Episode #3: Permission to Ask

We may have a sneaking suspicion that something in our lives isn’t working for us, and yet we are afraid to ask ourselves what that might be. We have to give ourselves space to breathe into the question--what in our lives may no longer be serving us? If we aren’t willing to ask that question, we will be unable to identify and create the changes in our lives that will better align the way we live and work with our well-being. We might be able to address some of the symptoms, but not the root causes. In this episode, I explore the beliefs and fears that may cause us to resist even asking ourselves this life-giving question.


Welcome to the Freedom From Empty Podcast, episode 3.  My name is Booth Andrews and I am your host, doing another morning recording this morning.  It seems to be the best time to get everything on the calendar. So, I have been drinking coffee for about an hour, we’ll see if that serves me well or not!  

You can learn more about the support that I offer at https://www.boothandrews.com/6steps and welcome to episode number 3. 

So when we are out and about in our daily lives, we run into people and the natural thing is “how are you?”.  And of course we all know what the answer to that question is supposed to be. The answer to the question is supposed to be “fine”.  

Recently, I have found myself, with just a touch of sarcasm, saying “living the dream”.  And the reason that I say it with a touch of sarcasm is I think that as I have begun to prepare this work I have thought a lot about what it means to “live the dream”.  And I think there’s a perception in our society that there are those certain things that quantify or qualify our lives. You know, do we have the big job, do we have the income, do we have the cars, do we have the house, do we have the clothes, and so on and so forth.  And all of those measures, as we know, or some of us may not know, but I have definitely learned, those measures don’t really speak at all to the well-being of our hearts and our minds. To the well-being of our relationships and to the well-being of our soul’s presence on this earth.  

And so I wanted to talk a little bit today about what happens when we’re “living the dream” and the dream isn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Or maybe we aren’t living the dream yet.  Maybe we are still pushing and striving, but we feel like we aren’t making progress or we feel like we have reached our limits. And we are not where we want to be yet and yet we are running out of capacity to continue to push ourselves.

And maybe we are somewhere on the spectrum in between.  On the spectrum of just trying to get started, lots of energy, lots of passion, lots of time and resources maybe to apply to the things that we are wanting to accomplish.

Or on the far, far end of the spectrum, the running on empty spectrum.  

So we are somewhere on that path in our lives.  And we can be in different places on that path, many, many times in our lives. It’s not a linear trajectory, unfortunately.  We want to think that it is, but it truly, truly isn’t.    

So we are living the dream or we are chasing our dreams.  And we find out, we have this sneaking suspicion that it really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That something in our lives just isn’t quite right.  

What do we do?

Well, the first thing that we do if we recognize that the way we have been living our lives does not really support our heart and soul’s well-being or the well-being of our relationships and our family and our community, we have to change something . . .maybe we have to change lots of things.

And if you have read my story on my website and you can read more about that story,  I recognize that for some of you my story may not sound inspiring.

It may actually sound down-right terrifying.

You may ask yourself . . . why would I acknowledge something isn’t right in my life if everything is going to blow up?!? What if I am going to lose everything like she did?!  Why would I want to entertain the option that something needs to change in my life if I can’t make that change without experiencing a lot of really hard things?   

I can’t really know whether running full throttle into the wall is part of your path. I can’t really know how much, how many challenges you may face as you take the steps to realign your life and the way you are living and working with your true well being.   

But, I am going to suggest that there are many options for you between running on empty or on the path toward running on empty and actually hitting the wall.

I believe that I ran into the wall because I didn’t STOP sooner. I definitely tried to address the symptoms in my life. But there were core issues, core considerations . . . and places I wasn’t willing to go.  Of course I see this in hindsight, I didn’t see it at the time. At the time it was, in many ways, it was subconscious for me. But there was that part of me that was afraid that if I actually addressed the things in my life that weren’t working, that that meant losing everything.  There was part of me that had that level of fear, even without being able to express it at the time.    

