The antidote to self-sabotage: Permission Slips

by Julie Boll  - February 5, 2020

As I walked in to facilitate day two of the amazing but exhausting Dare to Lead™ program, I said to myself,

 I give myself permission to not socialize before we start the workshop.  I give myself permission to not put my concern for other people’s feelings above my need to mentally prepare. 

I walked into the venue, headed to the front of the room, sat down and started reviewing my notes. I did not scan the room looking for people who might need to ask a question, nor did I find myself held hostage in a conversation, too polite to end it, when I really needed to be mentally preparing myself for the day.  I let my assistant run interference with housekeeping questions, found my focus, and began the day calm and in control, rather than scattered and feeling behind. All because of a simple permission slip I wrote to myself the night before.

As many of you know, I’m a huge Brené Brown fan and recently had the opportunity to become a Dare to Lead™ Certified Facilitator.  I have studied all of her work, but I never really latched onto the idea of writing a permission slip to myself. It felt silly and unnecessary…until I tried it.  With that one permission slip, I drew a circle around what was sacred to me. I gave myself the tools I needed to do something hard and unfamiliar. 

That day, I was facilitating day 2 of a 2-day Dare to Lead workshop with the amazing Tovi Scruggs-Hussein. Tovi is an educational leader and racial healing facilitator. Put simply, she is a rock star. She has amazing confidence and energy and just the right amount of “I call bullshit” courage to be an effective facilitator. On this day, she was here to co-facilitate with me and I was the lead on the project. I needed to head off my tendency to shrink, and literally step back when in front of the room with someone I admire.

So I wrote two more permission slips: 

  • I give myself permission to stand next to, not behind, this amazing co-facilitator who I admire. 
  • I give myself permission to ask Tovi’s feedback and not change my design if I don’t agree with it.

The last permission slip I wrote was personal:  “I give myself permission to stick to the agreed upon schedule for my household, and let my husband take my 6-year-old to the bus stop even though I have a delayed start on day 2 and technically could take him.  I give myself permission to keep that time for myself and use the quiet for processing and reflection.” 

These permission slips are so, so simple yet they were game changers for me.  They helped me do what I needed to do to fully show up for our cohort and lean into my own leadership.  Left to my own resources, I would have offered to take Jacob to the bus stop- creating a distraction for me before going into the session. I also would have politely participated in conversation before my session began, even though I know taking the time to mentally prepare and ground myself before a long day of facilitation is critical. These permission slips allowed me to avoid self-sabotage and show up not only for this group, but for myself.

We ask participants to write their own permission slips in the Dare to Lead workshop and here are a few that come up often: 

  • I give myself permission to do this work first for myself before figuring out how to share it with my team. 
  • I give myself permission to be fully present and not worry about what is going on back at the office. 
  • I give myself permission to be clumsy and awkward.

What permission slips do you need to give yourself today to protect your energy, professionalism, and sanity?

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