting.
And while we’re likely seeing the result of years of work and figuring out how to show up online (and yeah, sometimes just people who are cooler than us 🤓), our brains just say “I’m inferior, time to give up!” and we start rewatching The IT Crowd on Netflix.
For me, it got to the point where tapping into my reason for living (CREATING!) was met with such intense resistance that I knew it had gone too far. My brain was getting an overload of dopamine hits from watching other people create and sitting down to make something myself felt like an impossible task.
“This idea is stupid.”
“No one is going to look at this.”
“You don’t even know how to do this, you’ve never done it before.”
“Why bother? Watch YouTube!”
(See above re: negative self-talk.)
The problem was a combination of being overloaded by other people’s content and comparing all of my ideas and outcomes to that of established artists, writers, and content makers.
But we all deal with this, even those pedestal-occupying folks we love so much. Some of my favorite online personalities have posted videos or captions to the tune of, “I always want to share more, but I feel like I’ll never be good enough.”
Exhibit C: There will always be someone further ahead than you and someone further behind than you. Neither of these truths should decide anything about you.
So as an online creator, how does one let go of this toxic, creativity-killing level of comparison?
For me, the solution isn’t getting offline (as tempting as that sounds) but it’s about limiting your intake in a big way. It’s about unfollowing accounts that make you feel unaccomplished instead of inspired. It’s about finding real creators who share their struggles openly, so you don’t idolize or demonize them.
It’s about consciously monitoring how you feel about yourself while you’re supporting other people online and stepping away when you feel the comparison wave coming on. I’ve reduced my IG list from around 3,000 to under 250, and I’ve been making good progress with this.
The second half is carving out time to create before you look at what anyone else is doing, whether that’s a few hours in the creative studio (or at the creative table, as it were) each day or having entire days where you don’t scroll.
I’m looking forward to tapping back into my high school self, with a limited pool of genuinely inspiring things, and making art (good or bad) that’s really mine.
6. I’m letting go of the idea that I’ll be a better person once my to-do list is empty.
There’s a funny little story I tell myself every Monday morning:
Just get through this to-do list and everything will be okay. You’ll be more than okay. You’ll be victorious, enlightened, hydrated, maybe even celebrated with a parade… people will lean out of their windows to catch a glimpse of you. The woman who finished everything on her to-do list. You’ll have no reason to stress. You can do creative stuff, spend time with the people you love, and feel VALIDATED if you just finish everything on this god-forsaken list…
I’ve mentioned her before, this version of myself. This to-do list completing “future me” who’s smiling like an untouchable, smug billionaire from the window of a spaceship. She’s not real. She doesn’t exist.
The light of the end of the tunnel is not at the bottom of my list. Here are three reasons why I know this to be true:
1. The fabled sense of accomplishment and validation I’m longing for is something I can actively choose each day. It’s not a prize I get if I do a bunch of stuff. I can decide I’m a successful, fulfilled person without grinding myself into the ground. Productivity should not equal happiness.
2. Much of my to-do list is cyclical and upkeep-based. I have to repeat certain tasks or produce content in a series, so those items always pop back up again (and again, and again). For the list to disappear should never have been the goal in the first place. It’s a system that should support me through the years, not an enemy to be defeated.
3. I can’t always trust my to-do list. It’s a bit of a pandora’s box sometimes. I’m working on getting it under control, but I’ve been adding to it (it lives in Asana, by the way, and is divided into about 20 project categories) for years with wild abandon. That means it doesn’t always function the way it’s supposed to, and the most important things aren’t always at the top.
The letting-go aspect here is layered, but essentially I’ll continue to refine and edit my to-do list, work from it as it makes sense, and forget this silly notion that I have to hack my way through a certain percentage of it per day in order to feel good about myself.
Friends, if you read this far, I’m impressed. But mostly, I’m grateful. Thanks for letting me share these things with you. I hope you’re feeling inspired to let a few things go this summer as well.
By making this list, I won’t just magically dissolve these habits. However, I know that acknowledging them will help me stay more conscious of how I move through the day.
If any of this has resonated with you, let me know in the comments! For further reading/listening on this and related topics, I highly recommend the following creators:
Alex Wolf – An incredible thinker, author, content creator. She discusses redefining your relationship with technology, embracing the art of homemaking in the face of hustle culture (and so much more).
HINDZ – One of my favorite YouTubers right now who inspires one to slowly sip their tea and come home to a truer self, and find deeper meaning in daily life.
Jim Fortin – A brain science expert who helps people understand habit modification through identity and how that shapes our thoughts (and thus, our actions).
Steven Pressfield – A celebrated author who has written extensively about the brain’s primal instincts and how they sabotage our endeavors.
There are many others making inspiring content in response to the past decade of hustle culture evolution and how we can heal from it—and not only heal, but redefine how we participate in daily life.
Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that we decide how we show up as creatives and as humans in general!
Have you created your letting-go list yet? Drop a comment and let me know—or come hang out with me on IG!
Wishing you a day full of self-love, creativity, and lightness…