No-one can give you permission.

Ah permission. Permission, permission, permission. It’s one of those words that comes up so often with us women. Whether we realise it or not, I think we often seek permission to go ahead and do things that we want to do.

Why is that, do you think?

I wonder if it’s partly because it’s engrained within us from when we’re little children. At school, I definitely remember putting my hand up to get permission to leave the dinner hall, or to go to the toilet.

Back then, we really did need to outsource our permission to someone else – to make sure we’d eaten enough before racing out to play with our friends, or to make sure the teacher knew where we were, and didn’t panic that we’d left the school.

But when and why does it happen as adults? And why does it happen so much with women, specifically?

More to the point, how have we extended the permission-seeking from small day-to-day tasks, to important and highly personal life decisions like taking a restorative break, asking for help with something, or going for the promotion at work?

I wonder if it’s partly because, as women, we feel hyper-responsible; this need to do it all and be it all. Mother, partner, employee, cook, cleaner, daughter, friend, sister, etc etc… we are carers, nurturers. People depend on us practically and emotionally. And we feel we can’t let them down. We think we need permission to step back or make a change. And we worry that this means dropping one or more of the many plates we spin on the daily.

I also think that sometimes, being needed and depended upon is closely tied up with our sense of identity and purpose in some way. This alone can make it very hard to change indeed.

But I also know that when something like burnout forces you to stop, you realise you didn’t actually need to ask permission in the first place. When you physically can’t do the things you were doing, it’s likely that someone else takes them over for you.

So surely that means that permission was always waiting there for us to take all along?

I wish I’d had a way to realise my power before I hit burnout and had to take a break. And I do believe that the Thinking Environment is one great way for women to start exploring just how powerful we really are.

I find from personal experience that when you express what you want out loud to a thinking partner – someone who is listening attentively, encouraging you forwards, accepting everything you say, and holding space for you just to be you – it starts to become clear exactly what choices you have right in front of you. There is no-one telling you what to do; no-one approving or disapproving of your thoughts, ideas or decisions.

In that environment, the contrast is so stark, that permission is no longer something that you seek from others. In that moment, I think permission becomes something that you realise you’re already fully equipped to grant to yourself.

What do you think?

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