As I celebrated my birthday earlier this year, amongst the presents from family and friends there were two presents that didn’t have cards with them. As I started to unwrap them my youngest daughter asked, “who are they from?”
“They are my presents to myself,” I replied.
With eyes like saucers she asked, “you can do that? When you are an adult, you can buy presents for yourself?”
“Not only can you,” I replied. ‘You need to. You need to show yourself how much you love yourself and if you can’t do that on your birthday, when else will you do that?”
She thought about this for a minute. I added, “for years I waited around for perfect birthday presents and each year I enjoyed what I got, but I was always slightly disappointed that no one had read my mind and got me exactly what I wanted. I finally realised that was silly. No one else needs to read my mind. And no one else knows me or loves me the way I love me. So I bought myself exactly what I wanted.”
She thought some more. And then replied, “That’s such a great idea Mum. I’m going to do that for myself when I get older.” And then quickly followed up with, “or actually, I think I’ll do that for myself THIS year.”
What a wonderful birthday gift she gave me in that moment. To be given a teaching moment to be a role model of an empowered woman for her.
She recently turned 13, an age where in many indigenous societies, she would be considered a woman. A week before her birthday she asked me to take her to her favourite shop, she bought two gifts for herself with her own money and then she gave them to me to wrap for her. I thought it was a beautiful moment and one that marked a certain coming of age for her.
I’ve thought a lot about that moment since and have talked about it with a few friends. Inevitably the conversation comes around to what we had modelled for us as young women. For most of us, our mothers always put themselves last. So we grew up thinking that’s where we belonged as we became wives and mothers. Like me, it’s taken many of my friends a long time to come to a place where it’s ok to buy yourself what you want, when you want it. Or do something that you want or even speak up for yourself.
It’s about permission. Giving yourself permission to do something. And permission can be hard to give to yourself.
For years I didn’t even give myself permission to examine my life. I knew in my heart that if I did, I wouldn’t like what I saw and then would have to figure out what to do with it. So I hid.
When I finally gave up hiding and gave myself permission to follow my heart and be true to myself, life changed dramatically.
I had to take it in steps. Giving myself permission wasn’t something that came naturally to me.
In the book Daring Greatly, Dr Brené Brown talks about writing permission slips for yourself. This is a technique I’ve used with coaching clients and at my empowerment retreat. It really helps free you up to do something that you may have been stuck on. I can give myself permission to do something mentally, but I find when I write myself an actual permission slip, it’s much more powerful. I have a whole box of different shaped and coloured post-it notes that are perfect for writing permission slips. Or I write them in my journal.
Some examples include:
‘I, Lisa, give myself permission to listen to my heart and do what it says today, rather than listening to my head.’
I, Lisa, give myself permission to take a leap of faith and quit my job.’
‘I, Lisa, give myself permission to take a day for myself and lie in bed and read books and sleep.’
‘I, Lisa, give myself permission to face my fear about my finances and go see my accountant today.’
‘I, Lisa, give myself permission to stand up for myself with the person who isn’t respecting me.’
‘I, Lisa, give myself permission to feel scared today as I go to my divorce court hearing.’
There’s something about writing it down that grants the permission I need and makes it easier to do the thing I either need or want to do.
This week marked my last class for my coaching course that started in January. I have had a huge couple of weeks receiving coaching from some of my fellow students and they have helped me implement some big changes in my life. But I have not attracted enough clients this month to meet my coaching quota for the course. And because of that, I will not be able to graduate from the course next month.
It’s been a big deal for me. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy and money into this course. It was a course I felt called to do. And I can see there are so many reasons why I took part in the course.
When I started the course, it was all about getting the certificate at the end of graduation. Something to hang on my wall for coaching clients to see.
But as time has gone on, I realise that’s not what this course has been about for me. It’s about so much more. It’s been about giving myself permission to live an unconventional life. It’s been about learning skills to tune into my intuition and giving myself permission to listen. It’s been about my spiritual journey and giving myself permission to ask for guidance and always receiving it at the perfect time.
And most importantly, it’s been about the amazing people from all over the planet who I have come to know. I gave myself permission to be more vulnerable with them than I’ve been with any other group of people and they have responded with love and support and compassion like I’ve never known.
And I’ve given myself permission to not achieve a certificate. For someone who has always been driven to achieve and to have something to prove I’ve achieved it, this is a HUGE deal. I’ve laid down the need to have a piece of paper to prove I’m a wonderful coach. I realise I don’t need it. Every client I’ve had has told me that I am a natural coach and I have helped so many people already. I don’t need a piece of paper to prove that to me or to anyone else.
Today I’m giving myself permission to be authentic and true. To listen and follow my heart. To be grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned. To be creative. To have fun. And to not worry.
What will you give yourself permission to do today?