The Permission to Be Yourself

I’m a big fan of permission. In a world full of noisy self-promotion, the best way to get attention and keep it is by building trust.

Permission to be yourself
Photo Credit: MSVG via Compfight cc

Make promises and deliver; and over time, you’ll have people lining up to listen to you. That’s how you create fans for life.

But that’s not what this post is about.

When permission fails

Sometimes, waiting for permission is the worst thing you can do.

Hear me loud and clear: I’m not saying you should ever force your message on someone who didn’t ask for it. But I am saying this:

No one’s going to give you permission to be yourself. [Tweet that]

Do you want to be a writer? An artist whose work is acknowledged and revered? Maybe you dream of starting a movement that matters.

Well… what are you waiting for? “An engraved invitation?!” as my dad used to say.

You might be waiting a long time.

The reasons we wait

  • We’re busy.
  • We’re scared.
  • We’re insecure.
  • We don’t believe we have anything to offer.
  • We think we’ll fail.

All those reasons are valid. Life moves quickly, and scary things lurk around every corner. We’re nowhere near as good as we could be, but we’re good enough to start. And we often get better as we go.

But here’s the thing about excuses: they typically don’t go away until you start moving. So maybe it’s about time you got started.

Awards don’t eradicate anxiety

Sure, it’s nice to receive accolades, to get affirmation. But even those aren’t enough to motivate you, if you don’t already have that inner drive, the will to keep following your passion when no one’s cheering you on.

This isn’t easy work, or cheery work, but it’s good work. And it rarely occurs until you realize you’ve got a gift to give the world.

We are all missing out until you make that one crucial decision — the decision to be yourself.

I know this is as scary as much as it is exciting. But we must move forward, casting aside the fear and overcoming the obstacles that stand in the way. You will have to be brave in this endeavor, making the first move.

But as you do, you will gain a sense of momentum that will be hard to shake. And as you continue, you’ll become a force to be reckoned with.

That is, of course, if you don’t quit.

And yet…

Many of us are still waiting to be picked.

We hope someone will give us the keys, the right to enter. We hope for the paperwork to come in or for a form to fill out that will finally qualify us to be who we are.

But that won’t happen. Because no one can make you start but you.

(No wonder we’re so afraid.)

As it turns out, this call to be our truest selves rests entirely on you and me, on our ability to be authentic and honest with ourselves. And honestly, is there anything scarier than that?

I doubt it.

What kind of permission are you waiting for… before you choose to be yourself? Share in the comments.

94 thoughts on “The Permission to Be Yourself

  1. I am starting to become more comfortable with who I am and stop trying to repress the core beliefs that make up important parts of me just because it’s more practical to do so.

    It feels liberating, in a sense.. and I’m not even all the way there yet!

  2. Love this, Jeff.

    After 4 years of blogging, it is nice to have affirmation about my writing.

    However, you reach the point where you stop trying emulate others that have been successful… and realize that you have to “just be yourself.”

    And yes, you have to give yourself that permission. 🙂

  3. I’ve given myself permission to do a lot, but I am holding off on a couple of things because of time. I am trying to clear a couple of items so I can move forward, because even with lots of hustle, I can’t seem to get there.

  4. The things I am holding back on giving myself permission to do, I hold back because of a lack to felt power to make it happen. Its a matter of me knowing that I have the power to bring the change I am looking for.

  5. Great reminder, Jeff. A funny thought came to mind as I read the portion about hoping someone will give us the keys…sometimes God gives us the keys to a Ford Focus and not a Lexus. And that’s enough. Drive what you got right now! I guess what I mean by that is make the most out of the resources and gifts God gives you and don’t use it as an excuse to not try. I really want to do that and I don’t want to get distracted.

  6. No one’s. I stopped doing that in 2009 when I realized no one would ever *give* it to me. So I politely stopped asking.

    Ironically or not, that is when I earned the most respect, admiration, and approval.

  7. “As it turns out, this call to be our truest selves rests entirely on you and me, on our ability to be authentic and honest with ourselves. And honestly, is there anything scarier than that? I doubt it.”
    May I also add that there is probably nothing more exciting than that!
    Someone recently put all of this in a new light for me. She said I was insulting the Lord God when I hesitated and doubted or downplayed the gifts, abilities, and call He has given me. Wow!

  8. Great advice. I think we all need a reminder about this every now and then. I’d like to say that nothing is holding me back right now but time, yet I’m still working toward my goals.

