How To Give Yourself a Permission Slip

19 Ways to Give Yourself Permission to Flourish

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Emotional Well-being Mood Issues & Stress

Often, the only thing standing between you and a better, healthier, more abundant life is simply giving yourself a permission slip to be who you truly are meant to be.

But, that can be difficult because we live in a culture where we are programmed from birth to ask “authority figures” for permission for everything. For example, you may have had to ask your parents for permission to eat a snack if you were hungry between meals.

Or worse, your feeding schedule as an infant might have been dictated by some outdated “schedule” based on obsolete research on the emptying time of an infant’s stomach rather than your own hunger.  

As you got older, maybe you needed to ask permission to use your own money to buy something for yourself.  Perhaps you even had to ask a teacher to be permitted to use the bathroom in school, and maybe you were told that you could not go until you finished your assignment! I once met with my daughters’ first grade teacher when I found out that this practice was being instituted. (Emphasis on “institution!”)

Not long ago on my radio show, Flourish, I covered the topic “Give Yourself a Permission Slip.” However, on the day I was originally scheduled to do the show, I overslept! Clearly it was time for me to give myself a permission slip to rest that day. When we rescheduled the show, it was a huge success. (LISTEN HERE.) So, I want share with all of you how you can give yourself a permission slip whenever you need.

Why You Need to Give Yourself a Permission Slip Regularly

Most people don’t realize that a culture of asking permission creates one where many people’s self-worth is attached to their ability to receive permission. So, it is not uncommon for many people to carry these patterns through adulthood.  The patterns I am talking about often show up in your marriage, your work, and your relationships.

For example, maybe you refrain from buying yourself a new pair of shoes because you are afraid that your husband may disapprove.  Or, maybe you are so busy finishing something for your boss that you don’t use the bathroom until your bladder is almost bursting.

Of course, the most common situation I hear from women is that they feel guilty for resting after they have had a baby. They do the laundry, make dinner, clean the house, and entertain family members!

The first thing I want you to do is to remember that you are here on this planet in your physical body for a purpose.  And it’s impossible to be who you are truly meant to be if you are always looking to others for permission.

The only way you can even begin to fulfill your purpose and be who you are meant to be is to give yourself permission to live for the things you love. Giving yourself permission to use the bathroom when you need to, or to buy yourself a fabulous pair of shoes begins to shift your energy toward self-empowerment.

Of course, living for what you love means that you also need to give yourself permission to let go of worrying what other people may think of you. When you let go of the need for approval you can begin to live your life’s purpose.

How to Give Yourself a Permission Slip

Giving yourself permission to be yourself is a process. It starts with small permissions such as giving yourself permission to rest when you are tired or sick, or giving yourself permission to ask for help when you need it.  When you practice these smaller permissions on a regular basis, it becomes easier to give yourself permission to be your true self.

Here’s how you can give yourself a permission slip:

1. Turn Your Super Traits On Yourself.

If you struggle with giving yourself permission, you probably have a super trait that results in you putting others first just because you’re so darn good at making things work for them. For example, maybe you are super responsible and take care of everyone’s needs at work and home before you take care of yourself and your own needs. This is at the heart of burnout. The best thing you can do is give yourself permission to apply that super trait to yourself and give yourself a permission slip to prioritize self-care.

2. Learn to Trust Yourself.

When you give yourself permission, you are trusting yourself to make choices. There is an all-knowing consciousness inside you, at all moments, guiding you toward your highest good. This includes what medical tests or procedures are best for you. Please don’t forget this. The more you can connect with this guidance, and the more you listen to it, the easier it will be to give yourself permission.

3. Let Go of Your Need for Approval.

When you seek external permission from others, you are allowing yourself to be judged. As long as you need the approval of others, you will remain disempowered. Once you stop seeking external approval your ability to give yourself a permission slip when you need one increases greatly.

4. Call On Your Guides.

There are many ways you can call on Divine guidance. Tosha Silver’s Change Me prayers are one simple way. You simply ask the Divine to change you into someone who, in this case, knows what she needs and gets that need met without asking permission. Here’s an example: “Divine Beloved, please change me into someone who easily knows my needs and feels comfortable with getting them met.”  You can also use Robert Fritchie’s Divine Love petitions. For more information go to his website, The World Service Institute.

