A recurring message has been playing in my head: Give yourself permission to live the life you want! A simple idea yet one that requires a lot of self-awareness and understanding to achieve. Let me take you back to a few weeks ago:
While at the beach with my family, I was working up the nerve to change into my bathing suit. Something I did many times before but this time, it would show my belly-button ring. It was a piercing I didn’t care to reveal for years. So that morning, I was preparing myself for the “oh, you have a belly-button ring?” commentary.
My thoughts were racing with answers to potential questions I’d get asked: “Why would you do that to your body?” or “that doesn’t look good.”
You may be hoping I’d just simply say “It’s none of your business…” or “it’s my body, I decide what I do with it..” It’s always what I say in theory. However, the slightest chance of being called rude and setting boundaries to unhelpful criticisms are not strong suits for people pleasers, even recovering ones such as myself.
Stepping out of my comfort zone.
It’s in the moments of change that we really get a jolt in our system. When we are challenged to make decisions that go against the poor habits we’ve ingrained in ourselves.
When I finally had a sufficient speech prepared I headed down to the beach.
There was no commentary. Not one word.
I was both relieved and annoyed. Relieved because it reaffirmed that I have the authority to live my life regardless of whether other’s agree with my decisions. I was annoyed though, because I had wasted time gearing myself up for what I believed my family was going to say.
The biggest revelation: I spent that time getting ready in anguish because I wanted their permission.
The stories we tell ourselves.
Courage and vulnerability researcher, Brene Brown, talks about this behavior in her book, Dare to Lead. She explains that our minds do their best to fill in the gaps of the situations we experience in efforts to make sense of them. The downside is that our minds don’t always get the story right.
Our minds adore a quick, retrievable pattern: the result of specific neurons firing at the same time and wiring together. This makes it easier for us to recall certain actions once we get a specific cue from our environment.
My pattern was, “anytime I’ve gone through an experience that involved defending my decision, I’ve been criticized thus I need to prepare to defend my actions.” I had made an assumption about what my family would say which was nothing I had control over. I was already living in a future reality that put me on the defensive and in a negative state of being. How many times do we think about a negative scenario that has yet to happen? In the words of Lao Tzu,
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
Living in the present.
Our minds are unstoppable forces; the trick is to use it in a way that is beneficial to our well-being. Too often, we spend much of our days either dwelling on the past or envisioning the future. In other words, not living in the present. Even recognizing we’re in the moment, takes us out of it.
Living in multiple timeframes.
Try recalling the happiest moment of your life: you may smile, you may feel a flutter in your stomach, or shake your head in nostalgia. For those few seconds, you travelled back to that period as if it were happening in real time. If that memory is better than the life you’re living now, you would want to travel back there and stay! No one blames you for that! It’s no wonder then that we’re regularly being brought back to reality with the frantic wave of someone’s hand in our faces!
When we put weight into the opinions others have of us, we’re doing several things:
- We live our lives based off of a past memory
- Live our life based off of a prediction of the future.
- Look for permission and/or approval.
Those moments exist in their own context, back in the past. It doesn’t belong in the present moment, thus predicting the future based on the past is harmful.
It’s about you.
We are 100% responsible for our actions and ours alone; no one can make us think, feel or do anything we don’t want to. This also means that it’s our insecurities that play into how we predict other party(ies) responses. How? By us projecting how we see ourselves through their eyes.
Example: “My boss doesn’t think I’m doing a good job because I’m running behind on my assignments.” Note: Your boss was never in this scenario, just your beliefs about yourself and your boss. The truth is, whatever you think about yourself is what you’ll see in other people but whatever people think of you is none of your business.
When you’re able to let go of people’s opinions of you, you stop asking for permission from others. You give yourself the freedom to live your life on your terms.
I’ve always been appreciative of my curiosity and desire to try new things despite being scared s***less. I was nervous about what people would think about my piercing but I didn’t let that stop me. The downside is that those thoughts were never dealt with. As a result, I wore clothing that covered up my mid-drift for a very long time.
Give yourself permission.
When we rely on others’ opinions of us, we’re waiting for their permission. Waiting for permission means saying no to yourself and yes to someone else. This can make you go into self-protection mode, covering up the parts of yourself that make you most vulnerable to judgement and criticism.
ONLY YOU have the authority to give yourself permission!
Only you have the best idea as to what you want. It is only up to you to decide how to live your life. (I think you get the idea now.)
Opinions aren’t facts.
After that experience on the beach, I grew a little bit more into the me I know I was created to be: free to express herself in any way she sees fit regardless of what the naysayers and even the supporters say. I walked around in my bathing suit with such peace and freedom.
I can’t live my life based off of the way I think, assume or believe people want me to live my life. Nor should you. What they do with their thoughts, is their business, not ours.