In a recent 1:1 session, I was working with a woman I have known for years. She’s a kind, sweet, generous, powerful force of good in the world, and like the rest of us, she’s got her own little closet of demons to be dealt with from time to time. She was sharing about her longtime struggle with disordered eating and body dysmorphia, and we did some shadow work to see what might be ready to surface. At the end of our time, I asked her what was a small step she could take in the direction of the truth she had uncovered. Her answer: “I need to be brave enough to change my pants when the pants are too tight.” Every cell in my body lit up. Yes. It’s this. Be brave. Change your pants.

The point? Why in the world do we squeeze into pants that don’t fit anymore to then suffer not only physical discomfort but the ensuing mental turmoil? For all of the things in life completely out of our control, this is not one of them. It seems like a simple thing to put on a pair of jeans, notice they are too tight, take them off and put on something else. But that’s not always how it works. Instead, the once well-fitting, most favored jeans instigate an internal debate on appearance, self-image and identity. How it is that no longer fitting into something becomes a measure of worthiness as a person I do not know. But it’s a thing. And this is clearly not just about pants.

For you, maybe it’s not old jeans that you hang on to well past their time, but I bet this shows up somewhere. Did you ever stay too long in a job or relationship until it became almost unbearable? Stuck it out with an old friendship that no longer held even the barest thread of alignment with your current self? Desperately clung to habits, beliefs, or social groups while simultaneously asking yourself why, why, why am I still doing this? Hanging on even though something didn’t fit anymore. Feeling like letting go of whatever it was that no longer fit was somehow a statement  (and not a good one) about you as a person. We have all been there.

Even the most liberated and free-spirited among us can admit to times of holding on when letting go was the oh-so-obvious solution for alleviating our pain. But as much as we might like the idea of change, when the rubber meets the road, we very often slam on the brakes. The familiar, no matter how uncomfortable, just seems easier to manage than the unknown. Doing something differently requires presence, discipline, and bravery. It’s letting go of an old story and an old version of self. It can be scary and hard.

I’m learning that the old ways and old stuff we hang on to- much like the little demons lurking in that closet- point to where we need to shine a light. Where we need to make a change. Where we need to let go. Where we need to be brave. Maybe the next time you find yourself feeling constricted, uncomfortable, restrained or contracted, notice if it’s a situation of your own making. Pause and consider what you’re doing to yourself and why. Perhaps it will be a day to be brave and change your pants. And drop whatever it is that just does not fit anymore (no matter how once beloved it may have been) into the history books, the Goodwill bin, or a flaming cosmic dumpster fire. And know that in doing so, you’re taking a step closer to the truest, brightest version of you.