The Real Reason You Believe You Need to Ask for Permission in Life?
Seeking permission was my secret addiction, though I didn’t know it for years. I always thought of addiction as being related to substances, like alcohol and drugs. However, after putting my best foot forward for a job I didn’t even want and saying yes to things when I wanted to say no, I discovered that my need to receive permission from another was not only an addiction to approval, it was a call for something much bigger that was missing in my life.
Though it reared its head in all areas, my addiction centered itself around the job interview and hire process. During the interview, I’d marvel at the shiny details of the company and listen to what they were looking for before speaking to all the ways I could make myself fit their vision. Once we decided we were a good match and I was granted permission to come aboard, I’d celebrate with the words Sally Field spoke in her 1985 Oscar speech, “Right now, you like me.” However, I didn’t like myself. I began to see that I wasn’t being hired for my talents because I hadn’t shown them. All I’d done was prove that I could fit inside the box they’d created. Eventually, when I’d gotten good at things I didn’t enjoy, the love affair would end leaving me looking for my next permission hit. It was exhausting.
So why was I continually seeking permission from others? Why was I so willing to make myself fit into any box that was being created? While the answer was hard to face, I had to admit that I was looking for approval because I’d never learned to trust in myself. Without trust, I couldn’t give myself permission to move forward, I couldn’t write my own story. I believed that I needed others to trust in me, validate me and give me permission. I jumped from one box to another helping others to build their dreams without ever trusting that I could build my own.
We live in a society where we are taught to seek permission and approval early on. Whether it’s raising our hand for permission to contribute ideas, responding to test questions with the “correct” answers or later making our skill set fit into a box in the hopes of being promoted, it can feel like we are always waiting for someone to give us permission to move forward.
How do we begin to be our own trusted authority, our own source of permission? We start by getting to know ourselves. We develop confidence in knowing that there is space in the world for the good things we want to create for ourselves and others. We ask questions and — acting as our own best friend — we listen to what arises.
Let’s try it. Ask yourself the following questions, maybe even journal about them. Allow your answers to inspire you as you look at all the ways in which you might give yourself permission.
- What is one thing you truly love about yourself but rarely share? What keeps you from sharing with others? (Permission to love yourself.)
- If you strip away all the labels you wear, how would you define yourself? (Permission to write your life story.)
- What lights you up and brings you joy? (Permission to marinate in joy.)
- What do you think you do exceptionally well? Do you share it? (Permission to celebrate your talents.)
- What do you wish you could do better? (Permission to learn and grow according to your needs.)
- Do you trust that you have a unique voice to share with the world? (Permission to use your voice.)
- If your life had an soundtrack, what songs would be on it? (Permission to get super creative and have fun.)
- If a restaurant named a sandwich after you, what would it be called? (Permission to play.)
- What would you love to learn more about in life? (Permission to expand your horizons.)
- If you could be in any movie, what would it be? Would you be a hero or villain? (Permission to dream.)
If we trusted in and gave ourselves permission to be exactly who we are in the world, imagine what might be possible. You might be more open, vulnerable, playful and honest. You might be more willing to share those outside-the-box ideas or create that new product that’s unlike anything out there. You might take more ownership of your life or use your voice in a way that makes your relationships blossom. You might stop seeking outside approval or asking permission to be accepted and instead, show yourself greater compassion by accepting yourself just as you are and setting healthy boundaries in order to live a truly authentic life. You might become your own trusted Superhero.
When we trust ourselves, we come to the table knowing who we are, what we have to offer, what we’d like to learn and how we can be of service to this world in a powerful way. Don’t shrink to fit inside a box, give yourself permission to be the fullest expression of you so that you will not only help to fulfill needs, you will grow beyond your wildest dreams.