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Pondering consent vs. permission

In 6th grade, I wore braces, was in love with Madonna, and started comparing myself to the other girls in class. I wanted their name-brand Guess jeans or their new Outback Red sweatshirt. I wanted their hair, their cute pencil erasers that smelled like an imitation strawberry or grape — — and what I also wanted was to sit confidently in the front row like, Marsha Stonington, one of the cool smart kids. Instead, I sat quietly in the back row, hiding from having to raise my hand to answer a question or to even ask one. Even if I did know the answer, I had the fear of potentially sounding stupid or looking stupid, so I never raised my hand. Instead, the teacher would randomly call on me, which made it worse. This act of trying to engage me or to see if I had done the homework from the night before, in front of the entire class was traumatizing for me. This was not a consensual interaction.

Now, imagine if she had randomly called on me and asked if I would like to answer a question. And regardless if I answered yes or no, she would be fine with my choice, either way, which would make the interaction consensual. If, however, I chose to raise my hand, I would need to wait until she called on me which then puts me in the position to have to wait for permission to speak.

Because, at a young age, the norm was either to ask for permission (at home or school) or to be called out in front of my peers. My confidence and my ability to figure out how to collaborate actively or tend to my own needs became blurred. So yes, as an adult, I have had to do a lot of work on myself to get to where I am today and one of my saving graces was working as a performer collaboratively with others where the conversations were mostly steeped in experimentation and curiosity. My love of improvisational theater, where there was a clear structure and an invitation to take a risk in an environment where trust was cultivated, was also a blessing.

So what does it look like to forge a path of your own rather than waiting for permission? How are you finding ways to make yourself comfortably uncomfortable and instead of waiting for others to give you permission you, instead, permit yourself in a way that looks more consensual and much more collaborative?

If these questions have inspired you, in any way, I would love to hear your thoughts. Or not 😉 Feel free to email me HERE.


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