I also believed that I couldn’t afford whatever interventions I really really needed.  Whether those interventions be just more help at home or whether those interventions meant more intensive treatments for trauma.  I thought I couldn’t afford those things. I thought I couldn’t afford to take a break from my job or to leave my job. I will tell you again, in hindsight that those interventions would have been MUCH MUCH cheaper than the amount of money that I have either spent or “lost” in terms of lost income, lost opportunity because I continued to press forward until I hit the wall.  

I think the third piece of fear, for me at least, and probably for many of you, is that we are not worthy.  So in the last episode, I talked about the voices in our head that tell us, or those voices that are embedded in the part of our being that tell us that we are not enough, that we don’t deserve more, that we don’t deserve to be well, that we don’t deserve to be cared for and loved unconditionally.  And I believe that that fear of being afraid, that even if I addressed the question, if I wasn’t worthy of anything better or different, kept me from really diving hard into the core issues that were holding me back and and the core issues that were making me sick as opposed to addressing the symptoms.

If we are going to make change in our lives, we have to consider the possibility that things don’t have to be as they are.

And I think many of us are actually afraid to consider that possibility because our society doesn’t give us permission to “not be okay”--particularly if we look like we have “everything” from the outside.  We don’t want to consider that possibility because if we realize that something isn’t okay, if we give ourselves the space to consider it and then the answer turns out “you are correct, there are things that are not ok”, does it then incumbent upon us to actually do something differently? And maybe we are not ready to do something differently.  Maybe we don’t really want to know.  

I think we are also afraid to consider the possibility that things could be different because we think we don’t deserve better or more or different.  And perhaps we believe, as I did, that our job is to just to soldier on and persist, to just keep going. Regardless of the challenges, regardless of the things that aren’t working.  To just put our head down and put one foot in front of the other. And I will acknowledge that there are definitely times in our lives where that is what we are called to do. The problem is when we continue to persist through a system of living that truly is making us sick or is well on it’s way to making us sick and we don’t stop to reevaluate and reassess how we are continuing to move forward.    

All of those are reasons why we don’t open ourselves up to consider the possibility that something can or should be different.  But I think there is a BIGGER reason and I think the bigger reason, at least for many of us, is that we don’t give the possibility the space to breathe in our minds and in our hearts, we won’t even really consider it, we won’t give it any bandwidth because we are afraid the answer is NO.

For much of my life, it has very much been easier for me to not want anything or ask for anything, than to face the prospect of wanting or asking or acknowledging a need or desire and not having it met. So much easier in many ways to just not acknowledge it and act like I don’t have any needs, I don’t have any desires, that way I don’t have to be disappointed or I don’t have to be let down.  I don’t have to face the fact that I am not worthy of those things that I desire the very most. So we are afraid to ask the question, because we are afraid the answer is no.     

And one of the things I have learned over the years, in both my professional life and the  personal life and the things that I have done to get healthy again, is that we have to ask ourselves the questions.  The reality is that the fear of the answer is so much greater and so much more powerful than the actual answer to the question.  

The story we spin in our minds about what is true or what might be true, and what is going to happen, that fear of the answer is much more powerful than the actual answer itself.  And I have experienced this over and over in my life, where I have spent maybe a week or a month or more than one month, or even a year perhaps afraid of the answer to the question. And being afraid of the answer to the question also fuels that running, that “ok, I am just going to leave that here and I am going to just go move as hard and as fast as I can and maybe when I turn around it won’t be there.”      

I think one of the easiest ways to kind of understand that process is when we think about dealing with conflict in our lives.  When we are having a conflict with another person and/or a group of people, and we think “well maybe if we ignore it it will go away”.   And often the most powerful, less time intensive, less energy intensive, answer is to turn around and talk to that person or talk to that group and say “ok, so we are having a conflict, let's talk about it, let's find out why we are having a conflict, let’s find out what is driving this, let’s find out what we have in common, where we agree.”  And then can we go from where we agree to maybe work through those other things those other things where we don’t agree.  

