Giving permission

By | Monday 2 February 2015

The counterpoint to boundaries

Permission is the opposite of a boundary. A boundary is a restriction on what you allow others or yourself to do; permission is what you do permit others or yourself to do — in other words, a right.

Setting permissions

Setting permissions is a fun thing to do. It means granting freedom and, often, fun. It is allowing yourself to dance at a party or at home; permitting others to make mistakes without getting all flustered and angry; giving people (including you) permission to have fun and live a life.

Naturally, not all permissions are equal. You also need boundaries, otherwise anarchy can prevail. But very often we grow up with unnecessary restrictions (perhaps they were necessary when you were younger, but no longer), and so it is time to grant permissions.

When I became a parent, I was advised that every time I was tempted to say, “No”, I should ask myself, “Is it important?” If the answer was no, it was not important, so was there any reason to say “No”?

I frequently found myself about to say “No” to one of my children, only to realise that the only reason was that my parents or teachers had done so. My new life is very, very different from that of my childhood. Often, the old reasons to say “No” had disappeared, to be replaced with reasons to say, “Yes.”

Being fair

It’s important to be fair. If you give yourself a permission, you must give it to others as well. If I give myself permission to criticise someone, I need to allow others to criticise me without my getting upset. If I give myself permission to judge others, I must allow them to judge me without my getting upset. (It’s better, I think, to choose to simply not criticise or judge in the first place.)

It works both ways. If you give permission for others to load you with favours, you must give yourself permission to load them with favours! If you’re the type of person who never says, “No,” give yourself the same permission: every time someone asks you for a favour, tell them, “Yes, I’ll do that, if you can help me create time to do a great job for you by helping me with a favour that I want to ask of you…”

Permissions are great! By ensuring that you are fair, you stop yourself from treating others badly, and you put an obstacle in the way of others treating you badly.

Give yourself permission to be fair, and create a boundary to stop others from being unfair.

Bonus permissions

What about permissions that are to do with self-care and cannot be granted to others? I’ll give an example. I used to get so upset if other people criticised me. But one day I realised that this is life: there will be people who will criticise no matter what I do (you know the type of person). There is no point in my getting upset, because the only person whom I hurt is me, and no one is helped.

So, I gave myself permission to brush aside unfair criticism without getting upset, and to take on board fair criticism, again without getting upset. I gave myself permission to learn how to do this. Although I set a boundary on myself not to criticise others, I have given myself enormous peace of mind by accepting others’ criticisms without rancour, also giving myself permission to disagree and to ignore it.