Learning to give yourself permission

“Finding yourself is not really how it works. You are not a ten dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other peoples opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. “Finding yourself” is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering of who you were before the world got it’s hands on you.” – Emily McDowell

Permission, by definition, is the action of officially allowing someone to do a particular thing; consent or authorization.

When was the last time that you gave yourself permission to do the thing that you want to do? To be the person that you want to be? To stand up for the things that you truly believe in, regardless of what others think or say? To be you, in a world that would have you be anything but yourself?

It’s hard to give ourselves permission to do the things that we want to, to step into the role that we know deep down inside that we possess the experience to fill, to be the person that we know that we are or that we are capable of becoming. But why is that? Why is it so hard to give ourselves the permission to do the things or be the person that we truly desire to be? Before I answer this question I’m going to get real with you for a bit, I’ll use myself and my experience in this world as a case study for you to examine the things that impact our ability to give ourselves the permission to do the things that we want to be.

Here’s a fun fact about myself that a lot of you may not know. I competed in bodybuilding for 3 years. During that time in my life I was the most disciplined that I had ever been. I never strayed from my nutrition plan, unless I had planned a specific- as I would call it back then- “cheat meal”. Every morning at 4:45am I would roll out of bed, my shoes were right next to my bed with my gym shorts and t-shirt. I would quickly get dressed, go to the kitchen and grab a class of water, and then head downstairs for an hour on the treadmill. During my time on the treadmill I’d look a motivational quote that would serve as some form of extrinsic motivation for the day- if you followed me on facebook back then you probably remember me posting a quote a day for quite some period of time.

After my time on the treadmill I would come upstairs and have a quick meal before getting all of my stuff together for school and for the gym and then I would drive into the college. I made sure that I had time in the morning to hit my workout before classes began- I’ve always been a morning person for as long as I can remember. After the gym I would shower, eat again, and head to class. In the afternoon I’d usually hit an additional hour on the treadmill and then spend 30-45 minutes practicing posing. After the second block of training for the day I would go spend a couple hours in the library studying before going home to have dinner and study some more. This was a cycle that I lived for better part of 3 years. During this time, I can tell you that without a doubt in my mind that I thought I was going to be the best in the world at bodybuilding some day. It was all that I could think about and what I found myself living for each and every single day until one day I decided to stop.

If you knew that I competed you might not know why I decided to pull the pin on the thing that I was so passionate about- from the outside looking in I loved the sport and everything that came with it. I loved the discipline that it took and I loved having the perception that I wasn’t like others- that I was a part of a small population of individuals who possessed the level of commitment to fully give themselves to bodybuilding. I can’t recall at what time it was, but, at one point in my journey I began to notice that the habits and skills that I was developing in that area could be applied to other areas of my life. My discipline and work ethic could be applied to my studies and therefore to my profession and eventually to my ability to help others.

However, what most people don’t know is that I had a war that was going on inside my head- I knew what it was going to take to bring my goal into fruition, but I had to ask myself the hard question; was I actually willing to do it? As I was prepping for my third competition I made one of the hardest decisions of my life- at that point in time- to pull the pin on competing. Two things had happened- my level of understanding and education had risen enough to know that my goal of competing at the level that I wanted to was not healthy and I also knew that my current state of “health” was on a massive decline. My cognitive function and performance was diminishing- my grades were dropping and my level of knowledge retention was at an all time low and my total caloric intake at 10 weeks out from competition averaged 800kcal a day- which for a 100kg guy was way WAY too low.

So I stopped cold turkey.

And with that I made the decision and gave myself permission to not pursue one of my dreams so that I could pursue another- my education. The thing about it- that I haven’t realized until late – is that when I stopped competing I stopped practicing and implementing a lot of the habits that I had built on over the years. I stopped posting motivational quotes, videos, and long winded posts because I was no longer motivated and because I told myself that 1. I had gained a better understanding of the practical implications of having intrinsic motivation vs. extrinsic motivation and 2. I had been told by a few people in my inner circle that nobody liked seeing those motivational posts every single day and that people had unfollowed me because of it. The reality is, that I used the crutch of other’s not liking what I was posting as a reason to stop posting- I cared more about what others thought about me than I cared about what I thought about myself.

The scary thing about this- that I have been confronting as of late- is that in that moment in time I started caring way more about other peoples perceptions of me were. I started caring about what people thought of me as an individual, a partner, a brother, a son, a friend, a coach, a leader, and a follower and with that I began to fear failing, to fear being me, and to fear truly expressing my opinion and values in the world.

6 years have passed.

