by Kevie Simon on Wednesday, May 11th, 2016
When I was in elementary school, I loved taking home permission slips to my parents for field trips. It was the highlight of my week to bring home that little piece of paper that would give me freedom from sitting in boring class to explore an unknown place I had never been before. My adventurous little heart would be giddy with excitement. The older I get, the more that I miss those permission slips. They were the gateway to new experience that gave me the freedom to explore. But I have also realized there’s no reason that I cannot give myself an “adult permission slip” now, especially in my recovery journey.
What is an adult permission slip? An adult permission slip gives you the freedom to do X, or Y, or Z for the day. For example, you can give yourself a permission slip to take a day off of work and do something fun. Or maybe you give yourself a permission slip to be silly. Perhaps, you need permission to be flawed. Essentially, you put in writing something that you would not normally give yourself permission to do. It can be fun or very practical. In my journey, I have given myself permission slips to be imperfect and to make mistakes throughout the day.
It sounds silly to write these things down and give them to yourself, I know. But so many of us plow through life not looking around to see what we could do differently to enhance the journey. We have a destination in mind for our lives, and we don’t look away from that goal. When we focus solely on the destination, we miss the beautiful journey to get there. I find that this is especially true for those of us in the recovery world. We want so badly to feel better that we bulldoze over important aspects of the process. Recovery is messy. It is imperfect. It is difficult. And along this road, we must give ourselves permission to be what we need to be at each point. Maybe today, you need to call a friend just to cry. Or, you might need to give yourself permission to go to a restaurant to remember that you are worthy of a nice evening out. Possibly, you need permission to be authentic today. I don’t know what you need, but you do! You can give yourself permission to do these things.
I will be the first to tell you that I am a fantastic perfectionist. I set the bar so high for myself that I could never reach it, and in fact, no one could. This keeps me in a loop of being disappointed with myself, and I live in a place of constant failure. When I can give myself the freedom to lower the bar and be authentically flawed, I am able to walk through the day with confidence and forgiveness for myself. I often have to give myself permission to be vulnerable since vulnerability feels like the opposite of being perfect. Putting my messy self out there for the world to see seems irrational to my brain. And when I have the courage to do it, I find a freedom I never knew existed. Having a written reminder that I can be messy is sometimes the trigger that allows me to forgive myself and laugh a little.
If you need to give permission to yourself, I strongly encourage you to write it down. Cut up slips of paper (or if you are tech savvy, I’m sure you can find a template online) and write down different things you need permission to do. Pick one each day to carry with you. Use it to remind yourself to let go. It seems like such a simple task, yet it can serve as a reminder that you are human and need to forgive yourself for not doing it all perfectly. All recovery is about restoring your true self – the flawed, yet worthy self that you have lost. Giving permission gives you the freedom to begin gaining back this self. Think of this process as a field trip with yourself. You get to break out of your boring routine to find the adventure that is lying inside of you.