You know the old phrase, "It's better to ask forgiveness than permission"?
Well I'm really bad at following it.
Sometimes that can be a good thing. After all there are plenty of things that we need legal permission for; I love seeing the wall of framed permission at my doctor's office!
But on the whole waiting for permission has held me back in the past and kept me from creating with an authentic voice, which is why I've begun seriously working on Giving Myself Permission.
A few years ago that thought would have terrified me.
I was operating 100% in a "Permission Based Culture," waiting for someone else to tell me that I had the skills and the talents to create something worthwhile. For some of us this shows up as waiting to be discovered.
Granted, sometimes discoveries are made and careers are born. But the chances are slim and it seems like an awful lot of waiting.
In my waiting for permission, I was embarrassed to share my goals and afraid of creating something powerful and truthful, because no one else had given me the green light to say, "Ok, you've paid your dues and arrived. Go ahead!"
Many women that I talk to also struggle with the idea of permission - that somehow without the sanctioning of a higher authority then our work and our ideas have less value. Sadly I think that our culture perpetuates that.
"Superstructures" Fine Art Photography by Jen Kiaba. Click to Purchase Print.
It's taken long time to arrive at a level of comfort with giving myself permission, and it's still something that I deal with regularly in my life.
But once I gave myself permission to create work that deeply resonated with me, a wellspring of creativity and passion arrived.
Granted, this didn't happen overnight. I didn't wake up one morning and say: "You know, this waiting for permission thing sucks. I'm just going to go rock out with my bad self."
One of the first things I had to do was begin paying attention to my desires and intuition. To me, this is an idea rooted in self-love and self-acceptance. If we listen to our desires and then judge ourselves for them it's a recipe for toxicity.
This was probably the longest part of the road for me, and is still an ongoing process.
I grew up in a religious culture that taught us to cut off from our intuition and to not question with the following mantra: Absolute Faith, Absolute Love, Absolute Obedience. It still gives me chills...
So trusting my gut is a psychic muscle that requires regular exercise and very deep listening.
This, and allowing myself to acknowledge and voice my desires without shame is also a constant practice that has to happen in an environment of self-love.
Once I was able to articulate my desires without toxic self-judgement or shame, I began to look for other women who had created or accomplished things on my desires list. I found ways to connect with them, listen to their stories and learn from them.
Those experiences were like a big lightbulb going off:
"You don't need someone else's permission to do this."
So I just started doing it. I started creating work, sending it to galleries, entering it into competitions, speaking about my work, and creating more work.
When I stopped waiting for permission I began to trust myself more and trust my process. I began to see the value in what I create, and I began to become more comfortable talking about my credentials and my goals.
Are you still waiting for permission in an area of your life? As a wrap up, here are the things that help me each time I come up against this block: