A curious thing happened to me last year.

It happened on my birthday no less. A day meant for reflective joy and happiness. And in many ways, it brought much needed reflection and release.

I found myself sitting in a conference room in Stockholm. Summer light streamed in through long narrow windows, washing over a sparsely decorated space. My hands were wrapped around a mug of tea, reveling and taking comfort in its warmth. Across from me was a wonderful woman. Another minority with Southeast Asian roots who happened to be in a position of power. And she was wonderful. The very kind of person who says your name in a room of people who can open doors for you when you’re not there.

We’d been talking back and forth about projects and passions and current assignments. And then I wandered into that story. The one about a major camera brand who had treated me like crap at the very same event where they were sponsoring a white male colleague of mine on stage. Where they’d dismissed me saying they had “customers” to take care of as they beamed at him with pride.

A long pause and then the tears flowed.

They fell and fell and won’t stop falling. I found myself sobbing uncontrollably in front of her. I tried to stop but I couldn’t and the only words that escaped my lips were “I’m tired“.

At that moment, I was completely done. Tired of proving that I didn’t have to fit a stereotype – an Everest climber or over-the-top personality – to validate my prowess for their support. I didn’t think that incident had affected me so deeply yet the wound felt so fresh.

She held my hand in comfort and let me cry, her eyes filling with tears as well. Because she deeply understood. At that moment, I found a mentor and friend.

Little did I know that I’d been subconsciously waiting for others to believe in my ideas, to believe in my vision, and to support me with their own massive platforms.

After that moment of release that transpired between us, complete calm washed over me.

I’ve always been a very grounded person anchored by my faith and the perspective that growing up in Nigeria brings to my life. One that puts fretting over small things in a bigger life scheme. Yet, I never try to dismiss anyone’s own perceived mountains even if they may be mole hills. I’ve also been on the receiving end of entitlement from others who feel they deserve all I’ve worked so hard for all my life because, you know, they look a certain way, act a certain way, have deeper connections, or have financial access.

Yet, I never shy away from pursuing passions head-on or actively speaking out when my voice will make the most impact and change. And I certainly don’t avoid confrontation.

Like writing a book, people say you’re never truly finished and at some point, you just have to stop revising it. So when is one ever fully ready to take that first step? The one that stops revising and accepts it is ready at this stage?

And more importantly, whose permission are we subconsciously waiting for? The same people who constantly reward mediocre effort over yours?

Another lunch date later and my newfound mentor gave me some sound advice. I already say “Why not?” when people ask me why I try adventurous things or carve my own path in a traditional world. Now, she said I should add “So what?!” to that arsenal. So what? They are the ones missing the opportunity if they don’t realize the value.

So I’ve stopped waiting for “permission”.  Not validation or literal permission from others. Heck, I answer to a higher power. But that need that says I must have a bigger platform to share my voice so it can be heard.

I stopped waiting to be included in books or anthologies year after year. Stopped waiting for even larger opportunities to share my voice to reach an even wider audience who needed to hear it. My own platform was more than enough and I was fully and completely ready to work with what I had already spent years developing. There was and always will be power in grassroots. In the few friends and family firmly in your corner. In those who fully accept you as you are and don’t try to make you into someone else or role model to match their own beliefs and causes.

So, I decided to self-publish my own book of travel stories and photography spanning two decades. A massive effort with an amazing editor and illustrator, both solid rocks in my corner. I will share more about them and the book in a separate dedicated post once it’s ready for distribution in a week or two.

When I took that first step of self-publishing, the universe knew it was time. I was now prepared for the next step.

God knew I was ready and sent a major UK publisher my way… More on that soon…

What have you been subconsciously waiting for permission for in your life? 

  • Well..Nothing now..But I waited for a long time to move into establishing a mentoring forum for women. I was definitely waiting..And then I realized all the women I wanted to help me mentor were right in my circle. I just said yes. I’ve been saying yes more..And as I do..I make better decisions in the right direction and the decisions bloom into fabulous ideas. I’m so excited! Six months in and it feels good and is taking flight. We now have a forum to meet regularly, and we have women who are eager to explore this fabulous ideas on a grander level. My prayer is..With God’s help it will continue to grow I to fabulosity! Haha! Co on your book. Your wiring is so awesome along with your Photography, it will be amazing…

    • So excited for you and your journey Jennifer! Sounds wonderful and thank you for your continued support. Let me know if there’s any way I can support you as well.

      • I’m sure reading your book will be awesome help! But I will pray about that…youre so talented. Have you ever considered mentoring upcoming photographers or teaching sessions? I learn so much from you!

  • Lebawit Girma

    This resonated with me a great deal, Lola. So sorry you had to go through that awful experience, and how powerful once you worked through it. There are some mean, ignorant people out there. But they manifest for a reason (it reminds me of a live coaching session I listened to yesterday on this – will send you the link). I’m right there with you on waiting for permission–I realized I was doing it again recently in waiting to start my new DR blog and video project, waiting and waiting for what… permission and approval, in the form of 10k followers, sponsors, etc. But then I realized this week once we stop subconsciously waiting and instead we own our worth and DO, more blessings show up. I needed this reminder as well, so thank you for this post!

    • Yes indeed Lily! Amen to all this and you know I hear and feel you. Let me know how I can help in my small way.

      • Lebawit Girma

        Thanks, Lola! You have my support anytime as well. x

  • Monica-USA

    Good luck Lola! And yes “So What”!!! You only need self-validation and if people don’t want to help you or walk beside you and support you then I highly suggest they get the hell out of your way because there is nothing stopping you from achieving what you want in this life! You let that big bright light shine and don’t let anyone try and dim you!! Looking forward to your book!! Sometimes a girl just needs a good cry to work through everything! Been there and done that myself and it is so life altering! I had to the very similar thing last year and it was the best thing for me to remind me of who I am and what I will and WILL NOT accept from the people around me!! It is so freeing………! You can do it! Just fly!

    • Thank you so much Monica! Isn’t that such a powerful message? Thanks again and I can’t wait to send you a copy of the Lagom book once it’s out for all your support 🙂

      • Monica-USA

        Wow! Thank you so much Lola I am honored.

  • Kristen Pertner

    Aww, I love this, Lola! And I’m so excited for you!