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Expectation, Acceptance and the Art of Letting Go

I read a great saying the other day, on Facebook. It was sent as a message from one friend to another, offered as a kind of reassuring salve for the sting of not feeling appreciated or acknowledged by other people:

“Do something good

and throw it into the ocean”*


I like it because at first it seems a little extreme. And then the sense it makes starts slowly dawning…

To just do the thing for its own sake.
To release any expectations or hopes for the way it might be received by others.
To just let go of whatever happens next…

It’s exactly what I needed to hear just now. Having recently finished a project of sorts, I could feel that, even though the more ‘adult’ part of me didn’t need it, some smaller, more vulnerable part had quietly hoped for acknowledgement. And this saying helps that part to just let it all float out to sea…

It’s so freeing.

For what does it mean if we shackle our take on things to getting a particular kind of response?
If we let the way other people react (or not) decide how we feel about our achievements or our efforts.
If we judge ourselves via the lenses others see us through (or at least the lenses we imagine they have).

If your experience of something – perhaps even of your life – is largely defined by how others view it, where does that leave you?

Have you ever felt like that?
Maybe it’s been around the things you do.
Or maybe it’s about who you are.

Perhaps like you really wanted someone to understand you, or to acknowledge the pain you experience in your relationship with them?
Or maybe you really hoped they’d ‘get’ you and how you see the world.

(Maybe there’s even a quiet sense of resentment or hurt tied up in all of that).

What might it be like to just surrender all of that to the waves? The expectations and the pain they can cause.

To ‘do your best and then throw it into the ocean’.

To accept the drift of the currents.

And to continue walking along the beach …


*An Arabic saying

Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She is the editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.

Expectation, Acceptance and the Art of Letting Go

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

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APA Reference
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2010). Expectation, Acceptance and the Art of Letting Go. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 Nov 2010
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