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Giving Ourselves Permission Is Often A Lot Harder Than We Realise

Shazia Ali

November 5, 2021

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Giving Ourselves Permission Is Often A Lot Harder Than We Realise

By Shazia Ali – Qualitative Consultant and Owner at Mint Research Ltd.

The author and her daughter

Giving ourselves permission to not do anything. It sounds ever so simple. Yet it is one of the things so many of us are unaware of as a concept, let alone as something we set to achieve for ourselves.

I had the privilege of spending time with some amazing individuals whilst working on a project a few years ago. Meeting and having the opportunity to hear their stories. My aim was to understand what encourages them to get involved in a particular sport and others not. The challenge was to unpick barriers which prevent them in participating.

The women that I was looking to understand were women much like me, British South Asian women from across different regions of England. My conversations, like many of the conversations I find I have as a researcher were enlightening. They gave me an opportunity to step into their lives and to feel and understand a fragment of it. What it is like to be them, both the good and the bad. I feel privileged to do what I do and as the years go by, I recognise the responsibility we have as researchers and that we should not take this lightly in any way. Having people sharing their feelings and opening up is truly an honour and it is our responsibility to ensure that their voices are shared back with respect and understanding. In the hope that there is a ripple effect creating positive changes.

The many conversations I have had with South Asian females, something became clear to me. I recognised a glimmer of what I have seen in my mother and many women in her generation, at times myself too. Lifestyle and activities are centred around ‘doing things’ that ‘served a purpose’. I would hear of activities revolving around doing something ‘for the home’, ‘for the kids’, ‘to earn’ or ‘to achieve’. These are all positive activities and all things that women thrive in doing and would achieve great satisfaction from. However, there were very few or no comments around pausing and taking time out ‘for themselves’. Having moments to ‘switch off’ or ‘indulge’ were words that I just didn’t hear.

Being kind to ourselves is something that as humans, especially women we need to be better at. Linking back to sport, we know that participation is beneficial to health and mental well-being however the barrier is often in self-doubt where some women give up before starting because they don’t think it will make a difference or they won’t be any good. In some instances, it’s simply because they don’t see it as helping fulfil needs of others they care about.

There is a need to change the narrative. Something needs to be done collectively including brands and organisations playing a strong role in supporting this change. What we need to be thinking is that it is okay to be doing something that is just for ‘me’, something that ‘I’ will enjoy, and make ‘me’ feel good.

What I hope to hear in years to come when conducting research is that it is okay to do nothing (now and again!). For those that need more convincing I say that it is serving a purpose we don’t realise. We are simply being kind to ourselves. So let’s go ahead and give ourselves that permission.

About the Author

Shazia Ali

Shazia is a qualitative research specialist with over 20 years experience working within the insight industry. Having worked across a broad range of sectors with clients ranging from blue chip companies to local charities, Shazia’s expertise are at their best conversing with niche audiences across generations, social class, ethnicities and communities. A passionate and empathic researcher who is a keen advocate in championing voices of those who can sometimes be forgotten.

Shazia has also consulted for a range of agencies, conference events and client brands as a qualitative specialist enabling projects to be optimised both in approach and team ensuring the most suited skills are in place to achieve the best insights. Using techniques both online and offline as well as cutting edge methods where necessary or the traditional approaches to ensure the best methodology.

Collaborator, advocate and storyteller for all communities.

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