Permission to be great

by Elliot Lyons 

I was walking down the street yesterday and the following question came into my mind:

What will I allow myself?

Do you know why I smiled when I thought of it?

I smiled because it affirmed something. I didn’t know exactly what that something was at the time, but I knew that it pointed in a direction I wanted to go.

When I got home and began to think about what that question meant, I realized it was my own way of giving myself permission to—and this is going to sound cheesy—achieve greatness.

While I was in college, I participated in a program that helped prepare first-generation students and groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education for PhD programs. The director was a character and a half but I’ll never forget his motto: Don’t be afraid of greatness.

What will I allow myself? 

That question was an affirmation of what I’ve been running from ever since that time; I’d been running from greatness. This was and is an unspoken truth of my life.

When it came to me yesterday, I smiled because I’ve been chasing after something over the last couple years that I couldn’t put my finger on. That something, like I mentioned in my last blog, is self-actualization.

What I hadn’t realized until yesterday was that I was chasing self-actualization but I hadn’t given myself permission. This too sounds funny. I was dream-chasing, no doubt, but I hadn’t confronted my shadow; I hadn’t confronted the other side of my dreams, which was the nightmare I was running from. This nightmare was the fact that I had been stopping myself from being great because I was scared of the responsibility.

For example, I’m scared of the responsibility of leading, so in work situations I usually avoid these opportunities. And although people say that I come off as being comfortable with who I am, I’m still uncomfortable putting that out into the world for everyone to criticize and poke. I’m scared everyone will think I’m a fraud.

What will I allow myself?

This question gives me permission to be all of my insecurities and fears and still push on because it’s okay. It says it’s perfectly fine to try and fail and confront that shadow self instead of looking away and hoping I never see it.

It gives me permission to be great . . and be scared at the same time. 

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