“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
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