I recently realized that I believe I need permission for anything to do with money – having it, spending it, saving it, earning it. I believe I need permission for lots of other things, too, but the realization came during a guided meditation about money, so that’s where we’ll start.
I asked my husband for permission to start a savings plan. Like, what’s he going to say, no?
I may have asked if it was OK to start this blog.
Alan is not a domineering guy. He believes that we’re equals and lives that belief. My permission-seeking kind of freaks him out. But up until now, I didn’t fully realize I was doing it, or how prevalent it is in my life.
It’s like the lessons my parents tried to teach me as a child just got stuck there, and now I approach life like a three-year-old instead of as a grown-ass woman with things to accomplish.
The need for permission is drilled into us, especially girls, from the moment we’re born. Part of it is the normal rules for growing up that keep us safe. Don’t eat anything without running it past a grownup first, so you don’t poison yourself. Don’t cross the street alone, so you don’t get hit by a car. Don’t flush the toilet without letting Mummy check that you’re not flushing her keys along with all the rest.
Some of it keeps us safe. Some of it keeps our parents sane. And some of it teaches us how to be civilized.
But I don’t remember my parents ever saying, “You’re a grownup now. You don’t need to ask.”
The strong ones figure it out for themselves. Alan doesn’t seem to be held back much by worries that no one told him he could do something.
I’ve been astonished by some of the things he’s decided he wants to do and then just gone ahead and done without running it past a higher authority first.
But the conscientious sorts, the Goodists among us, the anxious types could spend the rest of our lives waiting for someone to tell us it’s OK. To say, go ahead and pursue your dreams. Or, you earned that money, you get to decide what to do with it. Or, if you don’t know how to do something, just give it a try and see what happens.
Our whole social structure is skewed against this sort of independent thinking.
Because the minute we’re done growing up, we’re handed into a culture that defers absolutely everything to the experts, and you’re made to feel like you’re doing something dangerous if you try to do it yourself.
What are your credentials? we ask of each other.
You can get certification for absolutely everything from cutting hair to organizing your cupboards. And if you don’t have that certification, no one will hire you.
“Trust the experts” has become a huge cash grab that keeps us small and scared and helpless. And it’s really silly because the worst thing that’ll happen if you cut your own hair is that you’ll look a bit odd for a while and who hasn’t had that happen stepping out of a salon?
And, yes, there are some things that are best left to qualified professionals. Brain surgery and most things to do with electricity spring to mind. It’s important to keep safe, even past the age of three. But make sure that your need for permission, your deferral to the experts is based in reality and not fear.
This perceived need for permission is holding me back on every front – money, creativity, designing our living space, rebuilding my life after a spate of recent changes.
I keep thinking, can I do this? Is this OK? And with no one around to say yes, I supply the no, which is hugely limiting and no fun.
So now I’m trying to turn it around so that if no one is saying no, I can supply the yes.
Because I don’t need anyone’s permission to get on with my life. And neither do you.
I’ve dragged this whole, hidden ‘waiting for permission’ theme of my life out into the light. And now I see it everywhere, which is hugely embarrassing. Did I mention I’m a grown-ass woman who can make her own decisions?
But once you see a theme or a habit, you can’t unsee it. And now, every time I see it, every time I notice myself wanting to ask permission before I try something new, I will supply my own yes and get the heck on with my life.
I’ve launched a newsletter. It will go out twice a month and include links to my blog posts as well as highlights of my Medium articles. If this sounds interesting to you, you can sign up using the handy form below.
Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🇬🇧 on Unsplash
Another good one, Barb. Your thoughts echo thoughts I’ve ruminated about in education. School ought to make better thinkers of us all, right? But in the classroom, some kids think for themselves, act independently when they know that no one will be “mad”, and some…well, they just sit! It’s curious, this perception of school as a passive activity where you’re supposed to just sit. Sure, there’s a time for respectful quiet to create a good working/listening environment, but more important is the whole idea of finding out who you are by thinking about stuff, talking about it, trying out your ideas and wonderings, and testing your limits. School ought to be dynamic, where we feel free to stretch ourselves and make mistakes, then try a different way. I tell my students to sit (or lay down) anywhere they want because I want them to think for themselves about how they work best. If I say I want kids to be independent yet take all the small decision-making moments away from them, what am I telling them about their ability to choose? We need some freedom (age-appropriate freedom) to learn that we CAN make decisions. My guess, Barb, is that you were a good girl, like me, whose escape into the wild, wonderful, free realm of thinking for yourself happened through writing, where anything is permissible to you! Best of all, one need never ask!
I think you’re a very good teacher, Heidi. Your students are lucky to have someone who trusts in their ability to choose.
Thank Barb for this and especially the humorous antedote stepping out of a hair salon…lol
Thanks, Jan. Glad you liked it!
Echoing many of my thoughts as I live ‘solo’.
Hugs to you, Lally. xo
Love this one! Thank you 🙂
Thanks, Kathleen! xo
Barb – yet another insightful, enlightening piece. I am always so impressed (and sometimes a tad terrified) with how your articles tend to sneak under my skin, and gently scratch away until my “grown-ass” self starts to apply the lessons learned.
I thank you for that scratch, my friend. These thoughts on any of us being “conditioned” to seek permission puts me in mind of my beloved parents (sadly, departed) who always encouraged me to trust my instincts … to act upon them. Though this impulsiveness often proves rash, my life has been blessed with a good number of pretty cool adventures. I am eternally grateful to them, to you … and to my ever-patient wife, Barbara, for putting up with my “hey, let’s take the leap” approach – ALWAYS!! As ever, M
Thanks so much, Marek. Your parents sound like wonderful people. And your wife is amazing, as are you!
Grown ass is the best word combo! Live this piece, Barb xoxo