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The game changing power of simply giving yourself permission

Updated: Apr 23

A TED talk in the making

The game changing power of simply giving yourself permission

A TED talk in the making

What would your TED talk be about?

I have a sneaking suspicion it’s a bit like the book everyone has inside them. So what would yours be, if you had to pick right now?

It’s a game I like to play, sometimes with the wrong audience, and sometimes alone, always the right audience. Today, as I was doing my ablutions, it came to me fully formed. I would talk about the power of giving ourselves permission. For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to talk about permission to be creative as this comes up most often in my work.

I don’t have any indisputable research but I do have experience, both mine and others, of just how powerful this phenomenon can be.

Whose permission are you operating under?

I think the key thing is that we don’t think about whose permission we are living by or even, waiting for. It’s only when prompted to think about it that people realise that the only permission they need - as adults - is our own. I love seeing the look of indignance and delight on people’s faces as they go, “mine! I only need mine!” The awareness alone that we just need to tell ourselves we’re allowed; to be creative, to try something new, to write that book or TED talk, whatever it is, is a simple moment away.

Permission to be creative from Liz Gilbert

Liz Gilbert talks about this in her book ‘Big Magic.’ The book is essentially about how we’re all inherently creative (being that we’re human and all), and share the same fears, imposter syndrome and the like.

She says: "If you're alive, you're a creative person. You and I and everyone you know are descended from tens of thousands of years of makers. Decorators, tinkers, storytellers, dancers, explorers, fiddlers, drummers, builders, growers, problem-solvers and embellishers - these are our common ancestors."

“Who me?!” we cry. “No, I’M not creative.” People often actually mean that they’re not ‘arty.’ Being creative is so much broader. It covers problem-solving, innovation, as well as painting and writing. We are creators by nature and we really shouldn’t even need permission, but this is the time we live in. She suggests giving ourselves a permission slip.

Do it anyway!

I did just that after attending her one day workshop covering the themes in the aforementioned book. It was an absolute game changer for me. Firstly, she gave us free-writing prompts throughout the day to surface our fears, blockers, hopes etc. I took this as a direct sign as I’d been thinking for a good year or so about starting to run writing workshops - free-writing - for self-discovery and the like. We learned, from a room full of hundreds of people, that we all shared the same fears, imposter syndromes etc., and I vowed that day to not let myself be stopped by things that everyone experiences. Having been invited to give ourselves permission to be creative, I gave myself permission to ‘do it anyway.’ ‘It’ being, in my case, to start convening like-minded souls for some writing and self-discovery, something I was immensely passionate (and still am) about.

And so, in 2018, I walked away from that workshop and booked in my first Write for your Life workshop.

Permission to be creative from Edward De Bono

I was re-reading Edward De Bono’s ‘How to have a beautiful mind,’ in which he mentions one of his most famous techniques, the Six Thinking Hats. On the subject of the green ‘creative’ hat he says:

“What is especially interesting, in practice, is that people who have never considered themselves to be creative suddenly make a creative effort and find that they are much more creative than they had thought themselves to be." "When there is an expectation they can produce creative ideas." ‘How to have a beautiful mind’ - Edward De Bono.

To me this is also about permission. They’re not having to awkwardly put their hand up with a left-field idea in a brainstorming session, they’ve now been given permission, without condition, ‘it’s time to be creative” meaning “you’re allowed to be creative.”

It’s the same thing when I instruct people to write freely. I’m essentially giving people permission, in that moment. The same with throwing out the writing rule book, spelling, grammar etc., and for me, what’s most interesting is how compliant people are. It seems we’re all ready and waiting for permission.

What permission are you waiting for? And from who?

Permission to be an ego-maniac

Another example of the power of permission is one of my exercises called ‘Joe Exotic.’ If you don’t know Joe, he’s the star of the Netflix series, Tiger King. If you’ve not seen it he’s basically a narcissistic ego-maniac who calls himself ‘Joe Exotic,’ as in ‘exotic animals’ that he parades for lazy Dollars. Anyway, I get people to pick a name similarly extreme using their own first name. For example, David Fabulous, Anne Spectacular, that kind of thing. Then I get people to write as that person. What’s it like to be you I ask them. I’m giving them permission to be an ego-maniac and what transpires is truly amazing. People’s inner ego is unleashed. It’s thrilling, it’s hilarious, it’s extremely connecting. Even the most gentle, timid, kind people have this part of them inside and all it takes is one word from me and out comes their inner ego-maniac. Again, it’s simply an invitation and an odd person does rebel which is of course, always welcome. But again, it’s the power of permission.

Permission to write

Once you’ve realised you need only give yourself the word and you’re away, it’s a great idea to capture this in some way.

I often get people to write a manifesto about their approach to writing, creativity, whatever it is. Write your own rules, I tell them, give yourself permission. I once wrote my own writing manifesto during a writing retreat.

I have a blog called ‘Dear Lucy.’ My posts aren’t poems, they’re not really stories, they’re sort of prose. I was in the company of ‘real’ writers (yet another blog to write,) and after questioning them they assured me that it’s all intertwined. They told me to stop worrying about what it is and just let it be. Hallelujah to that.

Permission to not get it

Another time, going into a Christmas season at Waterstone’s which was a bit of an experiment, I gave myself full permission to be the person who didn’t get it. To be the person who kept asking questions. Not the impressive person who picks it up straight away, is cleverer than everyone else but is internally struggling to keep up the pretence. It was exhausting being that person, thank god for my own permission. What was amazing was the degree to which it worked. It genuinely changed my experience from a stressful one to a fun one.

ACTION: Give yourself permission now

So, if there’s something you’re wanting to do, or if you feel like an imposter in some way, try these writing exercises:

  1. Firstly write about the situation you’re in and why you would like some permission.

  2. Ask yourself, ‘whose permission am I waiting for?’ or ‘whose permission do I need?’

  3. Now write yourself a permission slip. Or

  4. Write yourself a manifesto, covering things like what you will do, how, when, where, because etc.

Have fun with it

You could also get your permission slip from someone you admire, a hero even. Pretend you’re Nelson Mandela or J K Rowling, or whoever does it for you. Have them write your permission slip. You’ll be amazed what comes out of your pen when you take this leap, trust me. Of course, it’s still you, you’re just embodying qualities you don’t think you have (which you do by the way.)

So that’s my TED talk. I may need to flesh it out a bit, and I probably do need a bit of research from somewhere. For now, I have my own experience and the experience of others, so if you’re curious, give it a go.

I’d love to hear how you get on.


Go to to find out how I can help you live a more creative and fulfilled life or give me a shout at CP

Photo by Rukma Pratista on Unsplash

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