I caught the words as they were coming out of my mouth. I found myself apologizing for being too much or too little. I was in a new relationship and a self consciousness had risen in me that pushed and pulled on me until I felt the pressure to trim myself down to size before someone else could. I was caught in the pattern of trying to explain myself and asking for permission to take up space.
As many women know, this is not an uncommon experience. We didn't make this up. I'm sure, as I do, that you have examples of teachers, bosses, family members, lovers, and institutions that made it very clear that you had to ask for permission to be yourself. If you expressed your voice, danced, sang out loud (let alone out loud and out of key!), or if you allowed yourself to be vibrant, or get angry that you would be going beyond the bounds of the prescribed box. The reality is that for many of us, staying small meant literally staying safe.
We all fall somewhere on a continuum. Some of us find that certain kinds of experiences bring up the impulse to act small more than others. Maybe in love you feel confident and certain of your place in the world; or maybe you feel this way at work while new situations make you feel unsteady and self conscious. But any time we approach relationships and life by asking for permission, something happens energetically. With this comes a loss of attachment to the natural flow of connection to self and others. Our life force ceases to expand to its full potential.
Remember, the funky thing about asking for permission is that it messes with our thinking. It doesn't just make us small and make shining our light in the world tougher, it also acts like sticky goo spreading out beyond one moment. And then we're stuck trying to recover ourselves again, in more ways than one.
So how do we support the full expression of ourselves and counter the conditioning that goes along with asking for permission?
- Claim your time. Stop compromising; put self care and play on the calendar. If you want to grow your business, etch it in stone! If you want to learn to play the guitar, get it on the calendar and stick to it.
Once again, all of us are in different places at different times with this. That judging voice that tells you that you should be beyond asking for permission and be perfect at this point in your life is the voice of the oppressor (thanks to Anne Lamott for that one). Although I love being with women who rarely ask for permission, they can also make me uncomfortable sometimes. I know that part of finding my voice is not about adopting someone else's expression but my own. The only way I get to discover it is to practice, experiment, get fierce, remind myself to have a sense of humor and be very, very kind to myself.