Over the last decade there are a handful of folks that, for some reason, I gave permission to influence how I felt about myself. In my personal life and in my work I could be knocked off kilter in a second depending on how they treated me. It didn't matter what kind of day I was having - being around them instantly diminished my confidence.
Yet I continued to keep them in my life and give them power over my self-worth. Why?
I suppose it's because they put off an air strength and confidence I lacked at the time and was attracted to the seeming ease with which they navigated life. I believed if I got what they had I'd stop doubting my own value. So in addition to trying to be more like them and less like myself, I also gave them imaginary permission to determine my value for me. If they had enough confidence to believe in themselves surely they could show me where to find my self-worth, right? Rarely was the result positive.
What a curious human behavior to be the pilot of our body when we awake each day then willfully choosing to chart a course into weather systems we have no business flying through.
We fly into those darkening clouds and give away permission to others because we're looking for wholeness. We have a deep desire to believe there is more to our lives than the interactions we have and the work we do, so sometimes we find ourselves willing to give away parts of our identity hoping the gamble might make us whole.
This work is definitely about giving - only we must give from a different place. To give differently we must address our mindset around our state of wholeness and the value of our contributions.
When we're focused on the wrong scoreboard and believe our worth fluctuates with the market, we play scared and we fall prey to the belief each contribution we make is observed and judged. This sort of living comes along with all kinds of inadequacies and self-doubt - which causes us to double down on our investment by further lowering our sense of self-worth and giving away even more permission to others to determine how we feel about ourselves.
When we accept we are more than our fears or feelings of worth in any given day, and when we realize our contributions in our work, relationships, and communities are only a small part of all the contributions in a story larger than ourselves, we can find peace. We can realize the stakes aren't as high as we thought they were.
Perhaps, the stakes are totally imagined.
The great task of taking permission back from others and giving it to ourselves is realizing there is no point system, no one knows what they are doing, and status is arbitrary.
If you start playing like you've got nothing to lose because you've already got everything you need, one day you'll wake up and realize permission isn't something you have to take back - it's something you were never without. Even better - from this place of wholeness we can give permission away freely to those who still walk around in fear.
Though permission is largely imagined, if you behave as if you've given someone permission to dictate how you feel about yourself or what you believe you're capable of doing, you'll see shadows of fear and inadequacy and unmeetable expectations looming in every corner.
We must turn the lights.
We must turn on the lights, accept what is readily available, and get busy turning on the lights for others by abandoning the idea our self-doubt could ever be alleviated by asking someone else to do the doubting for us.
The Reverend King reminds us:
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
When we let go of doubt we can take back permission.