The Practice of Giving Yourself Permission
Have you ever known deep in your bones what you want or need but for some reason you don’t go after it?
Perhaps you really want to purchase a book, or go visit a friend, or take a class, or start a new hobby, or take some time out for yourself; the timing seems right, the necessary funds are available, and the desire is there so it seems like it should be all systems go. However, when push comes to shove, something stops you from executing your plan.
If you’ve ever found yourself here, it can be confusing; it can even be frustrating.
“Do I actually want _________ after all? Maybe it’s just not the right time. But it feels like it is… why am I making this so challenging?”
This may lead to questions or uncertainty around what you actually want and need, if at one moment you think you want/need one thing and then the next moment you don’t.
What it mostly comes down to, however, is not a question of if you actually want something, but rather, if you think you deserve it.
It’s very common for people to have an understanding of what they want, but for one reason or another, not feel like they can actually have it. This is linked to feelings of self-doubt and low self-worth.
There could be various reasons why someone may be struggling with self-doubt or low self-worth and it is beneficial to do some reflecting on what’s coming up for you in moments where these feelings are triggered.
To paint a picture of this in process, I’m someone who struggles with having down time during the work-day. If I have a chunk of time that’s undesignated to anything in particular, I often don’t allow myself to rest, even when I want to; if I do, I'm usually plagued with feelings of guilt. Some of the thoughts that come up are centred around not having enough output and the deep rooted belief that I’m not good enough.
The thought pattern that spirals from this is that if I were good enough, I would have enough work to keep me busy throughout the whole day. Therefore, because my schedule on that particular day isn’t packed with client sessions or something else, it must mean that I’m not good enough in my career; if I’m not good enough as a counsellor then how could I possibly give myself a break when I should be striving to be better?!
Catch me on a bad day and an open block of time that spans a few hours leaves me doubting my ability to do anything meaningful in life.
If there is the possibility for deep rooted self-doubt and the different kinds of thoughts and feelings that spring from it, what can we do in moments where we’re getting in our own way of fulfilling our wants and needs?
It starts with acknowledging that this sort of thought process is happening.
This involves observing how you respond to yourself when there is a want/need expressed. Are you being critical of something that you desire? Are you coming up with reasons as to why you shouldn’t want it? Are you seeking out alternatives to the actual thing that seem lower stakes?
Bring a little curiosity to yourself in whatever answers these questions generate. How do you feel in your body in this moment? How can you be a little bit softer with yourself if you notice some tension?
Next, give yourself permission to go after the thing you desire. It might sound overly simplistic, but sometimes we genuinely need permission from ourselves in the same way that a kid needs permission from their parent or guardian.
At the same time, giving yourself permission may feel challenging because you may realize how many times you block a desire when it comes up instead of leaning into it.
As an activity, you can even try writing out a permission slip for yourself to go after the thing you desire, similar to the permission slips that require a parent/guardian signature for a school field trip. It might seem silly, but sometimes we need a bit of silliness to break ourselves out of a serious state of mind. There’s also some power when you sign your name on the dotted line.
When we practice giving ourselves permission, we begin to see ourselves as capable and willing to provide ourselves with the things we desire. This can be a positive and fun space to explore.
Lastly, be kind to yourself if you notice that you’re having a hard time with the practice. It’s okay if it feels a little uncomfortable. Try not to criticize yourself but instead meet yourself in these moments with a bit of curiosity and compassion. The more you practice giving yourself permission, the more natural it will become.