Truth be told, what I really mean when I say “validation” is “permission”.
Shit, that stings to write that word out loud. It goes against everything I believe in…stand for…talk about. Seriously, Lael…after all we’ve been through? You need permission!? Yup. Really. Well, shit.
So here’s the back story to how I came to that sad realization yesterday. And what I did with it.
I’ve been doing some deep soul mining as part of reading Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map book. For those of you not familiar with it, her premise is that we’ve got it all backwards and upside down when it comes to designing our lives – we start with the goals, decisions, actions and then hope (and pray) they will have us FEEL how we want to feel, instead of starting with the FEELINGS themselves and letting them guide us. So she has us zoom in on the FEELINGS we’re chasing. And start there.
Just get the book. It’s revolutionary.
But back to my story (did you see how I just side-tracked us…pretty slick, eh!?)
As a result of all this word-wrangling I’ve been doing to arrive at my five words to describe how I want to feel, I’ve bumped (and continue to bump) into past decisions I’ve made that no longer jive with how I want to feel. That’s putting it mildly…some of those decisions are actually in direct conflict with my words, generating feelings that are the exact OPPOSITE of how I want to feel.
But because I was shoulding myself, I had a hard time seeing clearly and, ultimately, letting go of what wasn’t serving me.
The decision that had me madly “shopping” for permission yesterday was whether or not to turn OFF the comments feature on this blog. For years I’ve been writing posts and have loved hearing – and feeling – how you’ve connected with my writing. Truly. But here’s the thing: it’s rarely through a comment on my blog. Instead I hear about how my writing resonated with you in an email sent to me a month after a post went up, or a client references how something I wrote spoke to her heart, or a stranger at a dinner party quotes something I’ve written- often years prior – back to me. Those comments sing to my soul and literally bring tears to my eyes. They move me and deeply touch my heart. I love being a part of such an intense and meaningful exchange of words and feelings and kindred spirit connections. But actual comments on my blog? Not so much. They are few and far between, and to be honest, that has been okay with me. Truly. I’ve gotten what I need. And I trust that others have, too. Deeply.
“You should have more comments on your blog posts.”
That’s a comment I hear that helps reinforce the “should” I’ve been feeding anxiously out of obligation – “yes…you’re right…I know…I should…” – but not with my whole-heart. It was like an occasional bone I was throwing the nasty junkyard pit bull I passed by every morning, yanking on his chain, barring his teeth. I was shutting the “should” up – giving it something to chew on for a while – but not really acknowledging the energy I was giving it. Which was fear, guilt, or obligation. Or even habit.
I tend not to do a lot of market research or troll the internet to see what other people in my field are out there doing. Not that it’s not interesting or valuable, but it just doesn’t seem to feed me – and like empty carbs, it can gobble up my day, fill my head with more to dos (most of which I’ll never do), and add more ambient noise to my creative world. Instead, I opt to take a page out of Oprah’s playbook and keep my head down, focused on what ideas and inspiration bubble up naturally from within me. For the most part. But sometimes I slip up. That was the case yesterday. When I was home with my eldest who had a stomach bug, I found myself looking at other blogs, inevitably scrolling down to look at the number of comments the writer had on a post. I noticed – as I did yesterday – that whenever I do this, I have one of two distinct reactions (both, admittedly, pathetic): 1) “Ha! See!? That was a good post, but you don’t have many comments EITHER!” Heckle, heckle… or 2) “Shit. Real writers have many more comments than I do…” Wah, wah..
Comparison: that’s what this is about. And it sucks the soul right out of me.
Numbers have never really been my thing when it comes to measuring my fulfillment or impact, unless we’re talking finances – then bring it on. But there is nothing that snuffs out my creative candle fast than a flat metric that has no heart. Numbers take me to my head, and that’s not where my best writing lives. I am reminded of a story author Tama Kieves told about her experience with a writing group when she was in the process of writing her first book: “Like vultures, we’d peck at the carcass of a piece until we lost all sight of its feathers and flight.”
Pecked. That’s what the comment option on my blog did to my creative spirit. Peck, peck, peck.
It was a simple fix, really. Just turn the fucker off. But alas, even as recent as yesterday, I denied my request, chiding myself with a million different paper cut reasons, fear and insecurity being at the top of my list of reasons to keep it.
So I started shopping for permission – because clearly it wasn’t coming from me, but I was hellbent it was going to come from SOMEONE. It didn’t take me long to find it. Ironically, it came from Danielle LaPorte’s own story of making the decision to turn off the comment feature on her own blog as a means to create space for her creative spirit. And bonus, I learned she shopped for permission, too, taking solace from the fact that both Seth Godin and Havi turned off their blog comment feature.
That was all it took, apparently.Without further ado, I sent a quick email to my rockstar web designer and asked her to please delete that function. And she did.
Simple. And incredibly liberating. Who knew? Turns out I did. All along.
And with that one symbolic act last night – whoosh! – in came a rush of fresh oxygen to my body – quite literally. My gut unknotted itself. I took a deep sigh of contentment. I reflected on the five words that represent how I want to feel – DAUNTLESS, SHINING, FREE, SHAKTI, and HELD– and could see how giving myself permission to finally honor my instincts on this decision meant that I was consciously choosing to feed my true desired feelings versus someone else’s should. Permission never felt so sweet. And right. Finally.
It only took me 10 years to get there.
As I”m reflecting on this now, though, I’m wondering if what I was truly seeking was not permission, but rather inspiration. From someone I admire. There are subtle shades of difference between validation, permission, and inspiration – and what makes it tricky to navigate is that all three of them can all come from internal and external sources. It turns out it took a sweet mixture of both to work for me. I’m still mulling this one over…
But in the meantime, I’ve started to look at my life – and how I’ve designed it – with fresh new eyes. I don’t want to wait another ten years for a great discovery. So yesterday, I asked myself:
What do I know NOW that I can grant permission to myself to act upon?
More clarity popped out of the ether within me that had me tweak and modify my plans, goals, decisions – now, not later:
That marathon you were quietly planning on running? Let that go. That’s not going to have you feel the way you want to feel. That’s just going to have you prove your son (who said “Mom, it’ll never happen.”) wrong. Get strong instead. Think pilates. Run if you feel like it.
The book you’re writing? Let it be your blog – and SheSpeaks – instead. It already is. Fold them all together, call it a book, and share it. Don’t start from scratch. And don’t wait.
That spiritual craving you’ve been having? Feed it. Now. Immediately. That’s what this is all about. It’s not just related, it’s the source. Go in.
Your desire to travel? Don’t wait. The open road always unlocks you and your creativity. Play with your art on the road and it will grow. Faster.
Hot damn, I’m inspired – which is always on the flip-side of hard truth for me. So here I go. You with me? No need to comment…oh wait you can’t. But I know you will. In your own way. Sometimes without words.
And I’ll gobble up every tasty morsel along the way as soul food. Guaranteed.