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Stop Waiting for Permission to be Free

Stop Waiting for Permission to be Free

You know those things that you’ve always wanted to do, but always have a good reason for not doing?

Do them. Stop waiting for external permission, because you’re never going to get it. You have to give it to yourself.

Life is inherently unstructured. We can get up at whatever time we feel like it, do whatever we please during the day, live any place we’d like, and hang out with any person we want. [1] Sadly, many people don’t realize this because there are made-up systems all over the place. It’s easy to live the existence that somebody else has planned out for you, which generally goes “go to school, get a job, do that job for x amount of time, and die.” Sounds nihilistic, but that was the version of life that was explained to me as a kid. Chances are you received a similar explanation.

The fact that life is unstructured actually took me a while to figure out, and blew my mind when I realized its implications.

Everything is up to me. I’m the one who gets to say yes or no, not my parents or my significant other or my friends or society. I get to pick the skills I possess, the things I do to make a living, the people I surround myself with.

I have the power to get whatever I want and live in the exact circumstances I choose to live in.  

So do you.

Free Yourself from Limiting Excuses

“Go for what I want? But I can’t afford it! But I’m not smart enough! But I have other obligations that I can’t get away from!”

Are you sure about that?

Can you not afford what you want because all the money you make goes towards rent and food and loans and taking care of your dependents? Can you save up an amount of money, no matter how small, that will eventually be enough? Is there another way to obtain what you want? Can you give your time, your skills, your stuff that you don’t want anymore? Can you ask others for help? Or is a combination of stubbornness, fear, and pride holding you back? [2]

Are you not smart enough? Do you believe that the growth mindset is bullshit? If so, why? Have you tried alternative ways of absorbing information? Have you realized that the definition of intelligence is “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills”, and that the very act of reading this article has required you, at some point, to learn how to make meaning and sense of symbols that you see, and that you’re applying it right now? Do you realize that that makes you, by definition, intelligent? Or are you insecure about your abilities because you perceive yourself to be bad at them?

Do you have other obligations that you can’t get away from? Do others depend on you for their survival? If so, can you fit them into your plan of getting what you want? Do you have an occupation that states you stay for a fixed amount of time? If so, can you change that agreement? Can you wait it out, do a good job while you’re at it, and keep your eye on the prize? Or are you using your present circumstances as an excuse?

If any of the follow-up questions I just asked pissed you off, take a moment and think: am I upset because it’s true?

A lot of people hold onto limiting beliefs because they’re afraid of getting hurt. Give yourself permission to be afraid! Give yourself permission to get hurt! Give yourself permission to try!

You’ll probably surprise yourself — in a good way — with what you get.

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

– Jim Rohn

Stop waiting for permission. It’s not going to come. Instead, give yourself permission to free yourself from your limiting excuses.

Walking the Walk

Okay, so it’s obviously easy to say all that, but I’m also a big believer in only taking advice from people who practice what they preach, so here are some of the concrete things I’ve personally done in the last few months (and the limiting excuses I got over in order to do them):

Became an social media model for a local boutique

Limiting excuses: But I’m not tall enough! But I don’t have headshots or anything! But I’m thesising as a double major and therefore too busy/stressed to take on a job!

Am I not tall enough? Is there even a height limit for social media modeling? Are headshots required for this type of work? If so, do I have a photographer friend who can help me take them? Or am I afraid that they’ll reject me based on my looks for some other reason?

Does thesising immediately mean being overly stressed out and taking the fun out of everything? Isn’t specific time off doing things not related to a big project supposed to increase your chances of creativity, and therefore success? Is pursuing a double thesis that much more work? If so, can I spare a day a week, like Saturday, to go work instead of party? Or am I afraid that I’m wasting my time?

I emailed the store, walked in, demonstrated that I knew how to take and edit good photos, and have now been working there for over four months.

Moved to Silicon Valley for the winter

Limiting excuses: But I’m not experienced enough to get a job there! But cost of living is so expensive! But I’ll be so far from my family, friends, and everything I’ve ever known!