  9. I didn’t start a blog for a long time because I couldn’t think of a focus. Then I realized I should just be myself!

  10. This is where I am at. I’m not waiting for permission to be myself because I am absolutely unique. I don’t copy others. I don’t try to be someone I’m not. I just am.

    How did I reach this point? Through writing. Writing has given me the power to learn who I am, to be myself. I don’t worry or care what others think. I just do.

  11. First off, thanks for writing. I’ve gotten the swift kick in the seat that I’ve needed a time or two when I’ve read your posts (though I don’t think I’ve commented before). Second, what permission am I waiting for? That’s a harder question than I really would have imagined–mostly because it’s my own permission that I’m waiting on, I guess. I write, though I still find it hard to call myself a writer. I would love to write full time and support my family with my writing, but I’m in grad school for medical physics with two kids at home and a logical, scientific mind that keeps overriding the quieter, patient, creative side.

    So I guess the short answer is that I’m waiting for the creative side to gather up the nerve to tell the scientific side to shove off!

  12. Jeff, this post has given me an idea for a post for my blog. You have only scratched the surface here about being yourself. When we take the step we must be prepared to face those who aren’t going to like who we are and have a strategy to deal with their disapproval.

  13. Great advice. This is something I have struggled with and am still working to overcome. I can relate to all the reasons you listed for waiting. Life is so much more enjoyable when fear doesn’t rule it.

  14. “We’re nowhere near as good as we could be, but we’re good enough to start. And
    we often get better as we go.” I love this!

    Yes, it is in the doing that we get better! BTW, I have a precious husband (of 35 years) that has always given me permission to be myself!

  15. When I was leading management workshops all around the world, I talked about how we GYP ourselves by the sabotage you mentioned in your blog. Reframing the word from gyp to Give Yourself Permission, changes everything for the better.

  16. All the things you mentioned stopped me for a long time. Every new level I have come across the same fears rise up. I just put out an e-book for email sign up. I waited forever because I was trying to get it perfect and fear of rejection. Silly things when we are on the other side but the voices still get loud.

  17. I think I don’t need a permission to be myself. The moment I cried for the first time I’m me, I’m unique, I do things in my own way, I talk with my own voice, I write with my own style. I might be a face in the crowd, but I’ve a different face than others, that makes me different and sets me apart.

    I don’t try to fake myself, or copy someone else. I know its useless and waste of efforts, because the only one I can truly be is me. Even if I’m able to fake someone then I’ll never be able to surpass the real. I might able to do what real thing would do, but I’ll never able to get the same quality. A fake is fake no matter how much you try to make it real.

    Why try so hard to be a fake when you can be the real you, and you don’t need anyone’s permission to do that. 🙂

    Be you.

  18. I don’t wait permission : I wait feasibility. Because, you see, my dream is to be a writer and to earn my living with that. But how can I do that when I have to take care of my child and ensure its material well being ?

  19. It’s good to wake up and read your post this morning, such a positive and inspirational entry, as usual. Thanks for sharing your experiences with all of us, struggling poets of the world!!! Have a great day, Jeff!! When will you be coming to Los Angeles? It’d be great to meet you in the flesh… Namaste.

  20. I’m experiencing every one of your listed reasons as I work on launching my own product and setting up a platform from which to broadcast my message. Even as I trudge along and put in the work, I make these excuses for delaying or procrastinating – busy, scared, insecure, etc.

    And you’re right – just doing it is the only solution. The fear never seems to go away, but doing the work helps to squash it, at least temporarily. Movement inhibits anxiety – just gotta make sure it’s productive movement.

    Thanks for all you do, Jeff, as always.

  21. How’d you know? Last night I spit these words in fear and frustration: “I quit! It’s just too hard.” And this is after my book has been published. The next phase–speaking–scares the smile right out of me. But look what message God gave me today? It came through your words, your blog. Thanks.

  22. I finally started writing again even though have a dyslexia and many people don’t understand the mistakes I make. I can’t hire people to proof everything and that’s okay.

  23. I’d been waiting on giving myself permission to release my book to the world. Just last week I gave myself that permission and it’s been released. Woot!

  24. Jeff, you have a serious gift for inspiring people. Thank-you so much for writing this post. Coming up with what you are is intimidating, especially in this critical world that we live in. I believe that if we choose to be exactly ourselves, that there is no way we can lose.

    I am struggling with my lack of published works hindering me before I even begin. It is difficult to hear other people when they say they have been writing since they were a wee young lad, etc etc… since that is not the case for me.

    I have been running from myself for a long time.

