I’ve been thinking a lot lately about permission. I’ve actually been pretty obsessed with it.
I love looking at what I give myself permission for and what I don’t. What feels easy? What feels impossible? What am I allowed or not allowed to do, or (gasp!) what am I supposed to or not supposed to do? When I ask these questions I learn so much about myself and my permission patterns - especially when I can look at my responses non-judgmentally.
This past weekend was the first weekend in months that I didn’t crack open my laptop - not even once! - to work. Instead, I gave myself permission to go to a music festival on a farm and ride bikes around our neighborhood.
I felt like a kid again, dancing and swaying to the music in an old barn with twinkly lights and happily flying downhill on my bike along the coast.
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On Monday morning, I realized that the amount of fun I had over the weekend and the energy I felt going into the week was directly correlated to the amount of PERMISSION I gave myself.
And although I have a podcast called Outgrow the Grind and support my coaching clients to prioritize their needs, I sometimes find myself back in the grind and ignoring my own needs more often than I’d like to admit.
The decision to give myself permission wasn’t entirely easy.
I think many women entrepreneurs feel this way.
Because I had a to-do list with errands, emails, class replays, and other tasks that wanted to be checked off.
… And lots of “shoulds” that should’ve gotten done and guilt that popped up about not paying attention to those tasks.
… And fear-based “not-enoughs” trying to get my attention.
… And I grew up in a family where both of my parents worked long hours and their above-and-beyond work ethic was a defining part of both of their identities.
Not to mention, but to definitely mention, the patriarchal and white supremecist conditioning that tells us that permission is something to be granted by someone ELSE, not ourselves!
After my permission-granting weekend, I was so curious about what other women wanted to give themselves permission for but had a hard time allowing themselves to.
Clients and friends have shared big things they wanted to give themselves permission for, like:
Quit the side gig that never felt right, putting in so many extra hours it feels more like volunteer than paid work
Take the sabbatical at work that they’d already earned but didn’t take yet because they were worried about how it would impact their coworkers
Follow their inspiration to pivot their business in [another!] new direction
Actually stop working during maternity leave (two weeks after giving birth to their daughter)
Claim their brilliance
Travel the world with a one-way ticket
Some of the “smaller” things women wanted to give themselves permission for include:
Taking a nap in the middle of the day
Working 4 days a week
Stopping work at 4:30pm
Making the meal they’ve been craving (even though no one else in their household will eat it)
Wearing a bikini on vacation
I mentioned earlier what I was up against with my recent permission-granting weekend, but what else gets in the way of giving ourselves permission - and how does it show up?
Guilt. Other people will suffer if I honor what I need or want. Prioritizing me is selfish.
Shoulds. I should do the laundry, grocery shopping, dishes, finish that project at work, etc., before I even consider doing what I want to do.
Not enough. I don’t have enough time / money / energy to invest in myself. I’m not accomplished / successful / skinny / confident enough.
I have to earn the space to honor what I want. I haven’t worked hard enough yet to let myself play. I don’t deserve it.
Which is the big one for you??
So how do we start to give ourselves permission, even when it seems impossible and simply not on the table for us?
Here are a few tips that I hope you’ll find helpful:
Observe yourself first. What do you easily give yourself permission to do? What’s harder? Whose beliefs do those preferences reflect (a parent, society at large, your partner?)
Start with small things. Can I drink my coffee out of a favorite cup that feels good in my hand instead of that boring old cup I use every day?
When there’s something I have to do, can I change one small thing that I can control as I do it? This could be: changing into an outfit that brings me joy, or a fuzzy blanket on my lap, listening to a favorite playlist, or a candle I love burning near me as I work.
Remember that giving yourself permission to say no to things is just as important as giving yourself permission to say yes to things. One of my favorite quotes is by Stephen Covey: “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage - pleasantly, smilingly, unapologetically, to say 'no' to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger 'yes' burning inside.”
If we wait for a parent, boss, parent, child, coworker, friend, guru, or anyone else to grant us permission to do the things we want to do and be the person we want to be, we’ll likely be waiting for a very long time. What’s one small step that you can permit yourself to take that points you - even just 2% - in the direction of your larger dreams?
What would giving yourself permission make possible for you?
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Stacy is a Life and Leadership Coach who helps deeply caring high-achievers honor their own needs, do less, and say no so they can invest their time and energy in what matters most to them. You can tune into her podcast “Outgrow the Grind” and explore ways to work together at www.stacyrayekellogg.com.
Article originally published in the pages of SOULACY
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