Noun; per·mis·sion \ pər-ˈmi-shən \
Definition: Formal consent; authorization. (Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
That definition of permission feels so cold, and yet, accurate. The topic of permission came up in conversation with a friend this week and I realized it was time to dig deeper on this. What is the permission we are seeking, and who are we seeking it from? When I replaced the word permission with “authorization,” my gut reaction was, “Yuck. I don’t seek authorization from anyone! I am my own person!” But I know better, we all seek this out.
Permission from Others
We have grown up our whole lives believing that there is someone else that is granting permission out there, and that we should make sure we have it before we proceed. This came in the form of parents, teachers, coaches, and then bosses approving of our actions. I am not suggesting that these societal structures should be ignored, but what I do infer is that we became so used to the muscle memory of always seeking approval from others that we miss the opportunities to make our own conscious decisions without permission from others out of pure habit.
We seek permission from others in a lot of forms. It can be approval of how we dress, the lifestyle we choose, or support from a close family member to go start your own business. We seek permission and approval that we are doing enough.
Sometimes, we don’t even give others the opportunity to weigh in to give permission, ultimately holding ourselves back. We assume others will not give it, and don’t ask in the first place. I see this a lot with younger people in their twenties (and experienced it myself), where we don’t ask for something we want because of a high fear of rejection or we assume they’ll deny it and we don’t try. I remember having a conversation with someone who worked in a relatively flexible job who would not ask her boss permission to attend a professional development event that would leave her getting into the office later at 9:30 a.m. I did the same thing when I was younger, and I wished that my former self (and this young woman) knew that it was totally okay to ask for what she wanted.
What I also know now is that this was just an example of not giving permission to ourselves.
Permission from Ourselves
The permission we give ourselves is the most powerful, both when it is granted or withheld. We give or withhold permission from ourselves, or perhaps just as importantly, aren’t aware enough to ask ourselves before our subconscious shoots us down. We often attach shame to permission, and we tell ourselves we can’t have or do something because we don’t deserve it, we shouldn’t be happy during a dark time, or you didn’t work hard enough to earn it. Think of a time when you whispered that to yourself deep down. Would you ever say that to a friend you cared about? Of course not. But there we are, beating ourselves up and whispering because we know we aren’t supposed to be talking shit to ourselves in the first place.
I find that while both men and women experience this, there is a unique quality in many women that lends us into this trap more frequently. Maybe it is because society has systemically told us to be quiet and take up as little space as possible our whole lives. We subconsciously have heard the message to wait our turn, wait for permission, and someone will let us know when we can go. We can also be masters at accepting the weight of the world on our shoulders, assuming that we can, and should, do it on our own. For men or women alike, there are certainly unconscious stories that we tell ourselves that keep us from allowing us the grace and permission to live with joy and freedom.
Here is a new truth to consider; everything is a choice. Sometimes those choices may seem impossible, but they are, in fact, a choice. You can become aware of, and choose the happiness that you authorize for yourself.
Here is a starter list of things to give yourself permission to do:
- Do nothing
- Have patience
- Live your dream
- Release shame and guilt
- Forgive yours or others’ missteps
- Show yourself and others your authentic self
- Be happy after loss
- Write new rules for yourself and release the old ones
- Give yourself the grace that you afford your most treasured friends
- Start fresh
Your assignment is to find just one thing to become aware of from which you are withholding permission from yourself. What is it? Write it down.
Write down the current statement you are telling yourself about that topic, the sentence that sums up why you are blocking your own permission and peace for that area of your life.
Write down a new rule that allows you the permission you are seeking from yourself. This should be a kinder, supportive, and expansive version that allows you all the possibility you need. Put it on notes in prominent places to get used to the new idea.
Take one small, first action towards doing what you want to do, and living this new possibility. Extra credit, over achiever? Take another step, and another and another.
About the author:
Katie Rasoul is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. Find out more by visiting www.teamawesomecoaching.com or join the Team Awesome Community for awesomeness coming straight to your inbox. Follow Team Awesome on Facebook and Twitter.