Five strategies to let yourself off the hook in your life and start living on your own terms.
Remember ‘snow days’ from school? Wasn’t that just the BEST feeling in the world – when you really didn’t want to go to school, and it got canceled just in time?? Maybe there was even a test scheduled for that day – even better!
What about other times when you’ve been spared some sort of undesirable fate?
- A meeting that gets canceled, giving you more time to be better prepared.
- A scheduling conflict that makes it impossible to attend your co-worker’s cabaret act.
- A long holiday weekend at home, instead of traveling many hours to visit challenging relatives.
These are all examples of being ‘let off the hook’. You thought you were going to have to follow through on some sort of dutiful obligation but, for whatever reason, you were granted a reprieve.
There is such a glorious sense of relief that comes from being released from an obligation that we didn’t necessarily sign up for. Sometimes, even if it’s something we thought we WANTED to do – there is still a sneaky, luxurious sense of relief when we don’t actually have to do it. It feels freeing! It’s fun being let off the hook!
Obligation can be complicated. Duty can be tricky. It’s important to distinguish between the duties and obligations that you consciously choose to honor in your life, and those that have been handed to you by other people, based on what THEY would like you to do. Just because someone thinks you ‘should’ go to Sally’s party doesn’t mean you have to. The ‘should’ is usually coming from someone else who has their own agenda in play. Whose agenda would you like to live by?
We often have a hard time letting ourselves off the hook for certain things. We become ruled by the ‘shoulds’ – the beliefs, duties and obligations that we never consciously chose. We are hard on ourselves about a whole host of things – and it makes for a less-than-joyful life. Here is a short list of some ways you might begin to let yourself off the hook in your life – and enjoy yourself a bit more.
1. Re-examine your ideals for how much you ‘should’ weigh and how you ‘should’ look.
How did you arrive at those ideals – and are they realistic? Maybe it’s okay to ease up on yourself for not looking like you stepped out of a magazine. Let yourself off the hook for not weighing in at the very lowest possible weight for your height. Maybe your goal can shift from achieving a certain number on the scale, to achieving maximum health and longevity. Maybe you can take pride in how effectively your body functions at this point in your life. How often does anybody besides your doctor ask you to declare your weight out loud, anyway?
2. Choose sleep.
There are no medals handed out for who worked the latest and who slept the least. Sleep is fun, free, and a vital component for your overall health and well-being. Let yourself off the hook. Take a nap when you need one and prioritize your sleep at night.
3. Eat something you love – if you really love it.
I don’t know about you, but I am SO BORED with feeling ‘mad’ at myself every time I eat something I wasn’t ‘supposed’ to eat. Totally bored. I just can’t be peeved at myself anymore! It’s a total waste of time and energy. If you love red velvet cupcakes and you haven’t had one in months and you pass by a bakery that just baked up some red velvet cupcakes……EAT THE CUPCAKE and don’t hate yourself afterwards. Let yourself off the hook from having to be ‘perfect’ with your eating at every single moment of your life. Perfect is boring – and there is no joy in self-recrimination.
4. Don’t go to everything.
If you find yourself dragging your feet about an invitation, a luncheon, a dinner, an out-of-town wedding, an engagement party, a barbecue…..pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. How often are you saying to yourself, “Ugh. I should go to this dinner, even though I just want to stay home and have a night to myself,” or, “Ugh. I don’t want to go to this stupid THING – but I know I really should, because it will look good and it might be weird if I don’t”. I ask this of my clients all the time: When was the last time you held a grudge against someone because they couldn’t make it to one of your parties? The truth is that people are NEVER as upset, put out, disappointed as we imagine they will be when we need to decline an invitation. They get over it! Please – I implore you – let yourself off the hook from having to attend absolutely every single event to which you are invited. You don’t. It’s okay. Go to the things you want to attend – and bring your best self.
5. Let enough be enough.
Do you respond to a thank-you note with a thank-you note? Do you reciprocate – and top – every single kind gesture that comes your way? When does it stop? When have you done enough? If you act with a strong and pure intention, your message will be received the very first time. Let yourself off the hook from having to ‘prove’ who you are all the time. Maybe it’s enough to simply BE who you are – fully.
What are your favorite ways to let yourself off the hook? What are your biggest challenges around this idea? Please leave your comments below!