5. Feel Your Emotions.

When you want to give yourself a permission slip, it helps to allow yourself to feel the emotions associated with whatever you are seeking permission to do. For example, if you are seeking permission to rest, you may need to feel the guilt associated with resting while your family members may want something from you. Remember that your emotions are the connection between your physical body and your spirit. Feeling these emotions is essential to connecting with your higher self and your purpose.

6. Love and Cherish Yourself.

Matt Kahn’s approach works wonders here. Place your hand on your heart and say “I love You. You’re precious. You’re beautiful. I forgive you. I truly love you.” Do this exercise every day as often as you need.  Watch Matt’s You Tube video “The End of Victimhood” or learn more at his website, http://www.truedivinenature.com about how to raise your vibration even when you are around negative people.

7. Meditate.

Meditation can help you connect to that higher part of yourself who knows your true worth. This can help you release your need for external permission.

8. Stop saying “I have to.” 

When you let go of “I have to” and replace it with “I want to,” you free up tremendous energy to do what you love and be who you are meant to be.

9. Practice Permission Daily. 

At first, it might feel quite uncomfortable – or even selfish — to give yourself permission daily, but the more you practice, the easier it will be. Start by making a list of everything that you would do if you gave yourself permission. Another way to make this list is to write down everything you wish others would do for you—which you always end up doing for them! Slowly work through your list. You can do this with a friend and then compare notes. Eventually you will be able to give yourself permission to be free from anything that does not support you – including a job or a toxic relationship.

10 Permission Slips You Could Give Yourself Today

Here are 10 permission slips I recommend you give yourself every day.

  1. Rest when you need to. If you are tired, give yourself permission to sleep. The dishes, the laundry, and the work you didn’t finish today will still be waiting for you tomorrow.
  2. Feel joy every day. Paint, sing, dance, play music, and have sex if you so desire.
  3. Let go of toxic relationships. Toxic people drain you. Work on creating relationships with people who support you as you are.
  4. Love your body. Stop comparing yourself to the air brushed models in the media. Dress the way you want. Do your hair the way you like it.  If this is difficult, do mirror work and tell your body how much you love it.
  5. Trust your intuition. Step out of your comfort zone and go for whatever feels right – maybe it is a new career path, a new health or fitness program, or simply speaking up when you feel the need.
  6. Simplify your life. Focus on what truly matters to you. Don’t let yourself get derailed by drama.
  7. Forgive yourself. Forgiveness is a process. Find time every day to practice forgiveness.
  8. Say “yes.” Saying “yes” to yourself is empowering. Say “yes” to whatever you want in your life, and say “no” to whatever you don’t want.
  9. Feel the guilt. Realize that it the guilt you are feeling is probably just cultural programming. Thank it for sharing and release it.
  10. Be yourself. Accept yourself exactly as you are. You don’t have to fit any cultural mold.

How have you given yourself a permission slip? Please leave your comments for me in the comments section below.

Last Updated: September 1, 2016

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

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  1. Renae
    2 years ago

    This action was made easy after my divorce years ago and got easier as my children grew and became adults and went out on their own to live their lives. It honestly is wonderful, I do what I want when I want and only thing holding me down now is work -still have to show up for that when I’d rather not have to but someone has to pay my bills lol. I do however have flexibility with work with paid sick and vacation days so I can still take time when truly needed. Truly a wonderful feeling not worrying about getting permission from anyone to live as I wish.

  2. Marion
    2 years ago

    Gave myself permission to stop going to weekly lunches with a group of women so that I didn’t have to have small talk with an ex friend who shunned me after I saved her life once and was concerned about her. I needed to let go after 15 years. I feel better thanks.

  3. Silvia
    2 years ago

    Silvia
    Me doy permiso de aceptar mi cuerpo como es ya me canse de todas las dietas y de no tener pena por estar cansada y que piensen que soy floja tengo 71 años y te doy las gracias por que puedo verme de otra forma

  4. Liz Wood
    2 years ago

    I hired a housekeeper! She does all of the deep cleaning that I don’t WANT to do! I love her and I love myself for finally giving myself permission to hire someone. My mom was the best homemaker in the world and she enjoyed doing it all….I THINK! She did not pass this gene on to me and I forgive myself for that and celebrate that I am in a position to bring in someone who appreciates the work..in every way. Yay me!

  5. Irene
    2 years ago

    Hi Dr Northrup.

