As long as we had that piece of paper with the scribble at the bottom we were allowed to get on the bus, go to the museum, or the farm, or see some play we cannot remember the name of. We had people all around us who were “in charge” telling us what we could and could not do, what we should or should not do, or what was good for us or what was bad for us. There is some security in knowing that someone was usually there to make decisions.
But one day you look around for an adult, and realize, with some excitement as well as some dread, that you are the adult. You have to make the decision. You have to make the choice. You are going to have to sign your own damn permission slip.
Permission to say Yes
Permission, when it comes down to it, is granting ourselves the space to say yes to what works for our lives and to say no to the things that do not work. It could be in the way we dress, our careers, the ways that our bodies look, our hair style, whether we have tattoos, our education, our living situation, our relationships; really anything that we have to make a decision about that affects our lives.
It does not always seem that we are the ones with this power, though. We feel like we have to wait for validation from an unsupportive boss before we have permission to pitch a creative idea in a group meeting. We feel like we have to wait for a magical number on the scale to appear before we have permission to wear shorts. We feel like a magazine has to give us permission to have certain hair styles based on our ages. We feel like the world has to give us permission to make a change, take a chance, or to live our best lives.
The bad news is that moment of receiving permission from something outside is never going to come.
The good news is that moment of receiving permission from something outside is never going to come.
Permission has been granted by you being alive.
The thing is, you are not on this planet to be quiet. You are not on this planet to blend in. You are not on this planet to be anything but exactly you. Consider, if only for a moment, each element that had to come together to bring you here to this place at this time right now. No matter where you are. All of the people, the meetings, the circumstances, the events, the hardships, the glory, the experiences, and the love that had to be endured for you to exist—does this feel accidental? And more importantly, does this feel like something of such epic proportions that should be wasted on trying to live in a way that is not authentically you?
What would living authentically look like for you? Could you imagine how the truest you would be? How she would live? What her job would be? How she would dress? How many of those elements of the truest you are already a part of your life? How many more could be if you gave yourself the permission to be your most authentic self? What (or who) are you waiting for?
It took me nearly 30 years to realize that I could grant myself permission to choose what is best for me. Even when I was not sure, even when I felt like an imposter, and even when I thought I might fail.
When I first started belly dancing, well into my 20s, it was like some magical world had opened up to me. I loved the movements and the music, and the way that I felt when I moved to the still-new rhythms and sounds of the music. I dutifully learned choreographies and movements, replicating everything exactly as my instructor. I started to wonder if it was possible for ME to create a choreography. No, I did not have a lot of experience. No, I really had no idea what I was doing. But I gave myself the space to at least try. I decided to choregraph and perform my first dance without waiting for someone to tell me I could or should or was allowed to. It made me feel powerful. It made me feel like I might know a little something about what was best for me. After all, I had a lot of experience with me, and you might even say I was the expert of my own life.
And you are the expert of your own life, too.
The more I said yes to what I really and truly wanted for my life the more I became what I believe is the best version of me. It is a process that goes on for as long as we are lucky enough to be alive. From things as small as choosing clothing that you love (one day I decided that I hate pants and would never wear them again—I wear dresses exclusively), to picking makeup that makes you happy (I wear some kind of shimmer or glitter every single day), to the way your hair is styled (I cover my grey roots with a combination of purple, pink, blue, and green hair dye every single month), you can begin to grant yourself permission to be who you want to be.
This also goes for the big stuff. I remember the day that my beloved dance teacher decided to move away, it was like a knife to the heart. Dance had become such a big part of my life. For months I searched for a new teacher, but to no avail. Finally, when hope felt all but lost, I had a thought. Maybe I could teach. And I started teaching. First at the YMCA as a volunteer, then by renting out a ballet studio, and then a yoga studio. Now, after many years, with my own studio and hundreds of students, I think about what would have happened if I waited for someone else to give me permission to start on this part of my life’s journey. Would I ever have reached this place while waiting for someone else to say yes for me? Deciding to teach has brought me to exactly where I am today, doing things I never in my life thought I would be doing: being in graduate school working as an intern in counseling, managing a performing arts group, being a lead singer in a popular band, modeling, and writing columns! These things are a part of my life because I decided to say yes to the opportunities without waiting for someone to tell me it was time or that I was ready or that I had permission.
If we wait until we feel we are completely ready for something we will be waiting until there is no time left. Opportunities come when we are ready to accept them. But if we do not trust ourselves enough to grant permission, we lose those opportunities. Nothing in my life just occurred overnight. Small steps added to big steps and big steps added to make real change. For me I think of clothing. I spent a long time not wanting to show my arms. I thought they were fat and disgusting. Everything I saw and everyone I talked to confirmed this. One day though, I wore a tank top. And literally nothing happened. No one said anything. I was not run out of town with fire and pitchforks. It gave me a little courage, in pieces and over time. I started wearing clothes that fit better. I showed my legs sometimes. I stopped being afraid of a dress with a slit in it. I added glitter. I added flowers. I decorated myself in every way that made me feel beautiful. And damn it if now I do not take my clothes off in public. People actually want me to do it. And get paid for it.
That girl who would never wear the tank top cannot believe this is happening. But she is psyched.
Think of the things you have been waiting to do on the condition of receiving permission. The big things and the small things; the things that you will do when you have more money, lose more weight, have more time, and that you get permission from someone else to try. Now think of what your life will look like if you make the decision to give yourself a chance on doing those things. Think of the kindness you would be showing your future self by knowing, right now and exactly as you are, that you are worth living truly for; that you are worth living authentically for.
Be the person today that you future self will thank you for.
Your permission slip is already signed, so get on that bus to the rest of your fantastic life.
Rachel is an award-winning dancer, performer, singer, model and cosplayer from Norfolk, Virginia. She is the owner of Hipnotic World Fitness Center in Chesapeake, the only burlesque and belly dance-focused studio in the Hampton Roads area. At the studio she is an instructor in belly dance and burlesque and leads body-kindness and specialty workshops throughout the year (www.hipnoticbellydancing.com)
Along with the studio, Rachel is the manager of The Feral Showgirls, a traveling production company featuring performers of all types, from burlesque and boylesque to belly dance and beyond. The Feral Showgirls work to be a visual representation of inclusivity, representation and all the fun (www.feralshowgirls.com).
Rachel is also the lead singer/songwriter of the award-winning band Rachel and the JellyCats, an eight-piece band bringing vintage style into the modern world (www.rachelandthejellycats.
Finally, Rachel is a graduate student in mental health counseling, currently completing her internship with a local agency. Rachel hopes to develop a holistic counseling practice that incorporates body kindness, dance, performance and confidence-building to assist clients in reclaiming love for their bodies and minds.