In that time I’ve competed in and fell in love with powerlifting and Crossfit, I got my Bachelor’s in Kinesiology (Exercise Science) with a Major in Sports Performance, coached in a handful of facilities around the world, and picked up heaps of certifications along the way and found myself working towards doing the thing that I aspire to do and becoming the person that I aspire to be.

However, there has been one stipulation with all of this, I haven’t fully given myself the permission to do it yet- to be the person that I know I am and that I know I am capable of becoming and to do the things that I know that I am capable of doing. I’ve been too busy playing it small, I’ve been to busy being afraid of failure, and I’ve been too afraid to be me. That changed this past week- I decided to start giving myself the permission to be me. I mentioned in the previous paragraph that I’ve taken heaps of certifications one of which was my Crossfit Level 1. The truth is that after taking it I kept it quite, I never really announced it to the world. I felt ashamed- like I had let the people down who I had learnt from in the past. But what nobody really knows is that I wanted to do Crossfit for 3 years before my wife, Dani, gave me the push to do so. When I did it for the first time I realized that I had been missing out on something that brought an immense amount of enjoyment to my life and for what? Because I was afraid,no , I was terrified of what others would think about me.

At the start of this post I asked the question “why is it so hard to give ourselves the permission to do the things or be the person that we truly desire to be?”. While I can only really answer this question for myself, I hope that maybe something in here will spark the motivation that you need in order to give yourself the permission to be you. Being yourself can be tough, whether or not we’re cognizant of it our cultural conditioning, environment, and the conclusions that we draw as a result of the stories that we tell ourselves all impact the actions that we take and the level of comfort that we take in expressing/exposing our true selves to others.

If you’re reading this and- like me- you’re struggling to give yourself the permission to be who you are, I hope that you’ll find some motivation in this post to be you, to work on becoming the person that you truly desire to be, and to be unapologetic in your pursuit of doing that which you desire to do with your life.

I’ll leave you with one last story before I wrap things up.

I can’t begin to count the number of times that I have heard someone refer to a coach that they need them to “be yourself, but times 1000”, or to “be the largest version of yourself”. Why do we tell coaches that? It’s as if we’re telling them that being themselves isn’t good enough, that they need to be larger, louder, more extroverted than normal, that they need to almost adopt this persona that isn’t who they truly are. Why aren’t we telling them ,instead, to simply be themselves?

Never underestimate the power of being yourself- your true self. Because who you are and what you have been through is enough, and having the courage to truly be yourself is powerful beyond measure.

Much love,

Coach Kels

Day 1:

A1) Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (w’ dumbbells): 3 x 9 @ Rpe 8 @ 4,1,X,1

A2) Single Leg RDL (w’ dumbbells): 3×9 @ Rpe 8 @ 4,1,X,1

A3) Dynamic Side Plank: 3 x 8/side @ Rpe 8

( * Rest 45s between each exercise)

B) Back Squat: Build to a 8RM in 15minutes @ 3,1,X,1

C) 12 Minute AMRAP:

I. 10 Dumbbell Deadlift: @ 22.5kg/15kg

II. 12 Dumbbell Box Step-Up (perform equal number of reps per leg) : @ 22.5kg/15kg

III. 14 Burpee Box Jump

Day 2:

A) I. Ring Support Hold: 3 x 30s @ RPE 8

II. Chest to bar Hold: 3 x 30s @ Rpe 8

****Rest 30s between exercises****

B) 10 Min ALT EMOM

I. Push Jerk x 5 @ Rpe 8 @ 3,0,0,2

(As per tempo dip and drive, punch the bar over head, hold it overhead for 2 seconds and lower it back down to the shoulder over 3 seconds)

II. Strict Pull-Up x 5 @ Rpe 8 @ 3,1,X,2

C) 5 Rounds for time of:

9 Dumbbell Floor Press @ 22.5kg/15kg

11 Bent Over Dumbbell Rows/side @ 22.5kg/15kg

500m Row

Day 3:

A1) Split Squat (Barbell)- 3 x 6/side @ 8 Rpe @ 3,2,1,1

A2) Split Stance Goodmorning (Barbell): 3x 6/side @ 8 RPE @ 3,1,1,1

A3) Palof Press- 4 x 10/side

(* Rest 45s between each exercise)

B) Sumo Deadlift: 4 x 7 @ 8 Rpe @ 1,1,X,3

***Reset Each Rep****

C) 10 Min Amrap of:

10 Single Arm Dumbbell Deadlifts: @ 22.5kg/15kg

25m Suitcase Carry/side @ 22.5kg/15kg

10 Single Arm Dumbbell Snatches: @ 22.5kg/15kg

25m Waiters Carry/side @ 22.5kg/15kg

10 Toes To Bar

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