News Post

Health and Wellness: Giving Yourself Permission

by Calle Mendenhall
Farris, Riley & Pitt, LLP

The parties have been had.  The gifts unwrapped.  The in-laws (hopefully) out of your home.  Finally, time to take a deep breath, relax, and reconnect with yourself.  It’s been a stressful year.

When I first sat down to write this article, my mind was quickly captivated by all the possible “New Year, New You” topics.  I fixated on resolution themes, goal setting, and the like.  But the more I explored those possible topics, the more exhausted I became.  In the words of Meryl Streep’s character, Miranda Priestly, “Florals?  For Spring?  Groundbreaking.” So instead, I’ve chosen to focus on giving ourselves permission.  Giving ourselves permission to accept our own feelings, failures, and giving ourselves permission to rest.

Our careers require us to ask for permission before acting: seek leave, request an extension, ask clients if we can “push the call back”, etc.  We spend so much of our time getting approval from others yet we are so hesitant to give approval to ourselves.  As a result, we condition ourselves to place the needs of others before our own.  Many of us enjoy doing things for others and have learned over time that our selfless behaviors are praiseworthy.  Giving yourself permission allows you to check in with yourself, ask how you’re feeling, and prioritize what you need, not others.

For example, it is not uncommon for any of us to power through a cold, sinus infection, or exhaustion in order to meet someone else’s expectation or deadline.  When we choose to put our own body’s needs behind the needs of others, we tell ourselves that we have less value than the people we are trying to please.

If this sounds like an area worth exploring this week, here are some areas to check whether you are really giving yourself permission to be your authentic self:

  • Permission to have feelings. It’s okay to feel angry, sad, bored, lonely, tired, etc.  Identify when you are in one of these moods and tell yourself that it’s okay to be in one of these moods.  Once you allow a mood to happen and stop fighting it, you’ll notice it disappears a lot quicker.  This isn’t permission to lash out at others.  It’s permission to allow yourself to process and move forward.
  • Permission to rest. When we are depleted, we have nothing left to give.  The next time you look at your social calendar, look at some of the events.  Are you going because you want to go?  Or, are you going because you feel like you have to or should?  Sometimes for the sake of business, we really do need to go.  But, for those other times, ask yourself what the motivation is behind your decision to go.  Think back to what you were secretly thrilled to miss due to the COVID lockdowns.  Have you gotten back in the habit of attending those events again?
  • Permission to fail. Lawyers are well known to be perfectionists.  There are plenty of resources available discussing how perfectionism contributes to high percentages of depression, anxiety, addiction, and burn out.  Learning to accept that we aren’t going to be great at everything is crucial to maintaining a positive outlook and healthy mindset.  Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, described the way she learned to accept failure and redefine it several years ago. [1]  Every night at the dinner table, Sara’s father would ask her and her brother what they each failed at that day.  In return, Sara’s father would refrain from reacting with disappointment and, instead, celebrate their efforts.  This shift allowed Sara the permission to take risks and ultimately be named as the first self-made billionaire.  Asking ourselves this question daily, monthly, or yearly can help change our unhealthy thinking patterns.

There are many other ways to practice giving ourselves permission besides these three here.  What are some ways you can start practicing?