The Simply Permitted Life

Photo courtesy of Interview Magazine, April 2012

It’s a hard habit to break but once you do it is ridiculously invigorating. It’s hard mostly because it’s safe. Like ridiculously safe. Like usually means sounder sleep, no more gymnastics try outs for your intestines, genuine smiling and not nervous anxious fake it to make it smiling. Yet I find at some point in our lives, after 18, post 21, and definitely once we’re over the 25 year mark that permission seeking from others to live the life you believe you were born to live is unnecessary. It becomes a barrier to better, an excuse for mediocrity, poisoned reason to live a lesser life. 

When we’re younger permission seeking is a way of life and survival. We ask parents and other authority figures before acting. We don’t invite friends for sleepovers without making sure parents approve. We don’t just walk out of class to the restroom without asking and obtaining a hall pass. And if we’re wise permission seeking or consent remains important when we engage in our relationships with others. But when it comes to our lives, the life for which we are responsible what we need a perspective shift on permission. If not we often find ourselves amid life shifts that we typically don’t like. Okay I have found myself in life shifts all because I was seeking and waiting for permission, sometimes to say no, sometimes to say yes, sometimes to quit, sometimes to try again.

Photo courtesy of Daily Mail- pulled from Beyonce’s No Angel video

In fact, I wandered down the path of permission seeking  a few weeks ago.  I called a friend back east for it. Fortunately she didn’t answer and in her not answering I was acutely aware that I wasn’t calling her to process, or support, I was calling for permission. I was calling for permission to not go to lunch with a guy I recently met. I was feeling anxious and overwhelmed and quite frankly when I know it’s a date I freak out. Don’t ask why. Quirky thing about Ahyana number 372. So I wanted out. Not to mention I’d spent the evening the night prior at dinner with a guy. I have nothing against guys, I heart them, but I knew this gal, aka me, just needed way more solo time and time to tend to myself than dinners and dates. I canceled on the guy.

I gave myself permission to not get all worked up about a date, to not feel like on my vacation I might slip into acting like someone as opposed to being myself, to sip tea, lounge around the condo, read Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, and just be me. I needed that. I needed no pressure and no weirdness and first dates even the really good ones still have pressure and some weirdness. It was marvelous.

I think that’s what happens when we give ourselves the permission we want from others. We get to indulge in something rather marvelous. We get to be decidedly great, proud, and content. Even with the hard decisions. Trust me. If you think for one second turning down a date knowing I would be flying home to a city where dates are present on my Outlook calendar only, you’re fooled. But the decision to honor me in that moment, priceless.

Photo courtesy of Garance

It’s also what I remind my students about and have had the privilege of seeing grow in them these past few months. I remind them that they don’t need my permission to create the change they seek. They need not do anything illegal or disrespectful but otherwise they were free to be and do. I remember telling them this and watching their faces light up as if this was novel and new. With a few of my students the times we’d meet on on one for supervision I’d further remind them that they were more than qualified and capable to use their voice, to share their experiences, observations, truths, and realities. They could speak up and use their voice to create change. You know what happened? A couple of protest and demonstrations on campus. You know what else happened, I just got to show up. I said and did less as they were empowered to speak up and do more. There was an evolution of change, they very change they sought permission to espouse. It. Was. MARVELOUS!

When we stop seeking permission from others to live our lives we get to experience something called empowerment. That’s really what self permission is. It’s empowering ourselves to be, do, and pursue tat which we believe or know to be best for our lives. It’s our deciding that we will not wait to be anything short of fabulous because we’re waiting to see if our parents will support our decision to take the job oversees, marry the partner who makes less than we do but adds to our lives more richly than they can fathom, have the surgery that results in better health but means no grandchildren,start the pancake bar, or take a year off from school. It’s our deciding we will not linger to see if the professor will fully understand why you brought to light the comment they expressed was racist. It’s not going on a date if you’re not ready.

Photo courtesy of

This week I’m asking you to consider making a shift from permission seeking to empowered living. I’m asking you to ground yourself in who you know yourself to be, need, and deserve and use that as a basis for giving yourself the permission you so quickly text, call, or stop by to receive from others. I’m asking that you’d LIVE with a sense of daring and empowerment and abandon the mediocrity of permission seeking from others on how to live the life you were gifted and have responsibility for how richly it is lived.

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