Letting Go Like Water off a Duck’s Back

I said, Letting go like water off a duck’s back” to a client the other day, and she gave me that “What’s-off-who’s-now?” look. Ever reference a cliché to a teenager and they have no idea what you are talking about?

I did not win any cool-to-a-teenager points.

I guess it would sound silly if you had never heard it before.

Letting go like water off a ducks back

Get used to letting go like a duck

Why is letting go so hard to do? We all do this: choose to hold onto something because it seems it would make us less important if we let it go. Or we hold onto it just so the other person can be held accountable. Or maybe we are awaiting validation.

You DO deserve to feel important. Also, you deserve that the other person feels bad for hurting you. You ALSO deserve validation for your pain. Yes, you DESERVE! But staying miserable to prove this is ONLY hurting you.

Recently someone was really angry that she had to pay for therapy because she didn’t rape herself.

I said, “I hear you,” (she makes a good point!) “but you do it for you, not your rapist.”

It is such a powerful message that I posted it on Facebook: “The best way to get out of under the power of an abuser is to heal yourself. Staying suffering is not a way to hold the abuse acceptable. You are just holding yourself down.”

Letting go is easier when you have not let it in

Ducks have wax in their feathers that prevents water from being soaked in to the duck’s inner soft downy feathers that keep it warm. We can be like ducks by letting what doesn’t serve us roll off our back before it gets into our inner softness.

People all over the place can hurt us, annoy us, betray us, ignore us, humiliate us, abuse us, degrade us. It is not ever OK that they do that. But they do it anyway.

We have no control over them. However, we do have control of ourselves. We have to let it in for it to bother us.

“All new encounters are tests- with food, with people, with ideas. Smell everything first. If someone tells you something, smell it! If it smells all right, then try a little for the taste, but always chew it. Chew for a long time before you swallow. Even words should be chewed for a long time before swallowing because it is easier to spit something out than it is to get rid of it once you have already taken it in.” Marlene Marlow

In order for us to let these things in, part of us must think, They might be right. Self-doubt and negative self-judgment are the culprit. We let these things in when we are young because we cannot make sense of it. When our life has no order, or something happens that doesn’t make sense, blame is the easiest conclusion for us to make. We need order; blame gives it to us immediately. 

As children, we are good at firmly planting the blame in ourselves for anything that goes wrong around us. This has disastrous consequences on our psyche, creating long-term pervasive stories of our own inadequacies and problems. These stories are so powerful that we believe them as truths even when we are older. This makes us vulnerable to letting in more poor treatment.

Forgive Yourself and Others Masterclass
Forgive Yourself and Others Masterclass

So, when I say, “You can decide not to let it in,”–instead of beating yourself up that you are at fault for your misery–rejoice that you have power that you can help yourself feel better! You don’t have to do the hard work of letting go later.

Letting go of what you have already let in

Sometime critiques can help us stretch ourselves and become better people, but criticisms or other poor treatment is not only unhelpful, it can be downright destructive of self-worth.

There are three main steps in letting go:

 1. Deciding you are worthy of it

Self-doubt is one of the biggest blocks to healing. Whatever is the problem, self-doubt multiplies it substantially, usually causing more intensity proportionally than the original problem.

Sometimes you have to make sense of what happened. I will talk about this more as the year goes on.

2. Deciding about letting go

As soon as you decide, this step is instantaneous. You can say it out loud, but even in your head, it is done.

Doing a ritual will help. I recently helped design and facilitate a self-forgiveness ceremony that moved me to tears.

3. Practicing letting go

Self-doubt, guilt, anger, memories, and fear will come back, even once you decide to let it go. It is habit. Bring awareness without judgment.

Don’t say, “Damn, it didn’t work. I knew I couldn’t do this. I can’t heal.” This will bring the misery right back into your soft down layer. And the failure to heal will impose more pain into your heart.

You no longer need to give it attention. Say, “There you are. I knew you’d come back. Have a cup of tea. I’m busy living right now.” And then distract yourself. Over and over as many times as you need to, for weeks and weeks, until it stops.

When is it beneficial to reflect on the past?

There is a difference between regretting and obsessing about the past and consciously putting time aside to sit down and reflect on it.

So many self-help authors and speakers tout, “Let go of the past!” or “Stop focusing on the past!” But then again, there are some benefits to reflecting on it.

There is a huge difference in reflection, and regretting. That difference is fear and guilt. Without fear and guilt, we stay in the present moment even if we are reflecting on the past.

Reflecting on the past: Instead of focusing on bad things that happened to you in 2013, look at how you responded. If something traumatic happened to you this year, don’t go into that time. Perhaps you can look right after that time to your response. If this doesn’t feel safe, look at some other lighter events.

Take a step back so that you do not relive anything awful. Look at yourself as if from “above the battle field.” How did you make it through that time? What skills did you use? Which relationships did you strengthen? What do these actions say about what is important to you? What did you hold precious during that time? And, what are you proud of?

This will help you connect to your agency–that you are an agent in your life rather than a passive recipient of it. You can let go of the difficult situation and hold on to your power.

Ready to start letting go?  You sure are!