Am I not experienced enough to get a job there? Didn’t I do an internship in this exact field before? Did I not attend a coding bootcamp? Are there not people who get their first job in the Bay Area? Or am I afraid of technical interviews and looking stupid in front of other engineers?

Is cost of living impossibly expensive? Can I obtain an income that will allow me to live fairly comfortably there? If not, can I walk places instead of taking a Lyft? Can I find a place and buy food that is perhaps less enjoyable, but more affordable? Or am I afraid of being forced to carefully manage my expenses?

Don’t I live far away from each one of my family members already? Aren’t I already across the country from some of my best friends? Can I not keep in touch with them through texting and calls and FaceTime? Or am I afraid of truly being “on my own” and responsible for myself for the first time?

I booked my plane ticket, spent time searching for the right place to rent, learned my algorithms, brushed up on my coding skills, made technical interview prep fun, flew out, and have now been living and working here for a week.

Started posting opinionated articles on my blog ?

Limiting excuses: But I’ll get attacked or called out! But people from work will see it, and they’ll think I’m unprofessional! But friends with different viewpoints will see it and not want to be friends with me anymore!

Am I not being attacked and called out on a regular basis already? Aren’t I experienced in dealing with trolls from having gone to middle school? Isn’t dissent of opinion a great way to learn from others? Or am I afraid to have my beliefs challenged?

Is it really so bad if people I work with see my blog? If co-workers and teammates know me better, won’t that lead to closer working relationships, which make for a better final product? Isn’t a break from the status quo required to be truly progressive? Are opinionated pieces really unprofessional? Or am I afraid of being myself around people I don’t know very well?

If friends with different viewpoints choose to end a friendship based on a single article, are they really worth keeping around? Isn’t disagreement with friends good sometimes to prevent that weird clique-hive-mind-mentality? Or am I just afraid of upsetting the people I’m close with?

I wrote what I wanted, looked it over, and hit publish. Over and over. I’m still going to this day.

Giving Yourself Permission is an Ongoing Process

I still run into limiting beliefs and make limiting excuses every day! Seriously, I almost didn’t write this article because I thought I couldn’t express my thoughts on this controversial topic in a coherent manner so early in the morning. It turned out that it was another case of the good ol’ fear of being attacked or called out (which I welcome you to do! It may take me a little bit to reply because I’ll be at work, but I promise that if you call me out intelligently, I will take the time to really think about your viewpoint and respond accordingly).

Give yourself permission to go for what you truly want, every single moment of every single day. It’ll never stop being scary, but it will always be worth it. ♚


[1] Sadly, some of the structure is inescapable, so I am going to annotate the statement “you can do whatever you want” with “… as long as you’re prepared for the consequences.”

[2] I can’t claim to know your exact situation at all, but I’ve found that whenever I make those types of excuses, it’s because I’m coming from a place of stubbornness, fear and pride. The real magic happens once I acknowledge that feeling and give myself permission to go beyond them.

View Comments (2)
  • I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. Resonates with me sooo deeply, especially the section about writing opinionated pieces. Freeing myself to do whatever the fuck I want and realizing that the consequences of that aren’t actually negative and that my excuses are total bullshit has been the best feeling ever. Still something I need to do more of, especially as I get ready to graduate next fall, though. Thank u for your always incredible posts

    annabelle |

    • Thanks, Annabelle! I still struggle with writing opinionated posts sometimes (even though I do it a lot now lol). I’ll hit “publish” and wake up sweating in the middle of the night … and then I’ll give myself permission over and over again to keep posting! Something I’ve noticed a year after writing this post is that I’ve made a lot of friends and professional connections by expressing my opinion in a respectful yet firm way. I’ve had the most unexpected people write to me and thank me for doing so! Even though it’s scary, writing opinion pieces are ultimately so rewarding.


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© 2019 by Marty Noel Chenyao. All rights reserved.

@fake.and.basic |

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