That takes so much less time than it does to deal with the emotional drama and trauma around conflict that is swirling around us or behind us or in front of us and to try to look the other way and act like its just going to get better. Because it doesn’t.  Our fears grow bigger. Our perceptions of those other people continue to be fueled by the fact that we are in conflict. And so they are bigger in our heads, our fear is bigger in our heads, our disconnects are bigger in our heads than they actually are in reality.  

And when we turn around and we sit down with that person, and I am not suggesting for a second...actually I will say that addressing conflict via social media, text and email are not effective ways to address conflict.  But when we turn around and sit down with that other human being and look at them across the table and have real conversations, we often find that that conflict, that disconnect, whatever emotions we were afraid of, or whatever things we were afraid of aren’t really that hard.  

We are all human beings. We are all able to resolve things.  So I use that again as an analogy of the difference between when we keep running from our fears or we run from conflict, when we run from those things that we are afraid of, as opposed to when we turn and face them. And we find out, when we face them that they were really not nearly as scary as we thought they would be. 

So we have to open ourselves up to even begin to consider the possibility that things can or should be different in our lives.  And we have to be willing to ask ourselves the questions...What things could or should be different?  

In what areas of my life am I not supporting my own well being? In what areas of my life is there a disconnect between where all the things that I have done or accomplished, or all the things that I hoped to do and the stories that I am telling myself, or the stories that society is telling me about what effort I need to put in to deserve those things, or what I have to do to achieve my goals and what sacrifices I have to make to achieve those goals.

We have to open ourselves up to the possibility that things can be different and then we have to ask ourselves the question. Then we have to actually sit and give ourselves space to breathe with that question.  If we really don’t know the answer...some of your may ask the question and you will get the answer quickly. Some of you who have maybe spent more time shutting down those types of questions in your life will find it harder to access.   

But it you sit with those questions in a quiet moment with a little bit of space to breathe, it might be daily, weekly, it might be monthly.  If you give yourself the space to consider the question, you will get the answer.  

And I am going to suggest that the answer doesn’t reside in your head, that’s the first place we go, but that is not where the real answer is . . . the answer to the question is going to live more deeply planted than your head. . .it’s going to come from a place deeper down inside of you.  You want to call it your soul, your gut, your intuition, however you identify that part of you that knows. And you have to give that part of your space to have a voice. 

So ask yourself the question and ask yourself every day or every week or every month until you find the answer, until the answer actually rises within you.  

THEN, when we get the answer . . . because we will . . . if we give it space to come, we will get the answer.

When we know the questions and the answers that we have been afraid to ask. . . that is where the work actually begins. It’s not actually in asking the question. That is often the barrier, the place that we don’t go, it’s the fear that holds us back, because we just don’t want to know the answer.  

But I can tell you that those questions that are hiding somewhere deep down in your soul, deep down in your spirit, they are affecting your every day life whether you have given them space to breathe or not.  So you may not know the answers because you haven’t given them space to breathe, but I can tell you, I can assure you, that they are in many ways owning the way that you are living your life more than you are owning it.  

So we have to give ourselves the permission and the space to ask . . . and to hear the answer.

One of the most powerful things my Mom did for me was to hold space and for me to give myself permission--it might be permission to rest, permission to go to the doctor, permission to not work that particular weekend or holiday.

Now there were certain places that I couldn’t go with my mom either.  But I knew where the safe ones were and she did hold space for me to give myself permission to listen to that deeper part of me or to listen to that need and to respond in a self-caring, self-supporting, well-being sort of way.    

And I find many of us struggle to give ourselves permission, we struggle to give ourselves permission to listen to that voice, again that voice of knowing, or that voice of recognition, that we have needs or desires or values or a vision for our lives that isn’t in alignment.  

And we all, so not only do we struggle to give ourselves permission, but we also believe that the people around us can’t afford, frankly, for us to ask those questions of ourselves.  Because they are counting on us, right, and we feel like we need to show up for them every single day in a certain way. And so if it is not our own fear holding us back, it’s our fear of what will other people think, or what will other people say, or how will they respond if you can’t continue to or if you choose not to continue to show up in the same way.  And we know that people do not often react well to change, that they think is happening to them.  

