I Give You Permission to Read This 


“In this production, [the celebrity] gives us permission to be who we really are,” has to be one of the dumbest promotion lines for a product I’ve ever read, bled from one of the dumbest lines we’ve developed in modern history. Who seeks permission to do anything from people who are often a wreck in their personal lives? There have to be people out there who seek permission from celebrities to have flaws. If there isn’t, how does this line of thought gain traction?  

“I give myself permission to do this,” I hear people say. It’s not just something narcissistic, chichi foie gras eaters say. A nine-year-old said it the other day, talking to himself, before doing what he wanted to do. I’ve heard middle, class office workers say it after a rough day. They’re out there, and they’re doing something they’ve never done before guilt-free, now that their favorite celebrity says it’s ok.  

Who are these people? Our figurative schemes of thought, constitutive of experience, have it that people who give themselves permission to do things lay in a hammock, with their feet up, on a beach, reading a book with a subtle, satisfied smile. We want to give ourselves permission to be those people.   

“So, you don’t just do it?” I ask. “You require that you ask yourself for permission first, before you do it, and I can only assume that another part of you grants the request? Is the other part unbiased or objective in any way? If you make it a regular practice of asking yourself permission to do things, how often do you say no? Has your rejection ever surprised you? If so, how did you react? Did you disagree with the basis of your rejection so much that it frustrated you, and you thought you didn’t consider some of the mitigating factors in your request? Did you ever end up eating that piece of chocolate cake regardless what you said? Did you do it as some form of rebellion, and how did that affect your relationship with yourself going forward? Have you ever stopped asking yourself permission for a time and just did it, because you began to believe that you could be a bit of a tyrant at times, and do you moderate some of your behaviors in the hopes that you might notice? You know you’ve been good, but you have this feeling that you don’t notice it, and you feel that you should start rewarding yourself with some chocolate cake here and there, until you start acting up again?”  

One definition of giving yourself permission involves the practice of allowing “you to disconnect WHO you are from your opinions, ideas and practices. Instead, placing that identity in your values. As long as you are acting in line with your core values, it opens up space to be wrong about decisions in the past and how you will choose to translate your values in the future, without losing sight of your personal integrity or ability to be 100% whole and worthy.” 

If I ever fall prey to such nonsense, I know my first series of layoffs will involve middle management. I will sense, without poring over the numbers, that I’m probably overstaffed.  

***  

“I have so earned this,” we say as we lower ourselves onto a piece of soft and juicy chocolate cake, “and I deserve a reward.” Is a piece of chocolate cake ever that rewarding? How long does that reward last? Do we go for another piece to reward ourselves more when we’ve been especially good? No, because that might prove punishing. The single piece of chocolate cake represents a reward at the end of the maze of good and healthy living, and we always announce our path to it? Why don’t we just eat it, because we’re seeking to impress others with our good and healthy living. If that’s the case, why don’t we just abstain from eating it? We do, some of the times, but we feel the need to announce it. “I am refraining from eating the piece of soft and juicy chocolate on the menu, because I’m on a diet.” We say this even though no one brought it up, and some part of us knows that no one cares one way or another, but we want someone else to validate our discipline. Even a lifted eyebrow will do. Eating that single piece of soft and juicy chocolate cake gives us a naughty violation to punctuate the streak of good and healthy living that no one cared about when it was live.

How many times have we gone a solid week without a slice of chocolate cake? Yeah, I deserve a reward. What’s the difference between deserve and earn? Who cares, let me eat cake. 

We miss a controlling authority in our lives. We didn’t miss it in our 20’s. That’s when our freedom was all fresh and new and liberating. When we hit our 30’s, the idea of freedom became established, routine, and a little boring. No one notices when the idea of freedom begins to wear off, but we do eventually start to take it for granted, and we begin to miss the rewards and punishments that flowed from parental control, so we began establishing our own. Do we ever punish ourselves? WebMD.com suggests that beets “don’t just reduce inflammation, they also improve heart health. Nitrates have been shown to reduce high blood pressure. Beets are also naturally low in cholesterol and fat, which makes them a good option for people concerned about heart disease or stroke.” Are beets a punishment we endure for falling off track regarding good and healthy living? Why else would someone eat a beet? Is a piece of soft and juicy chocolate cake a reward for eating something wet and slimy? What we need is a controlling authority to determine rewards and punishments for us. We already have them: celebrities. They’re usually attractive people who have no idea what they’re doing in life, but they sure look good doing it, and they give us permission to do it too.

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