Permission Granted

Whenever my son has to go to the bathroom, he makes an announcement to my husband and me, waits for an OK, and heads off. His heads-up is much appreciated when we are traveling in the car or out and about running errands, but it’s not necessary when we’re at home. My guess is that being at preschool and having to inform the adults there about his needs has made this second nature to him, but I’ve been trying to remind him that in our house, he can just get up and go.

Whenever we have this exchange about the bathroom, it makes me think of the example I’m setting on setting boundaries, communicating needs, and assuming responsibility for my own needs to get met. And that has led me to think a little more deeply about the post I wrote on Monday.

In that post, I talked about how being successful at weight loss (and changing habits in other areas, really) hinges on taking personal responsibility for our thoughts and actions, stating firmly to ourselves what we will and won’t grant permission for ourselves to do of the things that are under our control. In today’s post, I want to talk a little more about permission.

I’m learning that permission is an undercurrent of my actions, and that I haven’t always given myself permission to do different things–or I’ve given my permission to others, making my actions contingent on what I think others would feel or say. “Others” could be one person, or many–or the world at large. That’s a lot of people to answer to. And it’s not right.

When I say “permission” here, I mean understanding where my personal power lies, and how much I empower/enable myself to use it. I am at a point where I’m realizing how much time I’ve spent seeking the explicit or implied permission of others, and how that has not been the most effective way to live. It is paralyzing to want to act, but in preparation of that action, to weigh it against how it could potentially be perceived by others.

And then there’s the issue of the energy I waste on concerning myself about others’ thoughts being totally built on speculation. In reality, I don’t know what whoever I’m trying to please/appease  is thinking or going to think. In my head, I’ve built up a cottage industry of worry, self-deceit, and longing to just do it already–whatever “it” is, and in whichever way I think is best. Missing from that roster of mental energy is my full attention on my actions–what I think needs to be done, and how I should go about doing it. I’ve succeeded in granting my permission to someone else, and ensuring my actions and good intentions get lost in a sea of social red tape.

That quote (about caving to temptation meaning one has granted permission to him or herself to be irresponsible) assumes that one is aware that permission is on the table to be exchanged. I realize that I have been doubly handicapped in that area–not advocating for myself in this unspoken permission exchange in general, and then experiencing my struggles with food as something that feels like it’s on autopilot–beyond the realm of personal choice. But that’s not true. I have more control and power than I think I do. Winning that battle in my mind–with me taking back the duty of having final rights with regard to permitting what does and does not go on in my life–is the key to staying the course with weight loss, even when  I least feel like it.

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