Posted by: shatteringsamskaras | May 6, 2014

The Power of Permission


Me, post-dip

When I was sitting on the beach the other day contemplating an underwear-clad trip into the inviting surf, the thing that kept occurring to me was how much easier it would be if I had a member of my tribe with me. Someone to sit with me and affirm my judgment that, while it wasn’t a bathing suit, my underwear covered all the parts I needed covered for me to strip off my outer layer of clothing and sample the waves.

What I realized while I sat there and stared at the waves was that what I wanted was permission from someone else to do what my heart was telling me to try. I wanted to go in the water because it was hot and the waves looked inviting (and terrifying…but as you probably know, sometimes that’s part of the appeal). I wanted to go in my underwear because I didn’t have a bathing suit, but I wanted to not be stopped by what other people might think about my fashion choices. I wanted to strip down because I’m a little uncomfortable in my skin, and I wanted to give that body-shame thing the finger by acting like the person I would be if I did not have the thought that my body was something to be ashamed of. I wanted to do this thing because I knew it would be a good story…and I do love a good story. I wanted to do it because there was no good reason for me NOT to do it. I wanted to do it because I’m realizing more and more that I want to focus my life’s work on  identifying and pointing out the cultural crap that tells us to avoid things that aren’t pretty, profitable, or commercially packaged to give permission to people who want to follow their hearts and heads in new ways. This little dip in the ocean on a beach with less than 100 people on it was a teeny, tiny step in that direction.

I sat there for a little while wanting someone to come along from the event I had just been at who would give me this permission, and nobody came. So I picked up my cell phone and texted my partner, explaining what I was thinking of doing. It took just a few minutes for the reply to come back: “Do it! Do it! =)”

Now my partner was back home in Indiana, while I was pretty much as far west of Indiana as you can get without, well, wandering into an ocean. The text that came back from 2,200 miles away did two things for me. First of all, it told me that I wasn’t really alone in my conviction that this exhilarating thing was worth doing. And second of all, it put a price on my *not* taking the plunge. After all, if I wimped out now, I was going to have some explaining to do.

That ability to get permission is really important. It made my plunge much easier, because it meant that it didn’t matter how the people in my immediate vicinity thought of my choices  – I knew that there was a place that they and I would be supported and celebrated. The sideways looks I got from a couple people became just part of the story, not something that threatened to keep me from my path. Because I know that no choice I make is ever going to please everybody in the world, and I’ve learned through experience to pick the people I turn to for feedback.

I believe that being a part of a community that supports who I am is the most important thing in my life. It doesn’t have to be just one community – I hang out with different people depending on whether I’m wearing the yoga hat or the life coach hat or the entrepreneur hat or the geek hat. In any of those contexts, I know I have people to talk to (or text with) to get the support I need.

There’s a funny little voice in the back of my head that would like me to believe that it doesn’t count if I asked for permission. But I think that voice is wrong. Having someone join (even virtually) in the crazy dance I call life isn’t cheating, it’s using the resources available to me wisely. And if I use it well, maybe I can even find the opportunity to turn my crazy into its own little movement by engaging other people.


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