I've seen the phrase "Give yourself permission" a lot recently. From podcasts to social media posts, it's like it was a message I needed to hear. Give yourself permission. The synchronicity of it has not been lost on me and it's made me think about how much of our lives revolve around seeking permission, rather than granting it to ourselves.
It started when we were kids: permission slips sent home so we could go on field trips, asking our teachers if we could use the restroom during class, asking if we could sit with someone at lunch. While these examples may seem small, they add up over time.
We've gotten so used to seeking permission from others that now, as adults, we often forget how to ask ourselves permission to do things.
Instead, we continue to look outside of ourselves to make decisions that are ultimately up to us. Decisions like where we work, what kinds of jobs we do, who we marry, where we live, even what we wear, can be influenced by what the people around us approve of.
Seriously though, think about it... How many times have you asked “What do you think?” in the dressing room while shopping with friends only to put the clothes back if your friend makes a disapproving face? It may seem minor, but it's an example of making a decision about your self-expression based on the viewpoint of someone else.
While it's comforting to receive approval and permission from others (we are social beings after all), years of being so focused on external sources of validation can make trusting our gut difficult. We can end up second guessing our intuition or following a certain career/life path or playing small because those external voices have become louder than our own. Our initial reflex can be to turn outside instead of in and, when that happens, it often holds us back.
To truly live up to our highest potential, we need to re-learn how to flex our own permission muscles so that we can feel confident looking inward when it comes to making important decisions in our lives.
Yes, we can weigh external opinions, particularly those of people who are important to us. I'm not at all suggesting that these opinions are unimportant or shouldn't be part of our decision making process. They are absolutely part of the equation. However, in the end, we are the only ones who can truly give ourselves permission to do anything. No one else knows what is really in our hearts or what our souls need to express - only we can know that. Being able to express that and follow our truth starts with learning to listen up and trust our guts.
I know this might feel like a tall ask. It's not easy to switch our mindsets to look inward first when we're used to looking outward. But the truth is, our internal permission granter has always been there. We've just forgotten how to listen to it.
All of the years of other people’s opinions and priorities can prevent us from listening to that internal voice that has been trying to guide us all along. She’s there, I promise.
Even if you feel like you’ve never heard her speak before, she’s there and she’s talking. And you can give her her voice back.
How do you do this? It takes practice, like a muscle that needs strengthening. You need to give your inner permission granter chances to speak when you are fully listening.
Not sure where to start?
Try this exercise:
Carve out 20-30 minutes in a quiet space. Sit down with a pen and notebook. Close your eyes for a minute and just take a few deep breaths, letting your worries from the day and the external world fade away. Then, turn your attention back to your notebook and write down the following statement:
I give myself permission to ___________.
Stream of consciousness, keep writing this sentence and filling in the blank until you run out of things you can think to give yourself permission to do.
For some of you, this might be long list that goes on for several pages. For others, it might be short. There is no wrong way to answer.
The point of this exercise is to tap back into your internal permission granter so that over time you become more comfortable listening to her and less reliant on external permission sources.
Still stuck on where to begin?
Here are some examples from my own list:
- I give myself permission to take a vacation.
- I give myself permission to change my narrative.
- I give myself permission to follow my dreams.
- I give myself permission to let go of relationships in my life that are no longer serving me.
- I give myself permission to want more.
- I give myself permission to love wholeheartedly.
- I give myself permission to say no.
- I give myself permission to take naps.
- I give myself permission to dream big.
- I give myself permission to listen to my intuition.
- I give myself permission to take risks.
- I give myself permission to be cautious.
- I give myself permission to be me.
Once you’ve made your list:
Feel free to hang your list where you can always see it. Or keep it in your notebook to refer back to when you find yourself seeking external approval for things that, deep down, you know are your internal permission granter’s territory.
Remember, you can always adjust or add to your list. You make the rules! It's your list!
The more you trust your internal permission granter and let her exercise her voice, the louder she will become. Eventually, she will be the first voice you turn to.
Now go give yourself permission, babe. You don’t need mine or anyone else’s. Your inner voice knows what you need. You've just got to let her know that you're listening and give her room to speak.
Want some further help on tapping back into your inner voice and learning to give yourself permission to be who you are and go after what you want in life? Let's chat!