It’s a Thursday afternoon. My to-do list is a mile long. I really should be focusing on bringing in new clients for my business. And I’m sitting in the grass in the park, soaking up the bright sunshine. Reading a book.
Sitting in the sun is intensely pleasurable for me.
Since I live in England, most of the year is a middling cold-ish temperature, with overcast skies and occasional drizzle (Love you, England!) The days of sunshine are few and far between, even during the summer. So when the sun is shining, it’s like a magnet, drawing me outside.
(I know not everyone feels that way about sunshine. So you can substitute your own intensely pleasurable, but not productive, habit / longing / desire here.)
Besides the sun just feeling good (which honestly, should be reason enough to go enjoy it!) I know being out in the sunshine is actually beneficial for me – proven through years of having, or lacking, sunshine.
I feel grounded and centered (especially if I can sit on the grass or sand, or swim in natural water.)
My mood improves.
I relax, a lot. All my typical stress/anxiety behaviors just drop away.
I feel better about my body. I feel more confident and attractive. I feel more alive!
(Oh, and Vitamin D.)
And those effects last. I feel better for several days or even weeks after a good dose of sunshine.
So for me, it shouldn’t even be a choice – if I get out into the sun, I’m a better, happier person. It shouldn’t matter to me that not everyone feels this way about sunshine (like my husband!)
I’ve proven the sunshine affects me – and that should be enough to include it in my “healthy Amanda” routine.
So what’s up with this guilt?!
Let’s see my guilt in action: Wake up. Glorious sunny day. It starts with an internal debate about whether I should really go outside. (I mean, it’s a workday. And is this really the only sunny day? Maybe I could enjoy the sunshine tomorrow when I’m “less busy” – ha!) And then, how long I should spend outside (because after all, my to-do list is calling!) Should I bring work with me? What if I spent the whole day outside … could I tell anyone? Would “everyone” think I’m slacking off work? Finally, I go outside. I have made progress here. In years past, I wouldn’t always go outside. Now I always do, for some amount of time. Sometimes I bring work, or lunch, sometimes just a fun book or a podcast.
Now I’m outside, in the sun.
Cue: WAVES OF PLEASURE.
(I feel strange writing that. I have a vague sense we’re not supposed to talk about pleasure, although I’m not sure why. Puritan ancestors?)
Sitting on a bench or in the grass, I close my eyes and feel the sunshine on my skin. Feel the gentle breeze and listen to the birds chirping. It is just pure good feeling pleasure and contentment. My breathing slows. I feel happy. I could just sit here forever…
And then – GUILT! How long have I been out here? Is it really OK I’m here on a workday? I should start reading that book I brought. Shouldn’t my business be “more successful” before I’m allowed to indulge in non-productive afternoons like this?
It keeps going on. In waves of pleasure, followed by a bit of guilt. You get the picture.
So what’s happening here? Is this a female thing, or an entire society thing? Why are we not allowing ourselves to feel pleasure?
Are You Allowed to Feel Good?
Many of us choose to delay pleasure (reward) until we “deserve” it. I see this all the time in friends and clients.
We’re “not allowed” to take a vacation until our business hits a certain level in revenue.
We’re “not allowed” to buy nice clothes until we lose all the excess weight.
We’re “not allowed” to have a real house, until we’ve met the perfect partner.
We’re “not allowed” to enjoy a long lunch with friends until the To Do list is complete. (PS: the To Do list is never complete!)
Or the even more insidious not allowing until you “have enough money” or “are successful” — those are so vague and impossible to quantify that you will never, ever reach them!
“Not Allowed”. Hmm. We’re all adults here. So who is “not allowing” us to do these things?
The painful answer … We are. Consciously or unconsciously.
Often we “decide” what is allowed or not, based on childhood experiences and what we observed in our parents and other important caretakers.
So my hangup is around work. A limiting belief I’m working on is “I have to work really hard and not take time off.” Your hangups will be different. But we’ve all got them.
The guilt can also arise around feeling “too much” pleasure. You can have a little, but you don’t deserve THAT much … yet.
The Truth About Pleasure and Guilt
Ready for it?
No one is going to come tell you “OK, you made it! You now have permission to do all those things you wanted to do, guilt free!”
You have to give yourself permission.
YOU set the bar for what you will accept (or deny yourself) in your life.
YOU have to give yourself permission to do the things you want to do. You’re the only one who can.
Now that I’m aware of the little guilty voice, I can notice the guilt when it arises, and let it go. Maybe ask some questions to try to unravel the source, and heal it. But more importantly, I can give myself permission…
I give myself permission to enjoy the sunshine when I choose to enjoy the sunshine, without guilt.
This is such a juicy topic – Do you ever feel guilty when you do something fun/pleasurable/non-productive? Where can you give yourself permission this week?
About the author
Amanda Cook is an author, entrepreneur, and alchemist. She helps successful women create lives of meaning & magic by connecting with the seasons. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, The Sunday Telegraph, Natural Health UK Magazine, and more. Learn more at AmandaCook.me.