Free To Be Me: Permission-granting techniques for radical self-expression

What if the stories that govern who you are—your choices, your limits, and your daily habits, weren’t actually your own?

That question kept coming up for me over the past few months, and I believe that two Saturday nights ago, as I wiped my bathroom counters during part one of my spring cleaning frenzy, I caught sight of myself in the mirror, and realized I wasn’t alone.

Stop it.  I don’t mean in the Stir of Echos/The Sixth Sense sort of way, but more so in the is-that-Akilah-or-the-woman-who-raised-her-during-her-most-formative-years type of vibe.

I saw my grandmother that night, and I saw her in the sense that my actions that were based in a constant state of not-enoughness.  It was the craziest thing! My arms were tucked to my sides, my lips were folded in, and I was re-using the bejesus out of one paper towel, because if I used it all up, then there’d be no more. Ever.

Between the ages of four and ten, I watched Mavis stretch her energies (emotional and financial) near to point break. It wasn’t always easy for her–a single woman, running a business (she owned the only daycare center in our neighborhood), and taking care of me, my brother, my sister, and anywhere between eight to fourteen other children at her center.

Mavis and Akilah

I admire Mavis. I always have, and I tell her every chance I get just how much she’s influenced my entrepreneurial spirit and overall Warrior Woman mentality.  But somewhere along the way, I had embodied Mavis’ illustrations of not enough, and even though I had not:

moved from a small rural district into the big city with no money and young child,
suffered the tragic loss of my fiance/child’s father
endured the sort of hard knocks that either strengthen or kill a woman’s resolve

I‘d been operating, in many ways, as if that were MY life story.

Later, when I moved to the U.S., I took on my mother’s story. Even though I wasn’t:

a single mother of three, providing for her children largely on her own
a survivor of situations that took her to the doors of death and insanity
a woman who had lost faith in love because life seemed convinced of its fallibility

I was still her in my mind, and her story had somehow manifested itself in my own life.

This is where permission and self-love take center-stage.

At The Brownie Monologues, Shelley (of and I decided to guide a conversation about permission; and as “luck” would have it, most of the answers from our registration questionnaire illustrated the necessity of addressing that very issue.

She grants permission

So, my love, I encourage you to pay attention to your choices, perceived limits, and daily habits, and sit with them with the intention of identifying their source.  And once you find the source(s), do this mental exercise as a gift to yourself:

  • find a mirror, and sit comfortably in front of it
  • be gentle with the sources, and allow them to fully surface
  • thank them for protecting you from whatever reality they sought to protect you from
  • visualize them lining up to leave your mindscape
  • usher them out in celebratory song; a home-going of sorts
  • STAND in front of the mirror, and state out loud what and who you know give yourself permission to be.

We were (as we say back home) out and bad with our permission granting at The Brownie Monologues last Saturday. We embraced guilt-free indulgence by way of heart-felt conversation and divinely delicious brownies (3 varieties of yummiliciousness, to be precise), and many of us stated the areas in which we would allow ourselves unconditional permission to be!

It was intense, and I’m writing this post to share Shelley’s and my Permission Granted Technique with you.

Share it, won’t you? Ponder it, won’t you?
And by all means, use it over and over until you find yourself fully emancipated and free to love yourself wholly, freshly dusted mental counter tops wiped clean, and your OWN stories in plain sight.