Is it ok if I boldly share something that has been on my mind lately?
I want you to stop asking for permission.
Oh wait–I just asked you for permission didn't I? Darn it. Let me start again.
I'm going to boldly share something that has been on my mind lately.
That's better. Let's continue–
Talking with clients and friends who are wives and mothers, and being a wife and mother myself, I find that women in general feel this need to ask for and receive permission from others before they can do what they want to do. It sounds weird that as grown women we feel like we need permission, but it makes sense when we think back to how we were raised as children. Think about it– as children we had to ask for permission for EVERYTHING! At school, we had to raise our hand to speak or to go to the bathroom. At home, we have to ask our parents to have a snack, watch TV, or ask whether or not we can play with our friends. As adults, this instilled need to ask for permission doesn't just fully go away. I mean, how many times have you asked questions like the one at the beginning of this blog post? When you read it, did it even cross your mind as weird or wrong for me to ask it? On a deeper level, asking for permission comes from the fear that you'll disappoint or not be liked by others, so you ask to make sure it's ok with them before doing it so you can avoid rejection ( A common fear of people-pleasers. Not sure if you're a people pleaser? Check out this Instagram post).
I've been intentionally working on this for a while, but I still find myself slipping back into asking for permission sometimes. Today I want to talk about four ways I've seen women (including myself) ask for permission.
1. Permission to want what they want
You have big goals and dreams, but then you become a mom and suddenly you feel like those dreams are selfish, so you put them on the back burner or worse, you stop dreaming at all. We're told that being self-sacrificing is noble, so we sacrifice our dreams for our children, believing that by doing this we are showing the ultimate love. It's an all or nothing mentality. That it's not possible to go after your dreams AND take care of your kids. You want permission to go after your dreams. You want someone to tell you that it's not selfish to have dreams outside of motherhood.
2. Permission to take care of you
Women are natural caregivers. We want to help others and it brings us joy. But we also need to be taken care of too. We are not Energizer bunnies that can keep running on and on forever. I think conceptually you know this, yet you still feel guilty taking time for yourself. You want someone to give you permission to sit on the couch and do nothing or to go take a nap in the middle of the day. You want to know that it's ok for you to go out with your girlfriends and let your husband put the kids to bed by himself.
3. Permission to let go of expectations
We all grew up having certain expectations put on us by our parents, society, our friends, or teachers at school. As these expectations were repeated to us, they eventually became what we expected from ourself. This is only a problem if these expectations are causing negative emotions, like guilt, in your life. The guilt is a sign that these expectations are no longer aligned with what you really value. But rather than question the expectations, you likely feel shame for wanting something different and you tell yourself what you "should" think or do. You want permission to let go of the expectations that don't fit anymore. You want to know it's ok to have different expectations of yourself and others.
4. Permission to do things differently than others
We have an innate desire to belong, so standing out and being different can seem scary for all of us. If everyone around you is living their life or doing things in the same way, but their way doesn't feel right to you, you may be scared to do something different because you may be called out, criticized, or rejected. You want someone to give you permission to do things differently. To do things your own way.
Who you really need permission from
The tricky thing about asking for permission is that even if you do get it from someone else, you still won't move forward until you give yourself permission. There are a lot of women influencers out there saying that it's ok to go after your dreams, but until you believe it's ok, you won't do it. Your husband may tell you to go out with your girlfriends or go do something for you, but if you don't believe it's ok, you'll probably just end up folding the laundry instead. You may have someone give you permission to let go of expectation and be different, but if you don't believe it's ok, you will continue doing the same things and trying to fit in. In the end, you can have a million people giving you permission, but it won't make a difference unless YOU give yourself permission.
How to give yourself permission
Giving yourself permission, when you're used to asking for it from others, is a practice. First, you need to become aware of when you're doing it. Look for cues such as anytime you say, "I should..." or "Is it ok if..." When you come across these moments, take a pause and try one of these thoughts:
"It's ok to want what I want"
"It's ok to take care of myself"
"It's ok for me to choose what I value"
"It's ok to do things my own way."
You can adapt these however you'd like, but whatever you think, make sure you feel empowered by it. You will not create a life that you want if you're waiting for permission.
Stop waiting for others to give it to you and give it to yourself.