Who gave you permission?

JVN says this, sassily, to a freshly styled and confident Queer Eye guest of honor. He was joking, sure, but it makes me think about the idea that a lot of us want someone to give us permission, to validate our choices, to nod in approval at our plans. And you know what? That’s dumb.  Here’s why:

If we let other people’s approval guide our choices, we wind up with other people’s priorities defining our lives. 

It feels safe to do something other people approve of. And if we ask permission, we get assurance that they will. But who are they, and why do we care? And do we know that they want the same things we do? Try this: If someone says you can’t do that, ask yourself why. Then ask why again. Do it one more time. Is there a true, solid reason at the root? Something like “this will cause irreversible harm to another human?” Or is it more like “we don’t do things that way”, or “it’s disruptive”, or “it’s unexpected”? 

Meeting resistance is uncomfortable for a lot of people— especially for “good girls” and people pleasers. This is definitely a gendered issue– women are more likely to wait for permission than men are. We don’t assume we’re right with nearly as much confidence. We find ourselves scrutinized on multiple fronts when we step up, and it isn’t all in our heads. We need to work on this at a societal level. But what about us as inviduals, here, now? Putting ourselves out there when the path is rocky feels hard. Really hard.

It’s natural to avoid discomfort, but it’s also limiting. This is a lesson I’ve started to embrace in lots of different aspects of my life. Running an extra mile is uncomfortable, but it unlocks endurance. Lifting heavy weights is uncomfortable, but it unlocks strength. Having difficult conversations is uncomfortable, but it unlocks understanding. Pushing back agains resistance is uncomfortable, too— but maybe it unlocks levels of achievement and happiness and progress that you thought weren’t for you.

Here’s a caveat: if you’re going to not give a &*#@ about permission, make sure your choices are guided by something. Are you thinking about it, and doing something that aligns with your values? Or are you just doing what’s near, what’s easy, or what feels good most immediately? It’s up to you, but it’s worth paying attention.

Badasses do not ask for permission! 

For a little inspiration, think about some people who have done amazing and surprising things. Last night I watched Knock Down the House on Netflix, a documentary about outsider candidates in the 2018 midterm election. It focuses on AOC and how she decided to run, the support she got, how she developed her campaign, and how she developed her self. She talks a lot about the deliberate approach necessary to challenge a system that doesn’t want to be challenged, and why she needed to do it. The documentary also lets us see her crafting her appearance, coaching herself on how to take up space, and otherwise being totally human and relatable. It’s a great reminder: you can do it. Remember, though, that not everyone is immediately successful. It’s not only the outcome that matters.  It’s going to sound like a platitude– but failing at an audacious goal can leave you much, much higher that achieving a safe one.

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