It's Time to Stop Asking for Permission

As I basked in the glorious warm sun talking life with a friend one day last week, I asked her, “Why do we need to ask for permission for the things we know we want?” This wasn’t so much an interrogation or judgment about how she was not living her life. It was observation and realization that I was asking permission in my life and relationships. It was a question that I really wanted to know for myself. She paused for a moment, looking away in the distance as I saw the gears of her mind start to wind up searching deeply for an answer. With intense sincerity and searching for the same reason I was, She said, “I don’t know”.

I was really curious about this. I’ve been in many relationships, had several jobs, hold many friendships yet all of these I find myself needing to ask permission to take up space, to politely ask for what I want and need, to state this is what I’m going to do and how I’m going to live my life, come along if you want to join. We so often toss and turn with our mind like a mud wrestling match, with worthiness and acceptance in uniform trying to win. When our worthiness and acceptance of ourselves is caught up in others, we hesitate to make a decision in the direction of our desires. Self-doubt begins to creep up and infiltrate our mindset and perspective with fear closely trailing behind to make it for the race to the finish line of life. As we talked through this question it came to mind all the many times that I did things for others while sacrificing my own desires and wants. I thought of all the times when I doubted myself in applying for that job, going after that career change, or even stating how I want a relationship defined. In relationships it can be complicated for we have this dance with the other person in the beginning. And at some point the dance is no longer necessary but we still think we hear the music and know the rhythm and all the moves. Except something or someone taps us on the shoulder and points out that we’re no longer dancing and instead we’re sailing on a boat which requires a whole new set of skills. When you’re sailing, things are unpredictable. You have to make assertive decisions, you can’t second-guess or ask the other person, “well, do you think we should do that? What do you think about this?” When a swell begins to form or the wind picks up, you have to act quickly to adjust the sails or change directions.

So why do we find ourselves in so many situations feeling the need to ask for permission? I often think this is tied to my gender as a woman and the socialization of being submissive, deferring to others for decisions even when I have all the information I need, questioning my own thinking and being. I’m sure there are men out there who feel similarly so I don’t think it’s solely connected to being a woman. But I do think that as a woman we have been socialized to think, act and behave in certain ways within the patriarchal world we live in. And one of those is to ask for permission for the things we want and desire instead of demanding them. Now demand is a strong word and I feel like I have to justify it (there goes my socialization to make that dirty word seem not so aggressive). We should all receive what we deserve and know that we are worthy for the things in life that which we desire. Yet, every step I have taken I felt the need to justify it for myself and justify it to others. I’m in the midst of a career change and there are little tiny critics that chime in my head to say, “you’re almost 40, that’s pretty late for a career change.” Or “that will be so much work and may not actually come to fruition the way you imagine it.” These critics are all the voices of the outside world and when I did follow my dreams and live the life I always imagined, this committee of critics would make side comments to express their own hesitation with the choices I made in my life. We all have cynics and naysayers, whether they be family, friends, loved ones, colleagues or even ourselves.

We can be our own worst enemy. But we can also be our own best friend.

And if we’re as good to ourselves as we are to our best friends, imagine how much less we may ask for permission or listen to our own inner critic and instead listen to our inner sage.  

Of course this demanding what we deserve, or allowing ourselves to receive what we deserve, requires a certain tone and presentation. You can’t just go walk up to your partner and say with hands on hips, eyebrows wrinkled in toward each other and lips pursed, “I’ve had it with this place. I’m moving to the Caribbean. I’m packing up all my stuff and you’re going with me whether you like it or not.” Clearly this is an aggressive demand and one that I would say is not quite that inviting. However, there is a way we can state what we want while also giving love to ourselves and others. With an open heart and soft face, arms rested at sides, “I think it’s time to move. I’d like to move to the Caribbean and I’d love for you to join me.” This conversation can even happen with the committee of critics and with your self. To declare that which you always desired, what you deserve and yearn for in life. To declare to your self and the world.

When people ask me what I do, I stumble on my words as my thoughts about what I wish I was doing or what I wish I could declare rumble around in my head. I stare off in the distance feeling like I left a piece of myself behind by not speaking my truth. Feeling like I need to ask permission of the world for who I know to be and the talent that I have to share. Feeling like I need to ask my self for permission to declare a dream that I had in my youth struggling with the complexities of my world. So today, I’m declaring it. I’m declaring what I deserve. I’m declaring what I have hidden from and not felt worthy enough to share and state outloud. I am a writer. I am a healer. I am a creative. I am an artist.

What will you declare for yourself?

Artwork by Eddie Colla