When To Let Yourself Off the Hook

By Suzy Taylor Oakley


I’m a (recovering) perfectionist, an overachiever (at least I try) and a … what do you call it … Type A personality.

So letting myself off the hook doesn’t come naturally.

Fortunately, I have a boatload of good examples to teach me (over and over) the value in taking things down a notch every once in a while, including:

Example 1: I started following Michael Hyatt this year. He has high standards, but with that commitment comes a lot of wisdom about life, about business and about letting the little things be the little things. (Yes, it’s annoying when I see a typo or a missing word in one of his blog posts, but I understand, because he has talked – on his podcast and on his blog – about not letting perfectionism get in the way of getting good work done.) It’s because of his podcast that I keep the phrase #RememberYourWhy at the top of the whiteboard in my office space. I even use it when I log my runs on Runkeeper (especially when I want to stay indoors and be lazy).

Example 2: Reading Kelcie Huffstickler’s recent AWBU recap, Keeping The Most Important Thing The Most Important Thing, came at the perfect time. Lately, I’ve been suffering from a severe case of the Overwhelms, and Kelcie’s reminder about remembering why we do what we do was just the encouragement I needed to give myself a break. Because just a few hours earlier I had made a decision about …

Example 3: I had started a clean-eating plan a few weeks ago, got sidetracked at AWBU, spent the next week staying off track (including cake at my employer’s celebration of a huge milestone) and “recommitting” to the 30-day plan after Labor Day. By the end of that Tuesday, I was starving (because of poor planning the night before), whining to myself about how difficult it is to prepare the right foods when you have practically zero “spare time,” and spending most of the afternoon debating about whether to keep going or “be a quitter.”

I don’t like being a quitter, folks, and my self-talk that afternoon was not pretty.

But finally I realized that several factors are contributing an already-stressed-out existence for this blogger chick, full-time employee, “solopreneur,” mama to two aging and declining dogs (one has developed arthritis on top of the chronic allergies she battles; the other has lost her eyesight), wife of a man with a chronic disease (just when I started telling people he was “pretty healthy right now,” he developed an infection – a week before AWBU), woman with some minor health problems of her own, and a few other too-private – or maybe just too-melodramatic – situations to mention here.


So that afternoon I had a dadgum sandwich. With bread. And I decided to delay my return to the 30-day clean-eating challenge for a few weeks. Or months. Or never. Who knows?

Just that one thing – letting myself off the “clean-eating” hook for a while – lifted a giant bolder off my shoulders (and apparently made me a poet).

Those of you who have battled weight problems understand that just taking the eating thing off the table (so to speak) is worth its weight in gold.

(Sorry, bad puns are one of my coping mechanisms. It’s better than eating a quart of ice cream, no?)

Delaying my 30-day challenge doesn’t mean I’ve gone off the deep end and will start eating junk food. I’ve been eating fairly clean for quite some time: fresh, unprocessed or minimally processed, whole, organic foods. But the 30-day plan had me eliminating DAIRY! (I love my glass of milk at bedtime.)

I’ll go on eating a mostly healthful diet, but the pressure to follow the strict 30-day plan was about to put me under the table. (Oops, there I go again!) I am off the hook for the foreseeable future.

So here’s some advice: If you’re thisclose to wigging out about All The Things, give yourself a break. If you can eliminate just one of those things, do it. Most of the world won’t even notice. Be kind to yourself, and, for the love of chocolate, just take it off your plate.

And maybe put a piece of cake on that plate. With a big glass of milk.

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  1. Take it from me, your bones need that milk! You’re wise to choose a better time for the 30-day program. I had to take a break from my blog earlier in the year because I was overwhelmed with family and personal situations. Now that I’ve started back, I can see it was time well spent. Thanks for the good post.

  2. Jenny Marrs says:

    This is such a good reminder! We are our own worst critics and, sometimes, we just need to read words like yours that remind us to give ourselves a break every now and then. I loved this!

  3. Katharine says:

    Taking a break is my go-to. I have to work the other way, making myself get going. However, I do understand and have been known to feel mighty good about cake and milk. Thanks for permission!

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