etc. etc. That’s what my ideal morning looks like. Waking up early and getting active gives me more energy to get through the day. The quiet, warming feel of morning sunshine on my kitchen table brings a sense of calm to my day. I genuinely love mornings.
Today, however, it is 7:54 a.m., I’ve been awake for ten minutes, and the only achievement I’ve unlocked is making a pot of coffee. On that note, I’ll be right back.
That schedule usually works for me. Most days, when my alarm rings, I wake up rested. I'm energized by my yoga practice and early work day. Most days it doesn’t feel like I’m actually following a schedule at all — it just feels like I’m living my day to best suit my needs. Until my needs change.
Today I am on my period. Today the rainy weather is making my head feel clouded and heavy. Today I barely heard my 5:30 a.m. alarm go off before I knew I needed to reach over and turn it off. My needs, as I’m hearing and feeling them from my body, appear to be a little different today.
I could have, and have in the past, ignored those feelings and powered though my morning anyway. Perhaps I was just slow to wake up and I’d be back on track right now had I just empolyed a bit more resolve in dealing with the alarm clock. I am well acquainted with the guilt that accompanies "giving in" to rest and change. In a past life, that guilt was my coach. It was my the little voice on my shoulder urging me to always turn off the alarm, get up, and push a little harder. It was also the voice whispering mean, hateful nothings in my ear when I couldn’t get it all done. It would tell me I’d failed, that I was useless, and the there’s no way I could come back from a day’s slip up.
Guilt is deceiving. It will make you believe it wants whats best for you but really just it wants to feed off you. Guilt is a parasite. Guilt wants to keep you just strong enough to feed it but just weak enough to let it stay. One of the ways it does that is that little voice telling that you've failed when you sleep in, rest, change your mind, or do what was "right." Guilt will tell you that any day that doesn't go perfectly as planned is wasted. Guilt will tell you that the spiral is coming, that you might never go back to the gym, that you're going to binge on donuts every morning for the rest of your life, that you will never get that promotion, and that you've failed.
But it is wrong. That little voice is lying because it's afraid. Guilt is afraid of the unknown because it wants to be in control. Its reaction is to tell you to turn away from unplanned days, from new feelings, from unexplored challenges, from unique food, from risk.
When you start allowing yourself to step into those moments, you give yourself permission to do what you need. I knew that my day wasn't going to be wasted when I turned off that alarm clock because I was giving myself permission to meet my needs. I had invited permission to sit on my shoulder opposite my old friend guilt. Guilt hates permission.
Guilt hates permission because it destroys guilt. There is no wrong way to live your day. There are likely obligations you have to meet such as going to work, feeding your kids, and, you know, breathing but sometimes even those might look a little different. Dinner might be a take-and-bake pizza today so that you can give yourself an hour to take care of yourself. Work might look more like answering emails and filing paperwork than landing new clients and pitching investors today because you're creatively burnt out. Neither of those things are wrong in that moment and neither of them are permanent.
Most of us are familiar with The Forbidden Fruit Effect yet fail to apply it to ourselves. Both human experience and research shows that forbidding something often makes us want it or think we want it more than we actually do. This idea has been studied in regards to children and rules, diet mindset, and even relationships. Time and time again we see that limiting something as strictly off limits (especially when there is little to explanation or understanding as to why) makes it more attractive. Deciding that sleeping past 5:30 a.m. is against the rules turns the snooze button into forbidden fruit. Putting a "must do" on every piece of your to-do list might actually make you feel less like doing those things. You're turning them into a chore and turning not doing them into the almighty and exciting unknown. Guilt feeds off of those cravings and curiosities when the go unanswered. The more you think about that forbidden fruit without actually giving yourself permission to eat it, the stronger the sense of guilt associated with that fruit becomes.
Until you give yourself permission. When you give yourself permission, the fruit is no longer forbidden, your curiosity starts to wane, and guilt begins to wither away. Giving yourself permission to sleep in today does not mean that you'll sleep in tomorrow. You might find that you're well rested and ready to return to your routine because of the freedom you gave yourself. Giving yourself permission to eat an a take-and-bake pizza or burger might be exactly what you needed to stop craving the pizza and get on with your day.
Permission — to sleep in, to eat cake, to binge a television show, to drink wine, to say no to social events, to try something new, to change your routine, whatever it is... — gives you control. Permission, when given to ourselves, is the freedom and power to be imperfect and empowered. It's allowing yourself to use your days and meet your needs. Give yourself a little.
How do you give yourself permission to take what you need? What's standing in your way? Comment below!