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  • Writer's pictureJeff Harry

Why Are We Asking For Permission To Be Human?

Updated: Dec 18, 2019

When did this phrase become trendy to say? Permission to be human.

I’m so confused when people say this because if we need permission to be human, what are we being the rest of the time? And if we feel that we are not able to be human, who is the one forcing us to do otherwise? I understand that the concept means: permission to fail, permission to make mistakes, permission to be myself. But when did we feel we needed permission to ask for any of this?

I find it fascinating that there are now companies and organizations that claim they are more human. The WeWorks of the world, who claim they understand how to bring people together to create an impact on this world. The claim they are being revolutionary by espousing the values of being human and then charging us to be a part of this community. They are charging us to be human. How did we come to this?


Language is important and when we say permission to be human, we are saying that the rest of the time we are not allowed to be. A few years ago, fail videos became quite popular on YouTube. They were compilation videos showing all the ways in which people fail and always followed with #FAIL. It carried over into language where people would call out “Fail” as soon as someone made a mistake. By saying this phrase, we were unconsciously policing each other to be perfect. We bought into the propaganda that we needed to exude perfection all the time and anything less is inadequate. No wonder we are so miserable if the world of perfect is what we choose to live in.

That world of perfection is boring to me and you aren’t allowed to be you in that setting, and being you is what makes living exciting.

The good news is that we have a choice. We can choose to continue to hide our faults, our mistakes, our “fails,” and our idiosyncrasies that also make us who we are, or we can simply not buy into the perfection, BS culture anymore. How do we do that?

#1. Stop asking for permission to be human.

If you need to say something to replace it, say, I’m human or just being. When you make a mistake, own it. If you need to apologize, say sorry for the action without apologizing for existing. No need to provide disclaimers like I’m a klutz, I’m stupid, or some other self-inflicted insult that justifies your behavior. You don’t need to do that anymore. No one is asking for this.

#2. Remind others whenever they make a mistake that it is okay.


Empathize and tell them that you have been there yourself. Remind them that they are human and that they don’t need to be perfect.

#3. Call out the perfection police.

The perfection police typically are the ones pointing out other people’s failures or mistakes. If someone feels bad for something they did, they make them feel even worse. Call them out. Not in an adversarial way, but simply point out that their quips and insults don’t help and tell them just because this has been done to you, you don’t have to haze others with negativity. You, have a choice to change this.


#4. Challenge the notion of a simplistic world where what you do is either right or wrong.


Embrace complexity. Accept that it can be "Both And..." Something can be right for you and wrong for someone else. So if someone tells you what you are doing is wrong, that is simply their perspective.

We spend so much time trying to persuade ourselves that what other people want for us is what we want, instead of simply spending the time to figure out what we want.

We live in a culture that is all about telling us what is right and what is wrong when the cultural moral compass is already so skewed. We are so worried about being wrong that we don’t have time to figure out what actually feels right for us.

The world is portrayed as a black and white, myopic world, but the complex and nuanced world is so much more vibrant and free, where you don't need to ask for permission for anything. You just do you. It's your life and you should live it however you'd like to. Anyone that tells you otherwise has their own demons they have avoided facing and believe if they can persuade you to do what they think it is right, it'll help them.

So do what is now considered revolutionary and listen to your own voice...and stop asking for permission.

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