We have a lot of fear in our hearts and our heads about what other people thing about us and then there is someone, and I don’t remember who it is, who said “what other people think of you is none of your business”.  Taking that approach in your own mind, when you start to give yourself permission to ask about what maybe in your life needs to shift of change, it really isn’t anyone else’s business.  

So I have talked a lot about the things that hold us back in our own mind, our own fears and our own perceptions about what we might find out if we actually give ourselves space to ask whether we are living our lives in a way that is consistent with our needs and desires and values.  Or whether we are not and whether things need to change.  

And there are a lot of things that hold us back internally.  And then there are the things that hold us back externally. We have a fear of what happens if we decide to make changes in our life, what are other people going to think, what are other people going to say, how are other people going to react.  And we know that it is often hard for the people closest to us to support change in our lives, because honestly, their concerns are about what is going to, how this is going to affect them. How your choices to live your life differently going to affect them.  And so there is a lot of fear or there can be a lot of fear around what society is going to think, what your town is going to think, what your circle of influence is going to think if you make these changes in your life. 

And beyond the fact that you can live your life based on what other people think, to the extent that other people are not responsible for your well-being. The other thing that I want to remind you of is that it is in the best interest of the people who are counting on us that we actually learn to live our lives in light and well-being, because if we are not whole, if we are not full, if we are not healthy, we are not able to care for them, to love them, to support them, to lead them, in the best, healthiest, most whole, most giving, most positively impactful ways.

That if we are not healthy and whole, then we can not bring our best to the people that we love, we can not bring our best to the people, to our community, to our organizations, or to the world.  And so I recognize that there is a lot of tension there. Because in the short term, we are afraid to change, we are afraid of the answer to the questions, we are afraid that we don’t deserve to have our core needs, our core values, our deepest desires met.  

And then there is the tension about what happens if I move the cheese pieces, or I think there is a book called “who moved my cheese?”, what happens if I move the cheese around the people around me.  And yes, that will be challenging, but it is not insurmountable, and if we don’t move the cheese, or we get really, really sick, before we run into the wall, or before we fall off the cliff, guess what?  When we do all of those things, when we actually collapse or crack or get really, really sick, because we refused or didn’t see clear to step off of the path that we were on. All of the people around us are going to be affected by that as well.  

So to bring this back to the beginning of this episode. Before we can make the changes that we need to make or that we do need to make in our lives, to support our well-being for the long term, not always just for the short term, but for the long term.  To have the greatest positive impact on the people that we care about, on the people that we lead, and on the people in our community and on the people beyond. We can not make that impact if we are not continually asking ourselves where we are in alignment and where we are not. Where the way that we are living our lives, messages in our head, and the things that are driving us forward, are aligned with our deepest needs and desires and our own health and well-being.  Where those things might not be in alignment and where we need to make changes.     

And recognize that it can be scary to ask ourselves those questions.  To give ourselves the space and permission to ask those questions because we are afraid of the answers for many reasons.  And I want to encourage you and give you permission if you need it, to ask the questions anyway. To give yourself the space to ask those questions and while I recognize that the answer to those questions may feel really, really scary, I can assure you that this is work that you don’t have to do alone.  That this is work that is integral to your ability to realize your greatest potential on this earth. And that in turning and asking those questions and giving yourself the space to consider what might need to be different for you to be well, you are giving yourself an incredible gift and you are also ultimately giving an incredible gift to the people around you.  

If you want to learn more about the support that I can offer for people going through this process, seeking greater alignment in their lives and their work, then you can find more information on my website as https://www.boothandrews.com/6steps You can also find my blog there, you can take the Running On Empty Quiz to, again, as a possible way to start to explore what symptoms are maybe showing up in your life that may need to be addressed at a deeper core level.  And you can also subscribe to my newsletter or just reach out to me and I would love to hear from you, I would love to hear your story. Thanks for listening and this has been the Freedom From Empty Podcast Episode 3.