    9/9/9 today and reading your permission blog today is perfect. Thank you for your hard work and putting this out so clearly and simply.
    For me after all these”healing years” I still need to give myself permission to be who I am not what others want me to be!
    In the eighties they use to say that it didn’t matter what other people thought of you but who would have known this insidious idea/program was so ingrained!
    I am grateful for your help and inspiration.
    Love and light
    Irene xx

  6. Laurel
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much for this article! I learned about “how to give a permission slip” in a rough way: cheating of my husband. For more than 9 month now, It had been a “carousel of emotions” to accept, to understand, to cope, to heal, to forgive-him, myself- or not. And I needed a decision to make: leave or “grow up”. Growing up meant also to “give permission to slip”. Probably I will be one of the women who saved her marriage and be very happy too. But most of all, saved herself ! So again, from Europe: Thank You!

  7. Therese
    2 years ago

    Wonderful…just what I needed. Thank you! 🙂

  8. Linda
    2 years ago

    Years ago when I was experiencing burnout and volunteering my life away, a good friend told me “To say NO next time means you may be giving permission for someone else to fill that slot; someone who desperately needs to get out and socialize more.” That thought sure makes quilt take a back seat. When appropriate, I still use it today.

  9. Jill
    2 years ago

    This was such an inspiring message and I thank you for it. for me it was mostly about being programmed to get permission from Authority. I’ve always said I am the best right hand person especially in jobs. I am always the best friend to who ever I am working for helping them succeed. I have decided it is time to be my own best friends and be my best right hand person. So I am going to open my business, support myself in it, and be my own best right hand support. Thank you so much

  10. Marie-Anne Lutchmaya
    2 years ago

    About two years ago, a series of “adverse” events in my life made me radically change what I’d been taught by well-meaning parents, school, society, cultural norms etc. I just threw all of this nonsense into the dustbin forever and decided that I should be myself in every possible way, with just one proviso: my new mindset includes never hurting any living thing by what I say, do or think.

    I suddenly came face to face with myself….

    I now live joyfully and have achieved most of my goals – a few still await fulfillment, but that only adds fire to daily living. What’s so great about that? It’s the fact that I’m only 80 years old! My website should answer most of your many questions: http://www.marieanne.be I look forward to fun filled days and attaining increasingly giddy heights in all my achievements.

    Thank you, Dr. Northrup, you are, unbeknown to you, one of my inspirational guides.

  11. Annie
    2 years ago

    Dear Dr.Northrup, thank you so much for this comprehensive blog. Being a physician myself doing mostly counselling, I often talk to my clients about permission. And now I actually ask your permission to translate your blog to German and put it on my website (www.singinglight.ch, there is an English version, too), of course with all credits to your name. That would be lovely! Kind regards, ASan

  12. Valerie
    2 years ago

    Thank you Dr. Northrup. I have always admired you and I so appreciate the way you shared your story with people. You are an incredibly talented woman. You have done and are doing so much for women’s health and also especially their mental health. I love that you learned the tango!

    You are such an inspiration to me. I have been through so many changes and moves in my life and I’m now on a new path as a widow. I am taking a college class at age 74. It is a real challenge and I love it! Such a wonderful idea to give myself a permission slip! I will! Thank you so very very much for all your wisdom and generosity.

    I wish you health, joy, happiness, laughter and love.

  13. Karen
    2 years ago

    Permission to not only be, but feel, successful! Granted! Thank you–this has clearly hit home for a lot of us, It couldn’t be more timely.

    And now, permission granted–by me and to me–to enjoy the first eggnog of the season!

  14. Lucille
    2 years ago

    Thank you for your wonderful advice…… I am 80 years young with lots of younger friends who I cherish. I am still learning to give myself permission on a range of things as I am the mother of 5 wonderful kids who do not expect anything from me …. I put pressure on myself to please everyone including my husband who also does not expect anything from me. I am reading your book and enjoying it so much. Thank you

  15. Heather Paul
    2 years ago

    I loved this blog – Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou
    I have started to do some of this and it makes a huge difference. I reallized the other day when I was tired and could have napped I instead ate food that did not make me feel good so I know I need to listen to my body because it doesn’t lie.

  16. Mary Leone
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much for this advice. So often particular words/language resonate more than others and your “permission” theme certainly did that for me. I think it is important for me as an adult but also important for the example I give to my children and grandchildren as we learn what we live and if they can learn in their early days that self-permission is part of a healthy, balanced life then we pass on a great legacy as well as being good to ourselves. Bless you.

