Give Yourself Permission
In my first semester of college in 2010, I walked into the counseling center for the first time. I had never seen a therapist before, nor did I ever think I would need to. I didn’t really think that I had any “problems” to solve. That was until my grades started to plummet. All of a sudden, my history teacher from ninth grade was in my head: “I believe you have test anxiety.” These words had never been uttered to me before, but it wasn’t a hidden fact that I always did poorly on tests. I had great grades and then a test would come along and I would shut down. I panicked and forgot everything I knew. In ninth grade, these words hit me, but not in a positive way. The teacher left me with that phrase, offering no guidance. I ultimately just felt like I was stupid.
So flash forward to four years later and I walk into the counseling center to treat my test anxiety after being told it was a real thing and that I could conquer it. So of course, I jumped on the chance. Turns out, there was a lot more going around my brain than test anxiety, but that’s another story!
On one of my first sessions with my therapist, he said, “Give yourself permission to fail.” I remember looking at him, dumbfounded. Why would I want to fail? Aren’t we living our best selves in order not to fail? Turns out, it’s the opposite. Without failure, how do we succeed? Each time I walked in to take a test, I was terrified of failing. Failing consumed my thoughts that everything else was blocked from coming through. But by telling myself it was okay to fail, I managed to be able to access the notes I had been studying. By accepting the worst case scenario: failing, and knowing that nothing terrible would happen, it can be a way lessen your anxiety. This wasn’t the end all be all to my test anxiety, to this day I still panic, but not as much. The idea of giving myself permission to fail or really to do anything, opened up numerous doors.
We live our lives according to what others expect of us. We have a system that is supposed to work flawlessly. We are born, go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids and teach them to repeat. It’s a seemingly simple process that is much more complicated.
We stress over meaningless things and work ourselves to the bone, but are we happy? Are we stressing ourselves out over the things we love? Some of us are. But too many of us aren’t.
On my journey, up and down, on good days and on bad days, I still have to give myself permission to do things. This could be a list of things. It could be permission to feel whatever I’m feeling: happy, sad, confused, or angry. This could be permission to just relax and maybe put off my to do list for a little while. Maybe permission to do something physically, emotionally, and mentally good for me. It could be a myriad of things that starts with you acknowledging what you need in that moment of time.
We don’t have the luxury of being able to be selfish all the time. But I encourage you to carve out moments in your day where you check in with yourself. It could be a simple process to start checking in every couple of hours to see how you are doing.
1) Are you on track for the day?
2) Have you gotten distracted?
3) How do you feel about what you are doing?
4) If you’re unhappy, how are you going to change it?
5) Have you done something for yourself today?
6) Take a deep breath and smile
Start with this method if you can and then expand further. How can you access your physical, emotional, and mental health? Sometimes you cannot define an emotion specifically and something may bring you down. Accept the feeling and give yourself permission to slow your day down. Take care of yourself.
Hannah Hart, an internet personality, best known for for her weekly series, “My Drunk Kitchen,” has a video (4:35) talking about setting yourself achievable goals. If you wake up with a 20% capacity for the day, there is no way you can reasonably achieve a scheduled day of 100%. It’s okay to have these days. If all you can do is get up and shower, set those goals for yourself and that’s it. Accepting them and taking care of yourself will help you towards a more positive day, one you can be proud of because you accomplished those goals.
I have created myself a schedule that has proven to work for me. Since I am still in school, I need to manage doing school work, actually working a job, writing, and taking care of myself. I’ve created myself an acronym that’ll change when life changes. Right now it’s SPREY. This includes, Sociology, Publishing, Reading, Editing, and Yoga. For a while, I wasn’t taking what I needed to get done seriously. Since I don’t have a full time job like the rest of my friends, I was putting their free time in front of my own schedule and was falling behind. Now, I look at SPREY on my calendar and know what I have to do each day. I have necessities, but I also have “me” time. Reading and yoga* are my fun moments to connect to myself and relax. It isn’t everyday that I have school work to do, but reading, editing, and yoga have become nonnegotiable for the most part and I’ve noticed I am much happier for it.
I’m sure yoga being great for my physical, mental, and emotional health has added to that happiness as well. But I like my to do lists! It’s important to keep in mind that just because you’ve created this to do list, doesn’t mean you can stress yourself out about it. I did in the beginning, but it defeated the purpose. If you’re stressing about your “me” time, maybe what you’ve chosen doesn’t hold enough significance. On my to do list, I have time slots that equate to a days worth of work for me. I’ve figured out how much time should be spent on each activity each day. But like I said, I don’t follow this exactly, every day. Things come up and I have to be flexible. More often than not, I have a day that is less heavy and I can move things around a bit. It’s the idea of visually seeing your every day to do list.
So I encourage you to give yourself permission. Figure out what you can do for yourself each and everyday. If you cannot take care of yourself, it’s harder to take care of those around you.
*Check out Yoga With Adriene if you’re interested in starting yoga.