We all need permission.
Permission to do.
Permission to be.
Permission to try.
Permission to have.
I talk a lot with my clients and associates about their brands providing permission. About them standing for something that’s real, putting forth messages that are meaningful, saying things — out loud — that other brands won’t have the courage to say.
I encourage business owners to make it easier for their clients and customers to own themselves and speak for themselves by aligning themselves with brands that feel the way they do about things that are important to them. To give their clients permission.
Last week, the world lost an amazing soul and an amazing brand: Prince Rogers Nelson.
And this morning, as I danced around the house nearly shouting the lyrics to “Cream” and “Gett Off” and “When Doves Cry,” I shocked myself a little when I cried. I was more than a little surprised at the size of the hole that had opened in my heart just days ago when I learned that an icon I longed for — straight from my soul, for so many years — had died alone, in his elevator.
And I realized something for the first time:
Prince gave me permission.
At a time in my life when I was filled, simultaneously, with potential and angst, he gave me permission to ditch the angst.
At a time when I wondered if I was enough, he gave me permission to show myself.
At a time when I struggled with the truest sense of black and white, he gave me permission to see grey. And purple.
And on nights when, as a tortured youthful soul, I would lie on my bed and ache for something more, he gave me permission to bust out.
Prince gave me permission to desire.
Like every other teenage girl, it was perfectly natural for me to have desires. But as a product of a Catholic education heavy on guilt and a mom raised in the 50’s (pregnant at the prom and determined NOT to have her daughter repeat it), it was anything BUT natural for me to feel OK about those desires.
Prince? He gave me permission.
He told me what I already knew – but what no one else would say out loud. That I couldn’t help it. That HE couldn’t help it. That none of us could help it.
He gave me permission to own my desire. Relish in it. Celebrate it. Thank God for it.
Prince gave me permission to FEEL attractive.
If there’s one thing I could teach my teenage son to help ease his pain as he moves through life, it’s that attraction happens on a singular level.
“Attractive” isn’t a quality. It’s a state of being that exists only in the presence of a specific individual who’s perfectly wired to appreciate it.
Prince knew the real score.
And he gave me permission to be attractive. More than attractive. He gave me permission to be sexy. To know with powerful certainty that only specific people would pick up what I was puttin’ down. And that this was A-OK.
He gave me permission to put it down, anyway. To lay it out there, for all the world to look at, but for only the special ones to actually see. He told me I didn’t have to be beautiful to turn him on. Or rich, or cool… or any particular sign. He didn’t want anything specific from me at all, other than a kiss.
Prince gave me permission to be authentic.
I almost hate to use that word because it’s so watered down these days. But when it comes to Prince, it applies more than any word listed next to it in the thesaurus.
Prince gave me permission to be authentic. To NOT try. To own exactly who I was.
He taught me that my imperfections were lovely. That I was lovely.
And in a world where so many people put on and showed off, somehow his outrageous antics, outlandish costumes, outside-the-box lyrics just felt real to me. He was authentically “out there.” And so, I thought, was I.
He told me I had, “the look.” That I was a “natural beauty… unaffected.” And I believed him.
With his leopard print, his capes, his five-o-clock shadow and eyeliner, his purple guitar, his head wraps, and his shy, demure whisper — every bit of it authentically him — he gave me permission to be authentically me, right alongside him.
Prince gave me permission to be fierce.
He rocked serious girl bands. Or more suitably, they rocked him.
Rhonda Smith on bass. Sheila E on drums. Wendy Melvoin on guitar. Lisa Coleman on keyboards. FIERCE.
And Prince’s protégés?
Appollonia. Vanity. Sinead O’Connor. Sheena Easton… The list goes on and on.
Prince’s women were not for the faint of heart.
They were FIERCE.
Prince celebrated women. He lifted them up. He never shrank around a woman who showed up completely. On the contrary. He pulled her out. Put her on stage. Challenged her. Showcased her.
He gave so many women the chance to be fierce. And he gave me permission, when I was in my early 20’s and itching to set the world on fire:
This is it
It’s time for you to go to the wire
You will hit
‘Cause you got the burnin’ desire
It’s your time
You got the horn so why don’t you blow it
You are fine
You’re filthy cute and baby you know it…
For so many years in my youth, Prince gave me permission.
And now, as I head toward 50, much less in need of validation than of moments of spontaneous elation, he still gives me permission… to shake it with everything I’ve got. Because all those songs of lust and joy and courage and dark, daring beauty? They belong to me and to every other teen who climbed on and rode them to shameless glory.
And so this morning, with my 14-year-old son looking on and shaking his head, I danced like no one was watching. And I shook every bit of junk in my trunk with reckless abandon… because Prince? He told me to.
Who gives YOU permission? Share with me in the comments, below.
RIP Prince Rogers Nelson. Nothing Compares 2 U. June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016.