Connected Career Women Series

“Being”: Beyond Permission & Approval

Permission and approval only exist, because you make them exist. Our own beliefs in the need for permission and approval create obstacles and limits that subsequently become difficult to overcome. It is as if we are conditioned in a certain way and subsequently become so familiar with the conditioning, that we forget that it is just that: conditioning. Coming out of an education system, whether formally through school or informally through our upbringing, we are heavily conditioned into thinking we require both permission and approval in life. It takes a lifetime to completely unravel this conditioning and return to the essence of who we are and have always been. So how can you fast-track your journey beyond permission and approval, to awaken to the bliss and strength of “being”?


Permission is a form of consent or authorization – whether written, unwritten, or even imaginary, rules and conditions.

Permission works in two directions, and ironically the direction we are least aware of, is the most important one.

At home and at school, we follow certain rules to ensure orderliness and control of those in charge.

As much as there are benefits to these rules and conditions, it is important to realize how arbitrary they are, and to not give them more importance than as a system for organizing groups of humans in a coordinated way. We should not allow our thinking to be hampered by these arbitrary conditions to form rigid thinking patterns which then only produce what fits within the neatly delineated borders, the proverbial box.

Secondly, the other direction of permission is less overt and visible: by choosing to accept or not to accept certain behavior from others, we are in fact teaching them how to treat us. You are giving others inadvertent instructions on how you wish, or expect, to be treated. So make sure you do not give them permission to treat you badly.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

In a recent article published on the U.S Girl Scouts website, there was an important reminder about how parents can even make this situation worse by pushing their daughters to hug friends and family during the family functions over the holidays.

By forcing their children to hug people against their will, they are teaching them the wrong lesson about consent.

Instead, as an empowering parent, our role is to guide our children and make them understand how they give permission or consent by accepting certain behaviors. It is to show them that they have other options. They always have a choice.

This should be our role rather than forcing them to give their power away. No permission is needed for them to be who they were meant to be. All of us do not need permission to shine! Let’s not give others permission to mistreat us and deprive us of the dignity that is inherently ours.


Perhaps, the terms of permission and approval are sometimes mixed up, yet they have different nuances.

One sense of approval is about authorization in a hierarchical work context. However, the more common meaning of approval is, rather, about a belief that someone or some action is good enough, acceptable or commendable.

Seeking approval or validation from others is, again, a way of giving one’s inherent power away.

As young children, we quickly study our parents’ reactions. If we do something they like, we are likely to get a kiss or a hug. If we make a mess or hit our sibling, we are punished or scolded.

Young children want nothing more than to be liked and be appreciated by their parents. We are taught to seek validation outside of ourselves. Perhaps we are not even consciously taught this, but it is something that we learn and that, for many, stays extremely important throughout their lives.

Especially, seeking approval from parents can be exhausting and can haunt many adults too. This affects both boys and girls, men and women – no one is safe, so to speak.

Sometimes boys have to deal with even more pressure as they try to live up to, for example, their fathers’ high expectations and spend a lifetime running after it. Low expectations are not good either, but too-high ones can be just as bad – especially if love and appreciation are made conditional of it.

So, another lesson we have to learn as we go about our lives and our career journeys is to unhook from this “approval addiction” – this extreme neediness to seek others’ appreciation or validation of us.

Whether we are seeking approval for our looks, our character, our study or career achievements, or even of our inherent worthiness… no one can give you what you need. If they do give you the approval you seek, it will feel hollow and unfulfilling with time.

The only true validation you need is your own.

Your own approval should be a given. It is as important to life as breathing, as feeding yourself and having shelter. Your own approval should be cloaked in love and compassion.

It is basically accepting yourself as flawed, beautiful, and quirky as you may be. It is about validating yourself right now and not at some distant date, when you will have achieved everything you may want to achieve.

You may indeed be a work in progress, as we all are. True self-compassion and self-referral is about accepting, understanding, and loving yourself as an imperfect human being taking some steps forward, sideways or even backwards, on this big chessboard of life.

We are forever looking outside ourselves, seeking approval and striving to impress others. But living to please others is a poor substitute for self-love, for no matter how family and friends may adore us, they can never satisfy our visceral need to love and honor ourselves.”

– Susan L. Taylor

So, instead of seeking permission, we should set boundaries for others to know how to treat us, and what they can and cannot do.

Instead of seeking validation outside of ourselves, we should find it inside of ourselves with compassion and self-love.

Having set up our boundaries for others on how to treat us, having given ourselves permission to shine, having disconnected from our neediness for the approval from others, we wake up to the fact that we were spending our lives asleep.

We are asleep. Our Life is a dream. But we wake up sometimes, just enough to know that we are dreaming.”

― Ludwig Wittgenstein

We get an opportunity to wake up to freedom, to creativity, and to bliss. For unconditional self-acceptance paves the way for bliss.

We tend to make happiness conditional to achievements or to relationships and approval from others, but bliss comes from within. Bliss is not tied in with any “doing”, but comes from a particular way of “being” in the present.

Bliss is not a feeling but a state of being. In the state of bliss, everything is loved.”

– Deepak Chopra

Lucy Schalkwijk is a women’s empowerment champion, a connector and a skills development enthusiast. She is passionate about connecting and empowering women in the workplace and writes about careers, networking, women’s empowerment, and leadership.

Want to join a tribe of successful women who have your back? Contact the Career Women’s Network Kigali: and +250783719431

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