We cling on to a lot of quick-fix dopamine hits and addictive behaviors that are readily available.
A quick social media scroll.
A puff from a nearby vape.
A bag full of tasty sour sweets.
A few online purchases just to make yourself feel like the postman is bringing in an early Christmas on a depressive Monday morning.
One of the most commonly cited Buddhist quotes is ‘the root of suffering is attachment’.
Whatever your own spiritual beliefs, this approach is universally applicable.
Practicing non-attachment involves letting go of desires for superficial material goods or unsatisfying connections.
This doesn’t mean forgoing any form of emotional attachment or bond, but rather loving but expecting nothing in return.
The benefits of letting go of toxic attachments in particular include cultivating a greater sense of peace and fulfilment which is not dependent on clothes or people or the cost of your house.
To master the art of letting go, start with these 10 toxic attachments:
1) Loving someone so much it hurts you
And not in a woeful teenage breakup, how-will-I-ever-love-again type of way.
I mean bending over backwards to offer your partner or your friends all you have to give and then some.
In the process, sacrificing your own happiness and rarely getting the same selfless love in return.
Toxic attachments and unrequited love are sooo 2012.
It’s time they move over and make way for healthy and balanced relationships, full of mutual respect and consideration.
2) Needing money and possessions to showcase your worth
Having the newest model of iPod might’ve made you that little bit cooler in high school, but times have changed.
You shouldn’t feel the need to prove your worth using clothing, possessions, or holidays.
The most authentic and genuine people won’t find that stuff impressive, either.
Like moths to a flame, it’s only superficial and shallow people who are drawn to large demonstrations of wealth and glamour.
And whilst treating yourself to something you’ve had on your wish list after a promotion is not to be discredited, try and imagine what would happen if your house burned down tomorrow.
Would you be able to live without all of those items?
Here’s hoping you decide to save the cat and not your uber expensive flatscreen TV.
3) The pressure of meeting someone else’s expectations
Parents are a great example for this, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be your family members who you’re trying to impress.
Learning to live by your own standards and let go of the predefined routes in which others are trying to shove you down is incredibly important.
A part of you will always want to make your parents proud.
But living a life of unhappiness just because they want you to become a doctor when your heart lies in wildlife conservation will leave you with a life of regret.
So be thankful for the doors that people open for you, but use them to forge your own path.
4) The desire to compare yourself to those around you
A little competitive spark never hurt nobody.
But getting stuck in comparing yourself to other people, all of whom have started out at different intersections and are striving towards different goals, will only be detrimental to your own happiness.
As they say, comparison is the thief of joy.
Best leave it behind to focus on your own journey.
5) The pressure to be perfect
Because perfection doesn’t exist.
We can become so deeply attached to the perfect ideal we carry with us in our heads.
A perfect job, a perfect marriage, a perfect life.
Unfortunately, life isn’t quite as perfect as the movies make out.
The sooner you nip that attachment in the bud and start working towards the best you can realistically achieve, the better.
Striving for perfection only leads to failure so it’s always better to shoot for monumental albeit realistic goals.
6) The enjoyment you get from short-term fixes
All of those fun things I mentioned in the introduction…
Alcohol, nicotine, Candy Crush…
All soothing and exhilarating and equal measures.
We all have our own poison.
But drinking that poison daily is hardly good for the soul.
I’m not saying you need to relinquish everything you find fun.
Just consider what little habits you’ve picked up which aren’t serving to help you live life to the fullest and are getting in the way of your productivity or your health.
Going cold turkey is often an unhelpful approach, so where possible, continue to enjoy the things you enjoy; just in moderation.
7) Your love of the comfort zone
It’s easy to get attached to feeling safe and secure.
The bad news is that it stops us from shooting out and reaching our potential.
Turning down social invites because the prospect of small-talk sends you shivering, or refusing to hop on a flight to visit a friend on the other side of the world because you’re more of a homebody.
I get it. It’s nice being in the comfort zone.
But in putting your roots down, you’re preventing yourself from growing and adapting and maximizing your potential.
You don’t need to run a triathlon every Sunday and bin that fuzzy pair of socks.
Just strive a little more for the unknown – that’s where the best things happen.
8) Your loyalty to old relationships that serve you no purpose
‘Serve’ maybe isn’t the best term as relationships are a two-way street.
No one’s serving anyone, but there should come a point where you notice who out of your friends helps lift you up, and who drags you down.
For the latter, there’s no use compromising your own happiness for people who gossip and belittle you (both to your face and behind your back).
Don’t shun friends and start binning them left right and center when they take one step wrong, but also consider when it’s time to let go.
This is never easy; particularly for long-term friends with whom you share infinite memories.
But a large part of loving is also letting go.
It’s not clinging to each other desperately and leaving bloody claw marks behind.
And by that I mean your ego.
Maybe this applies a little less to you. It’s semi confidence-dependent.
But if you know you can be a bit prideful, consider how attached you are to your own ego.
Self-awareness is a wonderful trait that many lack.
However, revelling in your self-worth to the extent that you start veering into arrogance is not recommended.
So know when to step back, admit your flaws, and even reach out and ask for help – even if it comes at the expense of a touch of pride.
10) Having to control every aspect of your life
We are the masters of our own destiny, but that doesn’t mean we can micromanage every aspect of our lives.
Getting desperately attached to a life plan and feeling frantic when things don’t go according to plan benefits no one.
Plan for the journey. Set goals and milestones to help you along the way.
But avoid getting too attached to a certain route or outcome.
What’s likely is that owing to the unpredictable nature of life, things will change.
Where you’re going will change, as will how you get there.
You’ll be met with new interests after trying new things.
You’ll also meet new people who show you new ways and influence your thinking.
Think about it: whatever dream you had of what you were going to be at age 5 is unlikely to be the exact same dream you have now.
So relinquishing yourself of your attachment to controlling your life and the outcome is vital.
It’s good to have a plan, but being flexible means you’re quick on your toes and happy adapting your goals to face each new obstacle life brings you.
Letting go is easier said and envisioned than done.
But it’s also a key aspect to achieving contentment in life, unabridged by material desires and unattached to toxic individuals.
Hopefully this list has brought you clarity on toxic attachments that serve us no purpose and detract from our happiness.
Your own list will vary.
Realizing what exactly you need to let go of will also be hard-hitting at points.
“Do I really need to give up eating ice cream for breakfast?”
“Is breaking up with my deadbeat highschool girlfriend really what I need to do?”
“Should I follow my own dream of becoming a mortician to instead be a lawyer like my parents expect me to?”
Daunting questions, the lot of them, but the type you need to be asking yourself to realize the toxic attachments you’re holding on to that need to be shed.