December 29, 2011

I Don’t Need Your Permission

Display window at Bergdorf Goodman by Marlene Kelly

Yesterday morning, a new friend told me, “You don’t need permission to live the life you want to life.” I had to think about this for quite some time before I realized that on some level, I am waiting to get some “stamp of approval” so I can do what I want, when I want, where I want and how I want to do it. And he’s right, I don’t need the permission of my family or my friends, or even my own berating self to tell me how to live my life.

Women spend a lot of time attempting to mold themselves into a version of themselves that they think men will want to love, other women will envy and their families will cherish. In the process, they can end up sacrificing some of their best qualities for the sake of striving for perfection. This is the root cause of so much compounded anxiety for women. I’m sure all of us know someone who spends so much time trying to guess what everyone else is thinking about her that she has no idea what she even wants out of life. The aunt on anti-depressants to distance herself from knowing why she’s depressed in the first place. The co-worker who drinks to let go of the vice that has a death grip on her deepest desires. The friend who overeats and watches hours of television to numb out from the pain of a half-lived life. These shadows show up when the life you are living is not your own. When you aren’t able to embrace all of who you are. When you label one part of you good and one part of you bad.

People who know me would probably categorize me in a few ways. They might describe me as confident, bold, direct, honest and warm, but not always friendly. They might go a little further and add that I can be emotional and dramatic, but self-aware enough to get the joke.  They might say I don’t have the gravitas to be a leader, I’m too direct for others to handle, I could stand to lose a few pounds, or that–oh gosh, can I even say it–I can be mean sometimes! Well, guess what? On any given day, you could describe every single person on the planet the same way! The human condition is filled with flaws. Everyone is everything and sometimes less. That’s what makes it so damn beautiful to be alive.

Am I going to live my life trying to fit into the box other people want me to be in so that they can feel better about themselves? Am I going to live my life because so-and-so has decided that it’s OK to judge how I handle myself? Pleasing other people won’t make them love me or like me any more or less, but it will make me like myself less. At the end of the day, I’m the only person that has to live with me, so why not truly love the person I already am?

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