When it’s time to make important decisions, who do you ask? Whose voice is the loudest in your head? In this post, I want to pinpoint the different aspects of my life that I tend to hand over to outside approval.
Hi, I’m Céline ✋🏽 and I’m an approval addict. I’m 5 days sober… again. Hoping I can last another month…
In this past week or so, signs have popped up, forcing me to reflect on why I struggle so much with making decisions. One came from my sister, and the other came from a book I’m reading:
I’ve noticed that when I need to take action or draw a boundary, I subconsciously ask people for permission. I’m not talking about reaching out to a close friend/sibling whose views I value, I’m talking about needing permission before doing what I know is best for myself. I value what everyone else feels, or what I assume they feel, over what I do. And I’ve been keeping myself in this cycle for years.
Maybe you find yourself asking for permission for these four things.
1. Permission to be happy
This has come up in various forms, from justifying my dating choices to keeping myself in a job I dislike. I have shrouded myself in shame for doing things that made me happy and used that residual shame to keep myself in unhealthy situations.
Recently, I admitted to myself that my job isn’t contributing to where I want to go in my career. It started feeling like ‘busy work,’ and I’m a creative, big-picture kinda gal. I’ve finally gotten back into a creative groove, and I want the time to work on several projects of my own. But I felt this huge pang of guilt at the thought of quitting my day job. Thoughts such as:
- “But they’ve invested in training me, they’ll be so upset if I leave!”
- “But I shouldn’t be fully dependent on my parents again- people will think I’m spoilt”
- “But everyone has to work a ‘real job’ at some point- who am I to think I can be the exception?”
- “But so many people have lost their jobs, I should be grateful to still have one!”
All of these thoughts crowded my mind, and I went crazy forcing myself to do work I didn’t find satisfying or exciting. But what was affecting me most was what I’ll describe in the next point.
2. Permission to feel upset
I felt guilty for feeling unhappy at work. I’d called my sister, who’d been encouraging me to keep working since there’s “nothing else to do,” and broke down, confessing that I was really unhappy, almost apologetically. And the relief I felt made me realize that I wasn’t allowing myself to feel those feelings, to feel dissatisfied, to feel bored, to feel like I wanted more. I was asking her to validate my feelings. I needed her to tell me that I wasn’t a bad person for feeling that way.
She pointed it out to me: “Céline, you don’t need my approval to quit your job.” And I hated that she said that. ‘How dare she?’ I thought. “How dare she point out my addiction? Unacceptable! Preposterous!” I hated how right she was, but it snapped me out of it.
This has also happened with other circumstances. When someone would upset me, I’d feel unjustified in being upset unless they themselves apologized or admitted they had wronged me. Until then, I’d brush off my feelings because if they didn’t think they’d done something hurtful, then why was I feeling upset? I’d tell myself I was being “difficult” or “too sensitive” or whatever lie worked to invalidate my feelings.
I am accepting that my feelings are enough justification, enough validation. Those emotions that pop up are meant to guide me. Anger tells me where my boundaries are; dissatisfaction reminds me that I’m meant to do something else. I don’t need someone else to validate that in order to honor it.
3. Permission to withdraw or disconnect
This happens often I’m sure to everyone, but sometimes we just need a day off– from someone or from everyone. I know I take at least one day a week off of social media, because it’s good for me to feel like I can just focus inwards without needing to report to anyone or anything. But instant communication, as well as this quarantine (more on that here), makes us feel we should always be available to people.
I know that, particularly with my closer friends, I almost never expect an instant response. I know where I stand with most people, and I really get that most messages I send don’t require an instant response. But I don’t allow myself that same freedom.
I’ve learned that on Fridays, I’m pretty exhausted. I’m usually looking forward to doing nothing on the weekends. This past Friday, I had some messages from a few people who quite clearly wanted me to match their level of enthusiasm and respond instantly… but I was not there. I just could not be that person for them, even though I wanted to be. Everything in me, every cell of my body wanted to do nothing but binge-watch series, eat some bomb pasta and call it a night.
I had to stop myself from apologizing, from asking their permission to have some time to myself. Why? It wasn’t urgent, it wasn’t life-or-death, it was mostly casual conversation, and I really could just get to it the next day with no issues. But I felt guilty- what if they took it personally? What if they think I’m a bitch? (Ugh).
Can I tell you something? It was SO GOOD FOR ME. I watched a full series in less than 24 hours, ate pasta and desserts, and I had the time of my life. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was ready to get to all the extraneous things at my own pace. I know that after a full week of work deadlines, self-tape castings here and there, and constant communication on Slack, I need time to recharge. And it’s high time I stop feeling guilty for it.
4. Permission to think you’re the bomb
I definitely want to dive into this more in another post (stay tuned!) but I find myself struggling to call myself something I know I am. I’m an actor. I’m a writer. I’m a musician. But, I spend time waiting for “that big break” to validate it. I’m waiting to have a successful pitch before calling myself a writer, waiting to have a huge hit song before calling myself a singer, and waiting for an international film to call myself an actor. I’m asking something external for permission to claim myself as a creative.
I know, deep down, that I can tell a story. I know that I can write a song. I don’t need to wait for something else to validate that.
The same thing goes with loving yourself. We wait to look a certain way, grow our hair a certain length, get certain clothes, get perfect skin, to think we’re hot stuff. But what is honestly stopping us? (I wrote a lot about that here.) No one or nothing needs to grant you the permission to think you’re amazing. C’mon, carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man!
Listen to some Lizzo and remember you’re the shit.
Remember, we all have that voice inside or inner being, that knows what’s best for us. It’s not going to be exactly what’s best for the next person, and das okay. You still a bad bitch. ✨