A few months ago, I told my teenage daughter that she should stop asking me for permission. Stop asking me for consent, not just for the small stuff but also for some of the bigger things. We discussed it and I said to her that she is getting older and it would be empowering for her to start making decisions on her own. I also told her that her mum and dad are always around and supportive. And of course, if she needs to check on something or talk to us about any decision she can always come to us. I thought she would be thrilled about making her own decisions, but she looked at me in a bizarre way, wondering why I would say that.
It was almost at that moment I realised how wired we are to seek permission. As kids we seek permission from our parents and teachers. As adults we seek permission from our bosses, partners or other authorities. We are so conditioned to ask for permission or seek approval that it threatens us to give ourselves permission to do what is right for us. This was and is still part of our belief system that very often we don’t even think it is a problem or something worth thinking about. I see this a lot with my clients and I must admit that I never saw it until I worked with a coach and had that “a-ha moment”.
The truth, my friends - to unlock our potential, we must give ourselves permission to make our own decisions so we can live our best life. Here are two areas where we can do that:
Give yourself permission to fail: To give yourself permission to succeed, you also need to give yourself permission to fail. From my experience I’ve learnt that mistakes and failures are great teachers. It’s so easy for us to hit one setback and assume that we would never be good enough at this thing and give it up. However, giving ourselves permission is to strive, learn and push beyond our limits into something better.
I want to share this excerpt from one of my favourite authors and teachers – Pema Chodron. This is from her book Fail, Fail Again Fail Better. She says - No one ever knows what is going to happen next. But these transition times—between something being set and things being uncertain—are times of enormous potential. Anything is possible. If there is one skill that is not stressed very much, but is really needed, it is knowing how to fail well. The fine art of failing. There is a lot of emphasis on succeeding. And whether we buy the hype or not, we all want to succeed, especially if you consider success as “it works out the way I want it to.” You know it feels good in the gut and in the heart because it worked out. So failing by that definition is that it didn’t work out the way you wanted it to. And [failing] is what we don’t usually get a lot of preparation for. So fail, fail again, fail better. It’s like how to get good at holding the rawness of vulnerability in your heart. Or how to get good at “welcoming the unwelcome.”
Give yourself permission to be yourself: For many, many years of my life, I had been a people pleaser. I grew up in a society that conditioned and raised me to please every single person - family, friends, neighbours, acquaintances and even random people. From my childhood, I got into this pattern of pleasing people and I have to say that it severely crippled the way I was living. It took me such a long time to understand this, and finally (yes in my mid thirties, thanks to my coach) give myself permission to be me.
This is hard work and takes a lot of introspection and shifts in our belief system. So if you are a person who constantly looks for external validation and is struggling to be your authentic, bold, unapologetic self then I do recommend working with a change work professional who can hold this space for you, highlight the blind spots and help you from a safe, non-judgemental place. A tip: The very first step to being yourself is really accepting who you are. That means, not only accepting the good parts but also the flaws in you.
As you can imagine, this topic on permission is vast. I cannot cover it all but I want to offer you this thought. If you’re just not sure how to go about giving yourself permission, or really what to give yourself permission for, then consider giving yourself permission to embark on an inner journey – to discover who you really are, and consciously choose who you want to be. It’s helpful to ask yourself a few powerful questions and journal the responses. Here’s a start.
Am I able to express myself, speak my truth, and say what no one else is saying?
Follow a radical dream, be different, and do what no one else is doing?
Dress the way I want to dress, not follow along, and live where I want to live?
Create and share my gifts – sing, dance, write or build something amazing?
Love who I want to love, despite culture, religion and family expectations?
Focus on my own self-care and put my needs above all others?
Allow myself to heal and be happy?
Give myself permission to ask for help?
I hope this exercise serves you. I want to leave you with this quote – “Dream and give yourself permission to envision a You that you choose to be.” – Joy Page
I'm Poornima Nair, Certified Life Coach, NLP Practitioner, Founder of Live Authentic Coaching and a Mentor with The Cherie Blair Foundation. If you are curious about coaching, interested in being nurtured, inspired and pushed to your edge, to discover and create the relationships, career, lifestyle, finances you are longing for, please reach out to me for a taster of what great coaching does to foster the clarity, mindset, qualities and skills that will allow you to breakthrough.