Don’t Eat Tommy Smartie!

This month, May, has had me thinking about permission – specifically, why we wait for others to give us permission when we have every right to get on and be, do, have and create whatever we want.

Meanwhile wonderful memories of playing this game came to mind when I was a children’s holiday group leader a *few* years ago.

If you’ve never played Don’t Eat Tommy Smartie, here are the instructions:

* Seat a group of children in a circle on the floor (it feels more exciting than sitting at a table). Decide who is going to be Child A and Child B. They desperately want to be Child A.

* Child A leaves the room. While they are outside, pour several Smarties onto a plate. Child B chooses one Smartie to be ‘Tommy Smartie’. Invite Child A back in.

*Child A chooses one Smartie at a time and is allowed to eat it. When they pick up ‘Tommy Smartie’ all the children shout: ‘DON’T EAT TOMMY SMARTIE!’

It’s hilarious. The tension in the room is high – chocolate is very important. If Child A does well, they could get through nearly the whole plate before touching Tommy, and the beaming pride on their faces when they get this far is lovely. I’ve only seen this happen once.


In this game, the children are given permission to do two things they are normally told not to do: eat chocolate sweets and shout as loudly as they dare. Next time you get the chance, play it.

Of course, no one has permission to eat Tommy!

However, I don’t think it would work as well with adults because for one, chocolate is not as precious to us (we can have it any time that we decide to), and because we’d probably be more worried about being the only person who doesn’t know who Tommy is (#FOMO).


From a young age we are taught to ask for permission

Mum, may I go and play with my friends?
Miss, may I be excused from class to go to the toilet? 
Manager, may I have a pay rise?
(Some questions are easier to ask than others, right!).

Sometimes we ask for permission when we don’t actually need it.
And sometimes we feel as if we need permission, when actually we don’t.


Why is it hard to #JFDI ?

It’s this last point I want to explore further here.

You see, I’ve been going deeper into the theme of self-sabotaging (my first Stop Sabotaging & Find Your Focus Hideaway is this Thursday). In order to get really clear on the subject I’ve been unravelling my own complex relationship with ‘getting stuff done’, and why it’s so hard to #jfdi, and permission comes up as a common theme for my coaching clients too.

When you are self-sabotaging, you will be aware that you are probably procrastinating, or actively avoiding a situation or person, or carrying out displacement activities instead of doing that one thing.

You feel pretty terrible about this, but you carry on for as long as you can bear the self-loathing, and / or the deadline gets closer (which ever one comes first).

But what you might not be aware of, is the belief that underpins your self-sabotaging behaviour.

Seeking permission is normal 

Permission-seeking is a classic example of what we do when we don’t feel like we are the right person to do the job. We might believe that we are under-qualified, doubt whether we can see the task through to the end, or whether it will be success – and if isn’t it will be due to our failing of course. (I’ve written more on the Imposter Syndrome here).


Are you seeking permission unnecessarily at the moment?

If so, here are the four things you can do to help you move forward in a compassionate and committed approach.

1. Unlearning negative self-beliefs

It’s difficult to do this, but if you can begin to unlearn your deeply held beliefs that you are flawed, that you are not capable of making good decisions, and, or, that you are under-qualified to do a good job, then you’re on your way to getting on with the life you deserve to have.


2. “I am entitled”

Practice feeling entitled. And I literally do mean practice: act as if you are Miss Piggy, She-Rah, or a Queen from a Disney movie (demanding, privileged and powerful…oh hang on, most of the Disney Queens are evil, strike that).

Let’s stick to Miss Piggy and She-Rah. How would they respond in this situation? What would they be thinking about herself? What would they say and what action would they take? Scribble down some notes on whatever comes to mind.


3. You are not what you do

Remember that you are not defined by the outcome of what you do. Your value as a human being is not dependent on whether you succeed at everything you do (even though you may have been conditioned to believe this when you were younger). Just gently give your permission to try something new, say to yourself “I’m going to try this, and it might not work or it might not be a huge success, and that’s okay because I can perceive it as valuable experience and learn from it”.


4. Asking for Support

How good are you at asking for help? If you are seeking permission from others unnecessarily, it might be because you feel inadequate to do the job well, and you are afraid of making a mistake. I’ll be honest with you, I’m rubbish at asking for help, but at least I know I am. I try to accept and acknowledge this, then make a conscious point of asking for support when I need it. It’s not a weakness, it’s not a flaw, and remember that the most successful people have whole teams supporting them to do what they do. Try talking it through with a trusted colleague or a good friend, or work with an experienced coach.

Remember that seeking permission is just one of the ways we self-sabotage, and there are lots of things you can do about it. I hope you’ve found this (and other blogs useful). Are there particular areas in your life right now that you are waiting for permission to do? Leave a comment below, and if I can help, I will.


Meanwhile, try this too, my Free 5-Day Challenge on how to Tame Your Inner Critic and finally reclaim your headspace and move out of your own way – see you in there!