Give Yourself Permission: One of the Best Ways to Make Difficult Decisions and Reduce Your Stress

happy latino woman managing stress

Episode 19: One of the Best Ways to Make Difficult Decisions

We are all looking for ways to manage our stress levels and to make important decisions in our lives. In this episode of the podcast,  I share one of my favorite ways to make decisions while managing my stress and negative thoughts, and I think it's one of the best ways.



Here is one of my favorite ways to make decisions while managing my stress and negative thoughts

And no, I'm not going to tell you to meditate. Or practice mindfulness. Or take deep breaths or make a list of pros and cons.  Although those are wonderful tools that truly are helpful.

What I'm going to suggest is that you learn the fine art of giving yourself permission.

Give Yourself Permission

Permission? For what? I’m sure that’s what you are thinking. But yes, you heard that right. I think you should learn how to give yourself permission to do a host of things in your life.

Maybe you need to give yourself permission to do something big like end your relationship or your marriage.

Or you need to give yourself permission to quit your job, or to retire, or to get a new job.

Perhaps you need to give yourself permission to end a toxic friendship or to stand up for yourself with a difficult person.

Maybe you need to give yourself permission to skip a social event and spend the night hunkered down on the couch in your PJ's watching a good movie

What if you need to give yourself permission to share your feelings with your partner and tell them you need them to show up for you – or that you need to start counseling with or without them.

Or maybe you struggle with perfectionism. And you need to give yourself permission to not be perfect. To not have the perfect house or the perfect makeup. Or the perfect car. Or the perfect vacation. Or the perfect children. That can be an awful lot of pressure on not just you, but also your children.

What if you need to give yourself permission to sit down and relax and not be a whirling dervish of activity?

Perhaps you need to give yourself permission to ask for help when you need it.

Maybe it's something simple like giving yourself permission to sign up for piano lessons even though you are 45. Or take a painting class or start learning how to knit.

Whatever it is, it's important. Everyone needs to give themselves permission to do something and this is such a simple little concept, but it can be so life-changing.


Where Did This Idea Come From?

First, let me give you a little background about this idea. Many years ago, I was inspired by Dr. Brené Brown's research on shame and vulnerability. She was catapulted into popularity by a Ted Talk.  I completed all the requirements to become a certified facilitator of her therapy materials. If you've never heard of Brené Brown, she has wonderful books about overcoming perfectionism, managing shame, and learning better ways to be in relationships with others. You can read about them on my Resource page on What I really like about her is that all of her content is backed by research. So she's not just blowing smoke like many people do, including all of the people with no training that are sharing mental health content on social media.

One of the tips in her course materials was this idea of writing out a permission slip. I used to facilitate small groups of women through the course materials. They were and still are called Daring Way and Rising Strong groups. We always completed permission slips as I started taking a small group of people through the course materials.

Everyone would write down what they felt they needed to give themselves permission for. It might be something like having the courage to share in the group setting. Or doing extra self-care while they went through the course materials.


Why Permission Slips Work

The intention behind permission slips was to get people to think about what they had to give themselves permission to do or not do in order. To free themselves up, to make some type of positive movement forward in their lives.

This idea of giving ourselves permission is absolutely brilliant because, in the process of doing it, you end up doing deep thought about what is holding you back. I love that it makes you dig deeper what you are thinking and how you are feeling about various parts of your life.


How it Works

I think I can illustrate this best if I give you a personal example. Many years ago, I was looking for clinical space for my therapy practice. It was very challenging to find an individual space that was affordable, given that therapists also need waiting rooms on top of their office space.

I ended up meeting another therapist that was also looking for office space. We didn't know each other very well, but what little we knew we liked. So we decided to proceed forward with finding some type of space that was big enough for both of us, but that also had several other offices that we could rent out to other clinicians. We thought this would be a great way to create a community environment but also help offset the high cost of rent.

We worked with a realtor and found several spaces. Finally, it was time to make the decision and sign the lease for one of the spaces. It was a really expensive monthly payment. Plus, the contract was for six years. And geez, Six years is a very long time to commit to something, especially with someone you don't know very well.

