You can stop waiting for the permission slip
Right now I’m dancing my way through Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, so I’m not going to lie about my inspiration for the title of this post.
See Elizabeth Gilbert understands permission like no other. Over the years she’s progressively unschooled herself in what it means to live a creative life. On every page you can devour her lessons from the journey thus far, all while creating ‘whatever causes a revolution in your heart’. Among the anecdotal notes, she generously shares with the reader a whole chapter on permission.
Today, I wanted to share with you a recent discovery I had on this very subject.
Discoveries come at the strangest of times and not to mention in the strangest of places – in the shower, on the toilet, driving to work. Today, permission cracked me wide open in an interesting place.
Picture this common setting, the local pool, screams, laughter and the slapping of water as bodies hit the surface. I happened to have Big Magic open on this day and usually struggle to pull myself out of its vortex, but on this occasion a scene played out in front of me that stopped me in my tracks.
Nothing unusual about it – a young boy swimming on his own while his mum watched from the sidelines. After jumping in the water a couple of times, he walks over to his mum and asks “mum can I do a flip into the pool?” and she replies “yes but only if…” and rattles off the cautionary prerequisites for flipping into the water. As he jumped in and out he continually called “mum” to see if she noticed. This was a very normal thing for a young child to do, but what struck me in that moment was that I am still asking for permission as a 33 year old woman.
Permission from society – because we’re all trying to be like the Jones’, of those I loved, of my peers, of parents, of siblings, the list goes on.
All because of expectations around how we should show up in the world – simply to ‘fit in’. Some might call you a rebel if you choose to dye your hair a shade of purple or drop out of school a year early to travel the world. These aren’t necessarily acts of rebellion, in fact they might be acts of creative living. Because it feels good, not because it feels right.
What makes permission a sticky subject, is that as adults we build up so much fear around asking for things we need. And when I say need, I’m not talking about material possessions. In fact it is much deeper than that. You choose to join the rule breakers club (and skip the permission slip) because the experiences you’ll have will feel exhilarating, fun, breathtaking, joyous.
We are lead to believe, that if we ask for permission of others, somehow we might devoid ourselves of pain if the choice goes belly up. They’ll still love us no matter what, because we asked.
And so, it all comes back to love.
In sharing that moment with the young boy at the pool, I saw myself in his body and I felt a sense of release. Because for so long I had been that child. Looking for external validation before making big life choices. Lining my ducks up in a row to ensure I would not fail in front of those I love. I was looking for signs out there, in others, BUT…the only person I needed to ask was me.
And it always comes back to feeling good.
So tonight, tomorrow or if some moment in the future you find yourself contemplating a decision that you know will rock your world, ask yourself these sweet questions…
Will this choice allow me to feel good? Like really really freakin’ good?
Is this choice aligned with my values?
Can I say that I will love myself even if I fail?
Will this choice lead me in the direction of my big bold dream?
If that’s a yes, yes, yes and yes then you have your answer.
Then go and burn the permission slip.
Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert.