January turned into February this week and I’ve lost count of the number of self-directed eye rolls I’ve seen people give themselves for not sticking with their New Year’s resolutions. It got me thinking about the challenges we have in giving ourselves permission…to live on our own terms; to screw up occasionally; and to start again when we need to.
Permission seems to be an inherently touchy subject. If you need permission for something, it means that doing it without permission must be “bad” in some way. We associate permission with approval from others/society/ourselves. We associate permission with doing things we ordinarily wouldn’t do because they are indulgent/unacceptable/counterintuitive to the “shoulds”, “have-tos” and “musts” we tell ourselves.
If you need permission, then that implies that you are contravening your own beliefs and expectations. And I’ll bet that those beliefs and expectations refer to what it takes to be a good girl/partner/mother/daughter/friend or a good enough person on the invisible social scale of enoughness. And what it takes is usually some combination of the same old thought patterns that we believe will make us enough:
- Criticise yourself.
- Remind yourself of all the ways that you are actually not enough.
- Berate yourself for your mistakes.
- Celebrate your failures by rubbing your own nose in the puddle of comparison with others.
- And most of all, withdraw “permission”.
Permission for what? Well, permission to do whatever takes your life in a direction that you want to go, even if that thing is hard, disappoints someone, or more shockingly still: Puts You First.
Give yourself permission to do whatever it takes to take your life in a direction that you want to go.
Here are some areas where I think it is essential to learn to give yourself permission. And I’m not talking about just-this-once type of permission. I’m talking about throwing that permission about your life liberally and regularly (think glitter, fairy dust, or other magical substance that shakes the sense into you that you are allowed to do it your way):
Permission to Start Again
That On-Off Wagon is rickety and the ride is rough. Expect that occasionally you’ll fall off of it and getting back on may seem like a mammoth task (because jumping on a moving vehicle is always inherently difficult). The thing is that life is a process of starting again. Our calendar is simply a collection of opportunities to start again, broken up into years, months, weeks, days. But we can be stingy with our generosity when it comes to giving ourselves permission to start again when we have committed to a goal but not perfectly followed through. The people that tend to reach their goals are those people that start again, over and over and over. Sometimes many times in a single day or week. Giving yourself permission to start again simply means that you’re being realistic. Rather than being paralysed because you’ve decided that you’re a failure, permission allows you to take a breath, pick yourself up, and continue.
Permission to Rest
“Busy is a drug that a lot of people are addicted to.” – Rob Bell
The seduction of busy-ness is two-fold. It gives us the illusion that we are living full, rich, and vital lives. And it gives us the illusion that we are doing well according to society’s standards. What it fails to account for is that life is tidal. Our bodies are driven by patterns that rise and fall and this is especially obvious when it comes to energy. If we disrespect the balance of energetic peaks and troughs, it’s not just our bodies that suffer. We need to rest to recharge physically, emotionally, spiritually and creatively. But rather than celebrate rest for its essential role in counteracting all the ways we can become depleted, we see it as indulgent, lazy, and even perhaps as a sign that we are not coping or keeping up. Giving yourself permission to rest is fundamental to self-love.
Permission to Level Up
Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to cease accepting less than what we are capable of. We need to give ourselves permission to set new expectations. To cheerlead ourselves to go further than the mind tells us is possible. To level up when it comes to doing the things that dreams are made of. Imagine if you were “allowed” to follow your dreams? Well, guess what? You are, because permission is an attitude and a set of actions done over and over again. Those things are under your control. What’s not within your control is your internal chatter and the opinions of others. But you can choose to detach from both of those things and do it anyway.
Permission to Abandon a Project/Goal
Ever clung to something so tightly just because you made a commitment at the beginning and you don’t want to be seen to “fail”? I have, even in the face of my intuition whispering to me that to continue was unworkable. Did I listen? No. Not until I’d spent so much of my emotional, mental, financial and spiritual savings on pursuing something just so I could say I didn’t fail. Listen to yourself. It’s okay to walk to away. Repeat after me: It’s okay to walk away.
Permission to End a Relationship/Friendship
One of the most fascinating things about human beings is our capacity to change. Unfortunately, with that comes the challenge of two human beings trying to love each other for all time. It’s a tough ask if they don’t grow and change in the same direction. We simply may not continue to fit together like we once did. Allow yourself the chance to assess your relationships. Be honest with yourself though. I’m not advocating throwing the towel in as soon as it gets hard, because all relationships are hard at times, and working on it is part of the actions of love. But I am saying that if you can honestly say to yourself that you have done all you can and the pieces no longer fit together anymore, then it may be time to give yourself permission to let each other go.
Permission to Speak Kindly to Yourself
I’m constantly frustrated by the between-the-lines messages we grow up believing that to get the best out of ourselves, we need to criticise, reprimand, and attack our efforts. It simply doesn’t work. If beating up on yourself was effective, you’d be perfect right now! Please! Give yourself permission to speak kindly. Give yourself permission to soften towards yourself. The world that awaits is lighter and brighter when we are kind to ourselves.
Permission to Feel
Why do we need to label people who feel things? “Over-sensitive”. “Touchy feely”. “Thin-skinned”. “Highly strung”. No. No to labels just because you are human. The problem is not in feeling feelings. The problem is in not acknowledging those feelings. It’s time you gave yourself permission to be human, and that includes feeling the full spectrum of emotion from dark to light. No justifications required.
Give yourself permission to: start again; walk away; level up; try harder; rest for as long as you need to.
Permission to Live by your Values
You have two options. You can live by your values – the things that are most important to you deep down in your heart. Or you can live by a set of values that are not yours (even though they may be set out for you by someone you love, by society in general, or by what you “think” you should be doing).
One direction will feel “right”, even though it may be hard at times. One will feel very uncomfortable at an intuitive level and will give you a sense of being out of alignment and not where you want to be.
Only you can give yourself permission to take your life in a direction that you want to go. You can sit on the sidelines, living in the shadows, or you can fully participate by living on your own terms. Choose wisely.
Isn’t it time you gave yourself permission?