    People like you, and posts like this encourage me to keep trying. I know I have it in me, and I will continue to use positive blogs like yours to help me reach my goals.

    Thanks Again.


  25. I just clicked the link to the self promotion post. So true. I have stopped reading a lot of big name blogs over their self-promotion ad nauseam. Thanks for keeping the focus where it ought to be.

  26. I can´t thank you enough for writing this post, and I can´t thank the universe enough for it landing in my inbox today of all days after I had a minor breakdown yesterday as it seems that the only thing I constantly fail to do is to give myself persmission to be myself and follow my path and passion, writing from the heart.
    So thankyouthankyouthankyou for being yourself and sharing your true self inspiring the rest of us to follow!

  27. I want to give myself a permission to believe in myself… Sometimes, you doubt yourself too much that you forget how worthy you truly are. Be brave and have the guts to stay authentic – that’s what I’ve been waiting for.

  28. Providence is an amazing gift! This post is the kick in the butt I needed to move forward today. Thank you, Jeff. Glad you chose not to wait for an engraved invitation to change the world :0) Thanks for inspiring us to do the same.

  29. This is a really interesting topic for me at the moment – that of being myself or rather – finding myself. I have a very different unhealthy church background to the amazing church I’m blessed with now so dreams and goals weren’t things I had a lot of, there was never anything we could attain to (living under the law not grace) after moving church changing jobs and a family tragedy two years later my life has totally been transformed by the grace of God but I find myself so busy, often over ran. Working hard, serving hard and having a life. Finding tho if I don’t have a dream or a goal I am just saying yes or doing things for approval I’m taking some time in November with some intentional reading and studying along with a social media fast to kinda find myself – who am I in terms of church and work in terms of serving and leading – what do I like what are my stregnths I guess I feel like I have permission absolutely to be myself but I’m in a frustrating place of wondering who that is! Great post thank you

  30. I’ve taken permission this year in some big ways to makes some dreams a reality. I’m having a blast with it and sharing the message with others. Don’t wait.

  31. For us rule followers hearing “You have permission to…” is all we need. At least it seems to be all I needed to begin pursuing this crazy scary dream. Jeff your words have been the catalyst for me to finally go after this dream. Thank you for publishing your words! They have brought me more than insight and inspiration; they’ve ignighted purpose. I’m forever grateful.

  32. Jeff, I am fairly new to your blog… but wanted to say that of many of your posts this one really touched my heart. I have always lived and loved with, as a recent song I heard called it, reckless abandon…loving God and following my heart, His calling for me, fulfilling His purpose and plans for me. I believe that you have used your divine appointment from God to encourage others to step out in their faith to make a difference in the lives of others and in their own! May God continue to bless you in your ministry and keep your family close to His heart!

  33. I’m not sure—maybe I do this. It is more accurate to say I often thrive on approval in harmful ways. Damn. That hurts to see all typed out.

    My process often feels futile and yields as much pain as it does reward: I search and search and search for the means to do what I want to do. When I (inevitably) turn up short on information, I get angry about it and then I exact plans to do things myself. I prattle on and on about my plans to anyone who’ll listen: friends, web forums, blog comments, anywhere. They never respond the way I want: they tell me it can’t be done, it shouldn’t be done that way, or that they have nothing say about it and aren’t interested in it. I (usually) do what I want anyway, but it takes me forever to get to the point where I just say, “Screw it. I’m gonna go for it.”

    …and sometimes I never make it there.

    Not to mention: in the aftermath, I still want approval of what I’ve done—confirmation that I’ve done well. What the hell am I looking for? A medal? A cookie?

    Do any of you out there feel similarly?

    1. I do. And sometimes, I think I AM waiting for a cookie. I mean, that wouldn’t be so bad, right? The embarrassing fact is I can bake my own cookies.

      So what AM I waiting for?

      (And yes, there’s an analogy in there somewhere.)

  34. I particularly loved the ‘engraved invitation’ bit. One is not going to arrive, for sure. Sometimes we wait around but the best thing is to just start doing. It’s so important to understand that You are the only one that can give Yourself the permission to be truly Yourself and follow your legend, as Paulo Coelho puts it.

      1. Have you read Manual of the Warrior of Light? Has been my inspiration for years… p.s. thanks for an amazing and inspiring blog

  35. What a co-incident that my last blog post is also titled ” May you give yourself the permission ” and the essences of the post is ” give yourself the permission to be to the ‘Wonderful YOU”.
    When I saw your post this morning I was so pleasantly surprised and thought
    that ” wow, great minds think a like:). I totally agree with you that we
    often wait for too long for the permission from the outside world and fear is one
    of the main factor that prevents us from showing up with our story. For me the
    fear of not being good enough has been a struggle up until recently when I have
    decided to really live my life and show up with my story. I think finally, I have given my self the permission to be the Wonderful ME. Its been a wonderful discovery to find your blog Jeff. Here is the link of my post if you are interested.

