Note: This is a guest post from Melissa of Melissa Camara Wilkins.
Life is complicated. What I’ve always wanted life to be is . . . simple. Simpler, anyway. But no. Life has always been complicated, and most of the time I was pretty sure I was doing it wrong.
In fact, I used to have a charming personal mantra that went like this: I am the worst.
It was like an affirmation, except the opposite. Some people say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and I have what it takes.” I said, “Ugh, I should have known.”
My phone is out of power? I am the worst at recharging.
Sauce on my shirt? I am the worst at spaghetti.
What was that guy’s name? I am the worst at remembering.
Everyone else seemed pretty much okay and I was kind of a mess, so everyone else was better and I was the worst. It seemed perfectly logical to me.
But life just IS complicated. Being a person is hard. That doesn’t mean we’re doing anything wrong. That’s just the way it is. And blaming myself for the nature of reality was making things more complicated all along.
We all know—at least in theory—how to sort through our closets and clear off our counters, but how do you clean out the mess in your head and in your heart? How do you learn to set down all the stuff you carry that isn’t really helping you? How do you decide that the person you are inside—the real you, the person underneath all the expectations and comparisons and measuring up and fitting in—is allowed to show up in your life?
I tell the whole story of how I learned to give myself permission to be who I really am in my book, Permission Granted. But in the meantime, start here:
Permission to rewrite the story
We all have stories looping around in our minds somewhere. Sometimes these are helpful, but often they’re just mental clutter that keeps us stuck.
If you’re not sure what your stories sound like, listen for what you say to yourself when things fall apart, or when you’re overwhelmed, or when you look in the mirror, or when you first wake up in the morning.
What messages are you sending yourself? Are they helpful?
The story in my head, the one that sounded like “I am the worst”? That one wasn’t true, and it wasn’t helpful. I needed to rewrite that story with something truer. I didn’t need to convince myself that I was the best instead of the worst—I just needed to tell the truth.
The truth is, I’m not the worst. The truth is, I am the way I am for a good reason, and I’m allowed to be this person.
Now when I hear those old stories crop up, I know to take a deep breath and tell myself something truer. Give yourself permission to change the story.
Permission to un-meet expectations
There are approximately a zillion things to do in the average day: carpool and deadlines and laundry and dinner, email and meetings and phone calls and paperwork. And don’t forget to be an informed citizen and an engaged community member, and to raise courageous, compassionate humans (if you happen to be contributing to the raising of children)—oh, and to make room for your own self to thrive, in whatever ways work best for you.
It’s a tall order.
But when we stop to ask ourselves why we’re doing half those things in the first place, sometimes what we discover is that we’re doing them because that’s just the way it’s done, in our community or in our society or in our circle. We didn’t choose those things, exactly, they just fell into our laps because they were expected of us.
And sure, we can just keep trying to be the person the world expects us to be forever… but when you’re trying to meet other people’s expectations instead of your own, that is when things get complicated.
So this is how you un-meet expectations, then. You say no. You throw out or give away all the stuff you’re tired of organizing. You let the laundry pile up, or you tell everyone to wear those jeans one more time. You get slow at replying to email. You delete stuff. You delete more stuff. You give yourself permission to do what you need to do, and you don’t wait for anyone else’s approval.
Give yourself permission to be who you really are, not who everyone else expects you to be.
Permission to experiment
I used to think that if I couldn’t get it together the way everyone else could, I should at least pretend to know what I was doing. Fake-it-till-you-make-it? Smile and nod and say yes to everything everyone else puts on your plate, spin your wheels faster and faster until you can’t spin anymore… sound familiar? It never quite got me to where I wanted to go.
But when I decided to stop doing all that, I wasn’t sure what would happen. I knew I needed to quit trying to be who everyone else expected me to be. I knew I needed to tell the truth. But I wasn’t sure exactly what that would look like, or what would happen next.
What I didn’t realize was this: when we make changes, we’re going to try some things that aren’t going to work.
We’re going to forget which direction we meant to walk and have to circle back around again. We might hear ourselves whispering: oh wow, I really am the worst at this. (Don’t worry, you’re not.) But if we wait to get started until we’ve figured out our whole path, we’re never going to take the first step. You’re allowed to just try and see what happens.
Try saying no to something that doesn’t fit. Try saying yes to something that excites you. Try telling the truth next time someone asks how you are. Try listening to yourself to see what you hear. Try following your heart instead of waiting until you know why. Give yourself permission to experiment.
Give yourself permission
This is how we start to make life simpler on the inside. We start by noticing what needs to change, and by trusting ourselves to make those changes.
Give yourself permission to experiment. Give yourself permission to learn from what doesn’t work and try again. Give yourself permission to be gloriously imperfect.
Give yourself permission to be who you really are.
Melissa’s new book, Permission Granted: Be Who You Were Made to Be and Let Go of The Rest, is brand new and available now. Permission Granted is all about giving yourself permission to be who you really are—and making your whole life simpler in the process.