  17. Graciela
    2 years ago

    I love your post❤ Thank you! I am 39 and a mother of 4 and I am still working everyday on this especially on resting when I need to and buying things for my self. I never saw my mom taking care of her self an her needs and when I stared doing this I use to feel so guilty!! The guilt went from a 10 to a 1 hahaha but it took years!! but hey the more I practice the less guilt I feel I realize that when I put my self first everything works better because I am happier.
    I love your work Dr Northrup!! I had been practicing a lot of the things you teach and I can tell you that I am a happier woman and I hope to pass it on to my 3 girls!!

  18. Tina
    2 years ago

    I just want to say how extremely generous to give this to your followers. As I read this I felt like crying because you’re sharing so unconditionally and I just want to let you know I’m feeling it. We get to have this weath if knowledge for the price of tuning into your blog Thank you, Dr. Northrop!

  19. Catherine
    2 years ago

    Thank you for this timely article.

  20. Mary
    2 years ago

    Thank you Christiane for this continued encouragement. I have been reading and re-reading your book Wisdom of Menupause for the past several years. I follow your vitamin and exercise suggestions. I look for hope and encouragement in your text around arthritis, especially spinal. I have made note here today from others comments on your book Goddesses Never Age, next time I’m in Chapters and with not just myself in mind, with the holidays approaching. Thank you for being who you are – an informed, enlightened, encouraging, realistic beacon for women.

  21. sigi
    2 years ago

    i tried to do that sometimes but my few of my kids dont like the idea that i take care of my self they think if i do that it indulging myself .they expecting to give them before me.and i am upset from it.if i will not take care for myself no one would beside my daughter.

  22. Linda
    2 years ago

    I started some of these steps when my children were all out on their own. Seeking forgiveness from myself and from my children for ‘anything and everything’ was one of the first challenges. I found my way through it. I was able to stand taller and smile more. 6 years later, I can say I have made some great progress.
    Your blog is acting like a checklist for my journey. I’m single, not looking, and doing everything I want to do. I am less tired and never stressed because I rest whenever I must and work hard on projects when feeling up to it. Balance is wonderful. I have downsized so am not taking care of “all the stuff”. I have eliminated house phone, cable, even no internet at home. My place is 350sq ft. in the country by a lake. It is that way because that is what I wanted and I wasn’t settling for anything else. My children have gone on to create wonderful individual lives. I love live music and dancing. Sure don’t need permission for that. Yup, people look at me inquisitively sometime but I no longer give it a second thought. I often get women on the dance floor who were looking like they needed help out of their chair.
    Women must dance. 🙂

  23. Jeanette
    2 years ago

    I love this article, thank you for sharing your wisdom, it’s exactly what I need. I have had a pattern of putting others first quite frequently. I’ll be printing this article out and posting it somewhere where I can see it, to practice giving myself permission to do what I love, rest, etc. Thank you so much again this is so helpful.

  24. Ruthie Lewis
    2 years ago

    EXACTLY! I love this, Christiane! This is my favorite most focused topic I teach women as a Life Coach. It’s actually the reason I became a Life Coach. I lived my life needing permission for everything I did and felt and said.

    I also thank you for the work you do. I read your book last summer, as it “so happened”, before a trip to Greece. It changed my life and put me on a journey of changing the way I incorporate the spiritual, emotional with the physical. I always believed in living healthy, but come to find out I wasn’t.

    Thanks and blessings,

  25. Leila
    2 years ago

    I didn’t realize how hamstrung I have been all my life with this “asking permission” thing until this spring after my mother died. I am working hard on all of the stuff now before me, but there’s still so much to do. Every layer that gets resolved brings up more “stuff”. I’m amazed by this. And a little scared.

    1. Christiane
      2 years ago

      So I’d start by congratulating yourself on how EPIC it is that you are even NOTICING!!! Hurray!!!

  26. Eva Centeno
    2 years ago

    As a certified positive psychology life coach I love your blog! It is taking the concepts that have been researched and proven to be helpful in boosting our positivity. I recommend you to everyone. Thank you so much for your wonderful blogs and thoughts!

    1. Christiane
      2 years ago

      Thanks Eva– I so appreciate this!!

