Give yourself permission to…

One of the Insight cards I give my patients to inspire self-reflection is this: “Give yourself permission to…”

I leave the statement open-ended to encourage them to supply their own answers. That’s because self-fulfillment looks different for everyone.

If I had to suggest a universal answer, however, it might be “Give yourself permission to live your own life.” That’s similar to another of my Insights: “Be yourself. Don’t emulate.” That can take courage if whatever it is you want to do differs from the lives you see other people living, or the expectations other people have of you. Nevertheless, the first step in living your own life is realizing that you don’t need anyone else’s permission; you only need your own.

So many times, when we ask ourselves what we want, or what would make us happy, we no sooner answer than we tell ourselves all the reasons we can’t have or shouldn’t want whatever the answer is. “Oh, come on. Be realistic.” Or, “why do you want that? No one else does. Can’t you just be happy with what you’ve got?” Or “Many people would give anything to be in your situation. Why can’t you just be satisfied? Maybe you’re one of those people who is never satisfied.”

But of course the world would be a very dull and dysfunctional place if everyone wanted to be an accountant and live in the suburbs with a spouse and 2.4 children. Where would the artists and athletes and builders and engineers come from? Who would trim trees, or style hair, or paint houses, or develop medicines? Variety is not only the spice of life; it’s what ensures that there’s a place and a purpose for everyone.

In my own life, I had to give myself permission to start my own skincare company. That’s not something most people aspire to—nor could any of my friends or colleagues understand why I would jeopardize the comfortable life I had as a physician in order to start a business. After all, I had no knowledge or experience in running a business, and I couldn’t point to anyone else as a role model I could follow.

And yes, following this path did entail some expensive failures, which I chose to think of as investments in my own education. That’s another thing you might have to give yourself permission to do: fail a few times. In fact, I recommend you don’t think of them as failures, but as learning experiences. After all, how many times did you fall before you learned how to walk? Thomas Edison reportedly said of his many attempts to invent a light bulb that worked, “I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”

Edison also said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.”

So, what is it you need to give yourself permission to do? What is keeping you from giving it?

Giving permission doesn’t necessarily mean upending your entire life today; but it could mean making a plan to move confidently in that direction. After all, there’s undoubtedly a reason why you are inspired by that dream, especially if it’s one that doesn’t inspire many others.

I believe that it is essential to give ourselves permission to dream our own dreams; navigate our own paths; and do whatever it is that makes us happy. Staying in touch with our passions is a vital part of Modern Wellness.


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