Why We Ignore Our Intuition and How to Overcome Self-Doubt

Person with long blonde hair walks through lush green field with arms outstretched“Why didn’t I just listen to myself—I knew what I needed to do all along and I ignored it!”

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Trusting our gut is tricky business, and the self-criticism that occurs after we choose to ignore what feels right adds an extra layer of disappointment to the mix.

I’m in the business of believing every person knows deep down what they need. Contrary to common belief, it is not my job as a therapist to give advice or tell a person what is right for them. It’s to guide the process of uncovering authenticity and self-trust—trust that may be buried within a person after years of second-guessing, self-doubt, and self-sacrifice.

So why do we turn away from our intuition when an inner voice is whisper-screaming for us to follow our gut reactions?

  • We don’t want to be “wrong.” Close your eyes for a moment and think of everyone in your life, past and present, including yourself. Who has been your harshest critic? For most of us, this is typically ourselves. Part of the lifelong work of learning to trust your intuition is to stop judging yourself so harshly when you make mistakes: those things that help us learn, grow, and challenge us to look at the bigger picture. Let yourself be “wrong” sometimes! Embracing your inner voice must be accompanied by a release of perfectionism and criticism for missteps. Those missteps are a part of the journey, and intuition is what ultimately allows us to regain our footing on the path.
  • We don’t want the onus to fall solely on us. Making group decisions or trusting the judgment of others rather than our own comes with the benefit of not having to carry that pesky burden of potentially being “wrong.” It often feels nicer to have someone else to blame, which allow us to stay stuck in a victim role and shake off responsibility for our own choices. But while blaming others might feel soothing in the short-term, staying stuck in victim role keeps us wading in a river of indecision, confusion, and inability to trust. It can feel scary to recognize that at the end of the day, each decision we make rests fully on our shoulders, but it is also an empowering tool that allows us to fully live our lives—on no one’s terms but our own.
  • We believe there is only one correct choice. Releasing the binaries of “black and white,” “good and bad,” and “right and wrong” is an essential step toward trusting our intuition. If we believe there is only one choice that will get us to where we need to go and we’re not certain what that is, of course we will be afraid to listen to our intuition! These binaries and dogmatisms make life feel absolute. In reality, life’s circuitous path is anything but. Having faith that at any given moment we are where we are meant to be, and that every choice we make is the “right” choice for our current circumstances, allows us to move freely, follow intuition, and most importantly, trust.

Trusting intuition takes daily practice, and no choice is too small to start with.

Trusting intuition takes daily practice, and no choice is too small to start with. If your gut tells you to walk down a side street on your way home, listen to it. If you get a strange sense you’d connect deeply with a new acquaintance but have only met once, don’t leave without getting their contact information. We dismiss our gut reactions as silly or “nothing” many times throughout each day, but these small moments can be practice for bigger life choices that are informed by intuition: where to live, who to marry, or when to embark on a fresh start.

Today is the perfect day to begin releasing self-blame, owning each decision, and tossing out those “rights and wrongs” in order to start uncovering that wonderful voice that’s the only one worth listening to: your own.

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lindsey Pratt, LMHC, NCC, therapist in New York City, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 6 comments
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  • Margaret

    Margaret

    June 21st, 2017 at 6:37 AM

    My thing is that even though my instincts are generally right, I never quite trust myself enough to think that the decision that I am making is the right one. It is about being scared to be wrong I suppose more than it is just not wanting to be wrong. I am afraid that if I make the wrong call, then who is going to get hurt? I never quite can bring myself to think of it in terms of but yes, who might it help?

  • Teddy

    Teddy

    June 23rd, 2017 at 12:58 PM

    why is it so hard for us to admit that we are wrong when ultimately it is this ability to admit that which in the end can wind up making us a much better person?

  • sylvia

    sylvia

    June 25th, 2017 at 8:12 AM

    I know that for me part of the reason that I so many times ignore my inner voice is because when I was growing up I never could do anything right
    I never received any kind of praise or affirmation from my mother and daddy that I was good or that the things that I did made them proud
    I think that that is a big reason why even today I shrug off my own feelings or I worry if I am making the right decisions.
    because I was never given that kind of support from them, the relevant people in my life, that I was making the right choices and doing things that would make them proud or happy.

  • Emma

    Emma

    June 26th, 2017 at 9:16 AM

    I don’t think that I ever really started to believe in myself until I had someone in my life who could believe in me. That showed me pretty quickly that I was smart and that I shouldn’t always be so apt to second guess myself. A lot of this is a learned habit. This is how I had always been so it was easy to keep repeating those patterns of self doubt even after I was an accomplished adult. These things didn’t happen to us overnight and by design it will take longer than that one first step to leave those doubts behind.

  • todd

    todd

    June 27th, 2017 at 1:37 PM

    I am pretty much the master of doubting my initial instinct and then when it is all said and done recognizing that I should have just gone with my first thoughts anyway!

  • Genevieve

    Genevieve

    June 28th, 2017 at 4:17 PM

    It is that lack of trust in oneself that will ultimately lead to self doubt

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