I became absolutely paralyzed with fear. I couldn't make a decision. I was completely stuck. And we were under time pressure to get a place because the leases on our current office spaces were running out. The pressure to make the decision made it much worse. And it made me even more stuck. Finally, I decided to do what I've successfully done with so many clients and that was to consider what I had to give myself permission to do or not do.

And the result of doing this was literally magic. It enabled me to sign the lease and start what ended up being an incredibly positive journey in a magnificent office space with an incredible business partner and wonderful co-workers.

I want to share with you what I did because I think it really illustrates how helpful this can be. And then you’ll have a real-world example about how you can apply it to your life.



Like many people, I struggle with perfectionism. My perfectionism is not rooted in how I look or how my kids look or how my house looks but more in my own personal performance. And part of that is a lifelong fear of making a mistake and making the wrong decision. I also grew up poor for part of my childhood years. So making a financial mistake is also something with which I've always struggled.


My Mom's Anxiety

I could spend an entire podcast explaining how I got to this place. But in a nutshell, I grew up with an amazingly loving mother who also had lots of anxiety. And her anxiety caused her to criticize me. She loved me so much that she was afraid I might make a bad decision. Or people wouldn't like me. Or the sky would fall, etc. Anxiety is not rational. And honestly, I don't know all of the things my mother worried about? I only know that it came out as criticism and I was left with this feeling that I was never enough. I'm sharing this because I know many of you may also have grown up in similar situations and ended up with the core belief that you somehow aren't enough. I've spent my life overcoming that core belief and growing my self-esteem.

So as I was faced with this decision about the office space., I wrestled with my fear of making. The wrong choice. What if we didn't get enough sublessors and it ended up being a financial disaster. What if my business partner and I didn't like each other after six months?. What if it just didn't work out? What if I didn't want to be a therapist in three years? What if, What if, What if? Doing what if’s? Is a fast track to stress and anxiety. They served to sink me further into indecision.

I did some deep soul-searching about what I needed to give myself permission for. And I realized I need it to give myself permission to make a mistake. I did a deep dive into exploring my thought about where my fear of making a mistake came from? And then I gently challenged all the thoughts I had around my fear.


Insight That Helps You Change How You Think, Feel and Act

One of the core things that a good coach or therapist does with a client is to help them gain insight about the relationship between the thoughts they have, their feelings, and their behaviors. The goal is to help people understand how all of these are related and how changing one impacts the others.

One of the best ways to change how we feel about something is to change how we think about it. But sometimes, the way we think about things isn't accurate. We might do something called distorted or catastrophic thinking. Our thoughts are typically based on our perceptions or assumptions and not really on fact.

Learning to gently challenge your thoughts is a wonderful way to coach yourself into changing your thoughts and ultimately improving how you feel and changing behaviors into better choices. You've probably heard people talk about positive self-talk. Positive self-talk isn't just saying oh wow, you're so amazing. But it's also learning to talk to yourself like you would your very best friend, and that includes challenging irrational or inaccurate thoughts.

So as I sat down to think through the situation with my office lease, I realized I needed to give myself permission to make a mistake. I literally pulled out a piece of paper and I wrote down on it “I give myself permission to make a mistake signing this office lease.” I folded it up and put it in my wallet. And then I called my business partner and said I was ready to sign the lease.

You can go through this process. Do some deep thinking and then write down on a piece of paper what you give yourself permission to do. Or you can do it mentally.

Over the holiday season, I've done this process mentally and I've given myself permission to not have everything be perfect for my guests. I let go of worrying about all of the food, the decor in my house, whether or not I had chosen the perfect Christmas gifts, etc. You get the point. It was so freeing to do this. In fact, I think I've enjoyed this holiday season more than any other just because of this, just because I gave myself permission to let go of the perfectionism around the holidays.


What Do You Need To Give Yourself Permission For

So let's circle back to what you need to give yourself permission for. Whether it's ending a toxic friendship, standing up for yourself, or skipping a social event, you can use this concept to work your way through whatever difficult choice you need to make.

So right now, while it's fresh on your mind., Pull out a piece of paper and think about what you really need to give yourself permission for. And then do it.



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