Motivation & Permission to be Human

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

{an excerpt from Wild Geese by Mary Oliver}

Lately, I’ve been having many conversations with my clients about motivation – why they want it, how they shame themselves for not having it, and how conjuring up some would change everything.

I have to admit to you, I don’t buy into our collective concepts of motivation and willpower. 

I don’t believe in the idea that you have you whip yourself along, making yourself perform and tucking away all of your personal, human needs for another day. A day when the tasks are done. A day when the to do list is complete. A day when we’ve arrived at our destination or expected outcome.

I believe that culturally this is a story that we tell ourselves and that we hold onto it for dear life, because we WANT to be good, to arrive. We want to be enough and to thrive, and we have told ourselves that this s the only path from here to there.

But, what if your life isn’t a journey with a destination? What if your life IS the journey and your task is to pour as much of yourself into you day-to-day as you walk you path?

When we deny ourselves our own needs, telling ourselves the story that we are too busy or have too much going on, we are denying an essential part of ourselves. 

I am a highly ambitious woman. I love a challenge. I love to set to work on a project and see it to fruition.

But, I am still a woman. A human. A sacred, living being.

When we deny ourselves our own needs, we are telling our human nature that it is inconvenient and unwelcome. We are telling ourselves that we cannot exist in the world of productivity and ambition without severing off that part of ourselves or teaching ourselves how to get over it and pull it together.

Women, especially, are taught that their nature is tricky and should be treated with caution. We are taught that we are too much, that the flux of our emotions deems us hysterical. We are taught that we need to be strong and solid in order to exist in the world – the world of tasks and outcome and getting ahead. We are taught to unwind in private, so as not to burden anyone.

We are taught to shrink. To hold ourselves up. To prove our worth. 

But, we will never be able to escape our own humanity. We cannot put ourselves at the bottom of our lists forever. Our bodies will not be utterly ignored and will begin yelling for our attention, cries growing louder, as we get sick and fall to pieces.


Our way forward is to operate out of love and respect for ourselves, for our tenderness, and not in spite of it.

You do not need to be ashamed of your human nature. You do not need to apologize for taking up space in the world, for crying when you are sad or withdrawing when you need space or saying no because you need a moment to care for yourself.

You can choose to honor that part of yourself instead, to carve out space for it. You can give yourself permission to prioritize your care, your needs. You can choose to embrace yourself for all that you are – light and dark, healed and hurting, whole and fragmented.

Because true motivation occurs when we have the energy to sustain our excitement about something that truly lights us up from the core. 

True motivation bubbles up out of our delight and passion, spilling over the edges because we just can’t keep ourselves from it. True motivation isn’t punishment, it is unbridled glee – excitement to proceed, even when things seem difficult or there is a challenge to be solved.

In order to have motivation, we must be well rested and well nourished. We must be cared for. 

We must also have had the space to discern what lights us up – where we truly want to go, if no one ever told us who to be or what to become. We need the space to cultivate our relationship with ourselves, so that we can work with ourselves instead of against ourselves on our individual journeys.

We must develop relationships with ourselves, relationships that are safe enough for us to feel comfortable experimenting as we work through some of this. We have to cut ourselves some slack. We have to approach ourselves with kindness and compassion, especially when we are feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed and afraid.

We have to work self-care into our schedules, taking precious moments to restore our energy and take sweet care of ourselves.

We have to tell ourselves that we are enough, as we are, in all of our gorgeous humanity – as many times as we need to hear it.

We have to give ourselves permission to be ourselves.

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