  36. Its not about permission but the way of life. I dream the way of my life, but do not realize it. Thats my fault. Thanks for memorizing that.

  37. An inspiring message, Jeff. I needed to give myself permission to make a mess of things and possibly make a fool of myself – to stop playing safe, which I’ve done for most of my life. And I needed to give myself permission to play, have some fun, and let my imagination out of the box.

  38. Love this, Jeff!

    I so agree and have been there for the longest time – hiding my blog posts behind an “under construction” screen 🙂 (True story!) Not good enough, why would anyone wanna read, they are all so much better – lots of “reasons” to hide. It was when I allowed myself to fail, to write for nobody but myself, to write imperfectly and have people not like it, that I started sharing my blog posts and truly started to find my voice.

    This is part of a poem that I posted on my blog yesterday and that fits so beautifully with what you are saying in this post.

    “The love, validation and approval
    we’re looking for outside
    will never be enough

    when we don’t find
    the love, validation and approval
    within first.

    And when we find
    the love, validation and approval

    all of a sudden that relentless chase
    for outside
    love, validation and approval

    becomes redundant,
    not needed and

    Thanks for being such an inspiring example of what is possible!


  39. ‘What kind of permission are you waiting for… before you choose to be yourself?’
    Same. Old. Same. Old.
    I keep waiting for someone to tell me I’m good enough (ouch, it hurts to write that out loud!).
    Well, at least I was, not so much anymore. I had this blinding realisation about what would happen if I write (and post) stuff that isn’t great – is even terrible –
    …….. nothing
    Nothing bad will happen.
    No-one will die. The earth won’t stop spinning on its’ axis. Plagues won’t descend on us. I won’t melt into a puddle of goo.
    When I worked in a hospital, I worked every day under the weight of if I did make a mistake, someone *could* die, so this writing gig by comparison should be a walk in the park.
    I wish. Just goes to show how powerful The Resistance can be within us, if we let it.
    At 37 years old, I’m just starting to work out that I can give myself permission, that I don’t need any one else’s approval, and that if I do this for the glory of God, I can’t go wrong. I just need to keep reminding myself of that every day.
    I so appreciate your words Jeff, they are always encouraging and often give me the kick up the bum I need to get over myself, my fears and worries and just do what I’ve been created to do. So thank-you.

  40. I like your last point–waiting to be picked. I think that is who I am. I am waiting to be picked rather than promoting myself. Thanks for the encouragement to stop waiting!

  41. It’s interesting, my wife and I had a similar conversation just last night. I’ve been so focused on picking a topic or crafting a message for my blog, that I’ve tied myself in knots. My wife said, “Why don’t you just start by telling people about yourself and your experiences right now.”
    Well, duh. Why didn’t I think of that?
    I’m so concerned about platform/credibility – which is obviously very important, but so is just being accessible and likable, right?

  42. You gave a few reasons for unnecessarily waiting, but I think it boils down to just one: the fear. Fear blocks everything: motivation, creativity, confidence. For me, acknowledging the fear is a huge part of the process. I have to recognize it, bow to it, dance with it, and then I’m able to move forward.

  43. Jeff, a quick question, giving yourself permission to be you – does it get easier over time? And what first taught you to go ahead and do it? (I know, that’s two questions. Sorry)

    1. It’s like a war, I think. Every time you win a battle, you gain ground. So yes, in a sense, I guess it does get easier. But each time you take another bold step into owning your identity is a fight. So be ready.

      I first learned this when a friend challenged me to start calling myself a writer. Here’s the story:

      1. Anne Truitt, in her Daybook, said she didn’t think she could be an artist or could think she was an artist until she was actually able to call herself one. Kind of a chicken/egg thing. Interesting.

  44. I feel like I’m being myself, but I am not necessarily being all of myself, or where I’d like to be. That’s related to insecurity and being scared.

  45. “I think, therefore I am” what I think. We hold ourselves back (Pogo) and sometimes it takes “permission” from someone else in order to give *ourselves* permission. Your post is giving permission. Others see you from the outside and I am usually more confident about someone else’s potentialities than I am about my own. Great post and insightful comments here.

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