Stop Waiting for Permission

How to Stop Waiting for Permission

When you were a child, you often had to wait for permission to do something. Perhaps you needed to be a certain age before you were allowed to use the oven or cross the road by yourself. Maybe you needed to ask mom before you got a snack. Even as a teen, you had to stick to rules: curfew, acceptable music volume, homework…

Once you’re eighteen, you’re free to do what you want (within the bounds of legality). So why do we get stuck waiting for permission?

You’ll know what I mean, even if you’ve never consciously acknowledged it. Maybe:

  • You’re waiting for someone to say that you’re good enough before you’ll allow yourself to paint/write/sing/act
  • You won’t take that course or qualification until you’re “ready”
  • There are some things you’d love to try – but you’re worried what your mom would say
  • You’re afraid to be yourself; you always follow the crowd

So often, the only person who needs to say “yes” is … you. Here’s how:

Step 1: Put Yourself In Control

It’s tempting to blame our problems on other people. It’s easy to make excuses for not taking the steps we want to in our lives.

You keep your boring, safe job because quitting would shock your parents. You never branch out and buy different clothes because you wouldn’t fit in with your friends any more. You and your partner want to emigrate, but you know your grandparents will be upset if you move away.

I’m not saying that your decisions are easy, but you do need to make yourself responsible for taking them. That means:

  • Stop making excuses like “my mom wouldn’t like it if…” or “my friends would laugh at me”
  • Start admitting what you want – even if you’re still convinced you can’t have it. Tell someone you trust or write it down in secret.

Step 2: Get Real About Barriers to Entry

When we’re stuck waiting for permission (from ourselves), it’s often because we think we’re not good enough. Maybe you’d love to learn to paint or act or write, but you’re scared to take a course because you’re a beginner.

In Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards writes:

Often, in fact, people even feel that they shouldn’t take a drawing course because they don’t know already how to draw. This is like deciding that you shouldn’t take a French class because you don’t already speak French, or that you shouldn’t sign up for a course in carpentry because you don’t know how to build a house.

Everyone starts as a beginner. Of course some of us have more innate talent than others, but you can almost certainly improve with teaching and practice.

Is there really anything stopping you applying for that course? Booking a place at that seminar? Applying for that job? Often, the skills and qualifications you’ve got are enough – you’re just selling yourself short.

Step 3: Figure out a First Step

Sometimes, we’re not just waiting for permission – we’re also waiting for someone to tell us how to begin. Just like when we were children, we’re expecting mom or dad or a friend to say “start here”. Unfortunately, you need to figure out your own first steps.

If you’d love to be a writer, stop waiting for the world to give you permission. Figure out what you need to do to get started (maybe write a short story – or send out something to a competition) and get going.

First steps aren’t necessarily easy. You might try and fail. (But that didn’t stop you when you were learning to walk, did it?) You might be afraid that people will laugh, scoff, or even be angry if you take a new direction. Often, you’ll be surprised how supportive the friends and family close to you are – if they really don’t get it, try joining a group, club or association of like-minded people who can encourage you.

Are you waiting for permission to get started on something you’ve dreamt about? Why? Who’s stopping you?

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