I think one of my sister’s favorite quotes is, “Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.” Each time I’ve heard her say it, the words are accompanied by a hysterical fit of laughter. Clearly, she was up to something, and she enjoyed every minute of it.
What if we applied that same quote to our own lives, and specifically focused on doing things that make us happy and fulfilled? I know what you’re thinking. “Do something simply for the fact that it makes me happy? Are you weird?” The short answer is, yes, I am weird.
The long answer goes something like this: I spent a good chuck of my life putting everyone first. I thought if I could just be a certain way, just act a certain way, just take care of things a certain way, then everyone I loved would be happy. I was convinced if they were happy, I would be too. I was essentially at the bottom of my own priority list. You can imagine how that worked out for me.
Taking care of yourself beyond the essentials of showering, eating, and not playing in traffic is really hard some days. Believing that you too are worth being at the top of the priority list is sometimes a hard pill to swallow, but it is an important one.
To be able to take care of others, or, more importantly, be the main character in your own life, you need to ensure your bucket is full. To be able to offer anything to others, you essentially need to guarantee you have something to offer in the first place.
I’ve often wondered why it seems like we need permission to take care of ourselves. Why do we wait for the gift card to the spa to schedule the massage? Why do we wait for the family to be out at their own activities for us to feel like we can sit down and lose ourselves in a book? Why do we acquiesce and go with the flow, when our heart calls out for more?
Is it because we don’t find ourselves worthy? Do we believe we need to earn the right to take care of ourselves? Why do we wait for permission?
My perspective shift was years in the making, as I made incremental steps to fully accepting the fact that I at the very least belonged within the top three spots of my own priority list. The final shift came when I found out I was going to have a daughter.
What lessons did I want to teach my daughter? What messages from my actions did I want her to learn? Did I want her to think that she wasn’t good enough, and that she had to earn the privilege to do things for herself? Did I want her to think she needed permission to take care of herself, or did I want her to own the fact that she didn’t need anyone’s permission, and quite honestly, she didn’t need to ask for forgiveness either.
I’m sure you can guess what path I chose when it came to my daughter. Being her living example of unabashedly taking care of oneself, and finding time to do what feeds your soul is one of the best lessons I can give her.
Are you in the same boat, and find yourself wondering what you can do to better take care of yourself, and put yourself at the top of your own priority list?
First, you need to believe it is important. If you don’t take it seriously, no one else will. Make a declaration to your family to let them know of your intent. Let your friends know too, as they will be some of your biggest supporters.
Second, you need to make a very deliberate effort to do something just for you, simply because you want to. I know, it sounds too greedy. There may even be people who question your actions, thus making you second guess yourself, but you need to press on. For a period of time, going to Starbucks each day and buying a chai tea and slice of banana bread was something I did just for me. I would sit at my desk and take a moment to be grateful for what I had, and to applaud myself for doing something simply because I enjoyed it.
Third, remember to be kind to yourself. Making yourself a priority is hard and uncomfortable. There will be days where you don’t think you can do it, or that it isn’t worth it. Don’t berate yourself when you give up something you were looking forward to, or when you acquiesce to someone else’s desires. Take a step back, and remind yourself how important you are, and how important it is to take care of yourself.
I know this path of self-care is hard, especially when we’ve lived our lives making ourselves as small as possible so as not to inconvenience others. However, when faced with the prospect of remaining small, or living out loud and finally taking care of myself, I choose option 2.
The same can go for you too, my friend. You too can put yourself at the top of your own priority list. It may be uncomfortable and awkward at first, but in the end, you’ll be happy you did.