Giving Yourself Permission

It is often difficult for adults, especially parents, to give themselves permission to prioritize themselves. Invest in yourself and give yourself permission to do whatever you feel is best for yourself, your health, and your wellbeing.

By Joni J. Johnson, MD, NBC-HWC


A couple of weeks ago, I spoke about this topic in my Facebook Group weekly Live. I’m always shocked by the dialogue this topic inspires so I wanted to introduce it in this forum. You may be asking, “what does she mean by ‘giving yourself permission’?” Do not over think it. It’s a really simple concept, but I didn’t realize how hard this was for so many people. I’m talking about giving yourself permission to do whatever you feel is best for yourself, your health, and your wellbeing.


Easy, right?



I think that it is much harder for women to prioritize their own health and wellness because they will make their children the priority. If there are ever any competing priorities, a mother will always sacrifice for her children.

Back in the Day

Back when we were young we had to ask for permission to do everything, especially anything that we felt was beneficial for us.  


If we wanted to go outside and play with our friends, we had to ask for permission. If we wanted to eat candy, we had to ask for permission. Even once we were old enough to drive, we had to ask for permission if we wanted to run an errand. When we had our first job and wanted to take off to attend a concert, we had to ask for permission. No matter what we wanted to do, we had to find an “authority figure” like a parent, teacher, or employer and ask for permission.


By asking for their permission, you may not have realized that you also transferred the responsibility for the decision over to them. When we were young that was a good thing. If things did not turn out well, we had someone else to blame. However, at some point around young adulthood, we are no longer supposed to need to ask for permission. That authority is supposed to become our own. Have you noticed that does not happen in all things?

Old Habits Die Hard

For example, in our jobs many of us must still ask permission to take time off or to do a project that will make our jobs easier.


Authority has also not transferred with respect to our own health and wellness in many instances. Think about it. What do you expect from your doctors? . . . Permission.


In my experience, adult patients often go to the doctor fully aware of what their issues are but needing someone else to tell them how to fix them. Many people believe that they will actually be compliant if someone else tells them what to do, and when it doesn’t work it becomes their doctor’s fault.


For adults, especially parents, it is all about prioritizing and needing the permission to make yourself a priority.


When I spoke about this during my Facebook Live, I had someone call me to comment that he did not agree with my statement. He said that when he knows he needs to do something that will be beneficial for his health, like play a round of golf with a friend, he does not need permission. He just does it.


Did you take note of the pronoun? I think that it is much harder for women to prioritize their own health and wellness because they will make their children the priority. If there are ever any competing priorities, a mother will always sacrifice for her children.


The bottom-line: I recognize that I am not speaking to everyone but if you find that you need permission to make yourself a priority, I am speaking to you.

The Permission Business

To a large extent, as a doctor, I am in the business of giving permission and directing positive healthcare habits. That being said, I have recently gotten out of the permission business.




Because permission means granting authority over the decision and accepting responsibility for the outcome.


I would prefer to empower you to give yourself permission to take control of your own health and wellness.

Jennifer’s Story

I recently had a client, referred to here as Jennifer, who was a natural-born giver. She found joy in giving of herself, both her time and her money. She became my coaching client because she needed support to learn how to divert some of her time, attention, and resources to herself. We spent weeks talking through how her unyielding support of others had led to personal neglect which manifested in depression. Jennifer devised a plan that she felt would help her to prioritize some of her needs, but there was one problem. Before she could get started, she asked for my permission to limit what she was doing for other people so that she could do more for herself.

Make the Investment

I hesitated but, in the end, gave her permission to make the necessary investment in herself. As parents, we will invest in everyone else except ourselves and even make sacrifices for our kids. Some of us will move into a house we really don’t want to live in because it is in a good school district. We will take a job we don’t like for the flexibility to attend our children’s activities. We will even take a second job to pay for our child to join a travel sports team.


When was the last time you made a sacrifice to invest in yourself?


You probably cannot remember because when you think about yourself, there is nothing left. No time, no money, and no energy.


Think about it. A lack of investment in ourselves will eventually lead to physical, emotional and, at times, financial bankruptcy!


So, if you need it, you have my permission to take back the authority and responsibility over yourself to make the necessary investments in your health and wellness.


Permission Granted!

Joni Johnson, MD is a Pediatrician and certified Health and Wellness Coach with over 12 years of clinical experience exclusively supporting individuals with ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, mood disorders and behavior problems. In addition to being a physician, Dr. Joni is also a retired Army Colonel, disabled veteran, author, public speaker, entrepreneur and an individual with Dyslexia and a Visual Convergence Insufficiency. As the founder of UnCharted Territory LLC,

Dr. Joni serves as a Health Consultant and Empowerment Strategist working with individuals seeking to discover underlying causes for difficulties in home, work, school, and social environments. She provides a roadmap for navigating support services and overcoming obstacles related to treatment plan adherence. Additionally, Dr. Joni’s coaching practice focuses on three areas of health and wellness which include Empowerment, Balance, and Inclusion.

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