  27. Janice
    2 years ago

    I have been one who gives to everyone except myself. By the time I get to take care of myself, I’m too tired. Now that I live by myself, I find it hard to do anything. I know I need to start somewhere but I just don’t know how. Baby steps. I need to give myself permission. Thank you for the article.

    1. Christiane
      2 years ago

      You are SO WELCOME!! And I know this path SO WELL!

  28. Chloe
    2 years ago

    Such an awesome Blog and needed to hear. I am burned out from being a Pleaser and Perfectionist but never apply that to myself. I just did one small act recently and it was so empowering that it made me wonder what was possible if I applied this more. Thank you for the message of HOPE and self love and for all the wisdom you share! You are a Beautiful Soul!

  29. Kathy
    2 years ago

    I turned 70 yesterday and as the day was approaching I was feeling worse and worse. I knew logically that I “shouldn’t” feel that way. I am in great health, have a loving family, etc.. I decided at the last minute to give myself permission to celebrate. I threw myself a party! I had to overcome the guilt of spending money on myself, of doing something my husband would not like to do (he’s not a “people person”.) I had to overcome the feelings that my house wasn’t perfect, the garden has a few weeds, the food would not be gourmet, the wine was cheap, that I hadn’t sent proper invitations at an appropriate time, I was being selfish, etc. Well I DID IT and everyone had fun (including me.) Best of all I lost the feeling of dread turning a milestone. Thanks for posting this today, especially the part about acknowledging and feeling the guilt – then giving permission to do things anyway.

    1. Christiane
      2 years ago

      This is SO GOOD!!! And a beautiful example of what happens when we give ourselves permission to get our needs met!!! What a concept, right?

  30. Elaine OReilly
    2 years ago

    Ahhh, the gift of forgiving myself for my mistakes as a mother….

  31. Gail
    2 years ago

    This was very timely for me..I just went through years of incredible stress fighting for services for my autistic newly adult daughter with her schooling.We have moved to another geographic area and are unpacking etc.I am exhausted…but much unpacking settling remains to be done…I am writing you this as I sit in my pj’s still in bed…I need to emotionally heal and physically recoup…I fight with giving myself permission constantly….thank you for this…I am going to fight for myself more often..

  32. Julie
    2 years ago

    Just what I needed today. My 60 th birthday is approaching. I need to create mental and physical health in my life by giving myself permission to say yes. To say no. To live life to the fullest! Thank you!

  33. Lisa
    2 years ago

    I am going to give myself permission to enjoy my mother while I still have her and put away the guilt my husband passively puts on me while I am gone.

    1. Christiane
      2 years ago

      Reminds me of Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote: ” No one can make you feel bad about yourself without your permission.” I’ve just finished reading about her. She had an incredible tough childhood and is one amazing example of someone who changed their stars.

  34. Dove
    2 years ago

    I am finally….truly….giving myself permission slips to trust my intuition and my body. I am reading Goddesses Never Age for the second time….and this time through, I am immersed in it like a sponge, making notes and living an elevated life and my passion!! You are a pathfinder and a ” medical” reference point for me! I am so grateful for you and the way you show we women to fully embrace our lives!!!

  35. Doris
    2 years ago

    I absolutely love this message and God knows I needed it. It’s hard to give yourself permission to do things you really want to do when guilt overwhelms you due to a religious and uptight upbringing. Thank you for being an amazing role model. I listen to your “Goddesses Never Age” audio over and over all the time. It keeps me healthy mentally and phisically.

  36. Lisa
    2 years ago

    Love x100

  37. Helen
    2 years ago

    So wonderful. I am hamstrung by perfectionist and ex-Catholic guilt. I finally accept its okay to rest when I am exhausted or not do absolutely everything that others expect.

    1. Gail
      2 years ago

      I am a perfectionist as well Helen. .I can relate so well to that …I have to fight it daily. .which I’m working on…diligently…and allowing myself to ‘fail’ ..which shouldn’t be a dirty word in our world but is…I am trying to reframe it as pursuing peace …

  38. Norma
    2 years ago

    I was having a bad few hours and read your permission slip article which helped me pinpoint my problem. My mood was soon turned around! I’m printing this out and putting it on my fridge! Thanks so much for your caring and help!

    1. Christiane
      2 years ago

      Oh this is so GOOD!!!! Back in the day, I used to hand out prescriptions with permission written on them!!

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