Forgive and Let Go Masterclass

31 thoughts on “Letting Go Like Water off a Duck’s Back”

  1. Hello All, Good Morning Jodi, Its really Amazing how well this process works and I really wish there was a way to bottle duck wax. We could all just wake up in the morning and put on our duck wax, everything unhealthy would just roll on off. This may seem silly but,its this type of imagination and ritual along with some patients and practice and all of a sudden this process really works for me. I had trouble with the ritual thing in the beginning, but the more I use my imagination, like creating the “Duck Wax” the more results I have. There is nothing better than a day free of Fear and Guilt. Thanks for the Monday morning reading and stay warm and Love yourself everyone…

    1. Awesome inspiration, thanks for your input. I think if we imagine our duck wax, it would be like a ritual and make meaning that can offer “protection.” Just the ritual itself will give us sustenance. What do you think?

  2. Thank you Jodi for this post.

    I feel ready to let go of the past, of habits, of experiences, of people, of anything that is no longer helping. The decision is there and I understand the way of doing it. I noticed that doing it feels good. It is nice to let go of painful things, but it leaves behind a feeling of emptiness and like you belong to nowhere. To step out of my old story safely, I need to be able to “see” a new one or at least believe I am capable of creating it.
    Is “letting go” only used about bad painful things? How can you let go of a job you loved? family? friends and your children?

    1. The emptiness is a fear. So write down the new one, so you have something to step into.

      You let go of the loss of the job… the perception of loss of the kids. You don’t let go of the kids. x

  3. Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com

    Hi Jodi! Thank you so much for the reminders in this post. I think we all know on some level that we have to let go of what’s holding us back in order to move forward. What did Joseph Campbell say, “We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” It’s time! ~Kathy

  4. Thanks for making the process easy to understand and easy to put into practice. And also for the realistic warning that it might try to come back. I really appreciate your work here Jodi. I can hardly wait to put this into practice and watch the results for myself. Off to let go of something that’s way overdue for release.
    Greg @ Tiny Bit Better recently posted..A Tiny Bit More PatientMy Profile

  5. I wish I had wax on my skin so things could roll off more often. There’s a lot here to contemplate. I have held on to my past only in order to not let the patterns repeat. In other words, I like to remember certain things that happened, so I don’t let them happen again. Not sure that makes sense but your message is certainly relevant to me. Thanks, Jodi.
    lisa thomson recently posted..Gossip DefenseMy Profile

    1. Maybe there is a difference between hanging on and learning from. I think that’s why we have guilt or resentment to learn or to bring into our awareness, and then we let it go! Food for thought!

  6. Number 1 was critical for me. I will never forget that moment that helped me realize it was time to let go, that I was worth it. When my ex said, “you’re worthless and you’ll never amount to anything.” It was my “Aha!” moment. The point of no return. From that day forward I did everything to escape the hell my marriage had become. Thank you so much, Jodi, for all you do.

  7. Thank you so much for writing a clear and concise article. You got right to the point. I have heard it said, “Un-forgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” I have had trauma in the past and I still find it hard to let insults or criticism roll off my back. It only makes it build up and eats away at me. I will take your council, Jodi and learn from my past, but not dwell on it in a negative light.

    1. Yes, and sometimes we healed it and can move on but we keep thinking there is more to do. Do you know what I mean? My clients have been dealing with this a lot and I plan to write about it soon! Glad to see you here!

  8. I love your recommendation to have a little convo with your negative thoughts, “Oh hi, you’re back, here’s some tea, I’m busy.” It made me laugh, because there’s just so much that can be done with that idea! “Oh hi, you’re back, sorry, but I need to cuddle with my cat right now instead” or “Oh hey, you’re back, did you know that you’ve got toilet paper on your shoe?”
    Laura Zera recently posted..Travel: Lazy Days in Antigua, Part OneMy Profile

    1. I HAVE to print this and put it in my office. You should hear me talking to my clients saying all kinds of silly things to help them lighten up! It is so important because when we take these negative thoughts seriously, we are cooked! Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Very wise words, Jodi. I have to admit, I haven’t had too tough a life. I’ve been very fortunate. I have a lot of empathy for those who have had it tough, though.

    Thank you for doing what you do, and helping others get through what they need to. You’re doing great work, my friend!

  10. I love this post. It may be 2 years old, but the concept is much older and yet still relevant to each generation. I recently read a phrase, “unprocessed life experiences.” That phrase really rung a bell with me and caused me to start researching. In that process I ran into your site. I look forward to exploring more of your posts. It is so delightful to know that there are other people out there on a similar journey to health. Thank you!

  11. I have either discovered or become a more visual learner as I get older. I will be 59 soon. Just the other day I was sitting at a duck pond not far from here watching the water literally run off a duck’s back. I didn’t realize ducks had wax to protect themselves l

    I love the visual aspect of this concept. I am a Highly Sensitive Person and Emotional Empath so it is very difficult for me to let things run off me like water off a duck, but I keep trying. I have to ignore people around me or purposely NOT engage in communication with them in order to preserve my well being. In situations where I need to interact with someone and the person says or does something that gets in , it’s a struggle and can take a day for it to lose it’s negative hold on me. Maybe a physical gesture like brushing off the negative experience by brushing my arms from shoulder to finger tips might help. All the time stating I remove this negative energy.
    Thanks for the visual support.

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