2 years ago I sat cross from my therapist and she said something I knew to be true.
“You’re very intuitive Brittany. You know yourself. But you need to learn to trust yourself.”
She was right.
We know how to keep our opinions to ourselves. We know how to second guess ourselves. We know how to talk ourselves out of our needs and wants. As women, we are experts in valuing others, prioritizing others, needs, listening to others.
But we don’t know how to listen to ourselves, to hear our intuition.
And a lot of us don’t even know why that’s a problem.
So what is our “intuition” and why is it worth paying attention to?
the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.
Pretty simply, intuition is knowing something by instinct, rather then reason. It isn’t the opposite or absence of reason, but rather a gut reaction to something that isn’t based solely on logic, pros and cons, or research. You just know.
So why on earth would you want to trust this “intuition” anyway? The obvious answer: because if your gut is saying something, maybe it’s worth listening. The less obvious answer: if you don’t know how to tune into your intuition, you don’t know who you are.
Does that sound extreme? It is. But it’s also true. Think about it – if you don’t know your deepest wants, likes, desires, tendencies, joys, fears, or opinions do you really know yourself? A lot of us have just absorbed these things from people around us throughout out lives, slowly forming our opinions on everything from politics to our favorite ice cream flavors based on what society or our family is doing. And that’s not all bad. But waking up to your intuition, your own voice, is key to being your true and best self and living the life you were meant to live.
For me, the birth of my first child was also the birth of finding my deeper identity and waking up to my intuition. Sitting across from my therapist shortly after I became a mother, as I shared at the top of this post, is when I realized that if I wanted my daughter to live life deeply and confidently sure of who she was and of her own voice, I needed to do the same thing. And so I began asking questions, in search of finding answers from within myself instead of from the outside world.
And in doing so I recognized these 3 things have been hurdles in learning to tune into my own intuition:
Perfectionism – the belief that if you just hustle hard enough, if you’re perfect enough, you can’t be hurt. It’s based out of fear of rejection and can keep you from listening to your intuition because perfectionism is the inner critic. A great example of this that we can almost all relate to is weight loss / dieting. Tuning into why you eat the way you do or move your body the way you do can take a lot of internal work. So many of us are so entrenched in diet culture we don’t even realize that something as basic as what we feed ourselves and our families has been shaped by an industry that profits off us hating our bodies. When I decided to lose weight several years ago, did I tune into how my body was feeling or ask myself how I felt about my body? NO. I tuned into what the internet said, what the bogus BMI said, and what culture said. I needed to be smaller. So I picked a number that literally meant nothing in regards to my health, and did whatever I had to do to reach that number. Was it sustainable? NO. Was it healthy? NO. But my perfectionism was telling me “once you reach this weight, you’ll be lovable. No one will reject you. You won’t have body issues anymore.” But it was a lie. And letting our inner critic, or perfectionism, drive on issues as deep and important as body image can be so. very. damaging. Now, I check in with my body, with my intuition, and with my inner nurturer when it comes to how I view my body. Another example: Maybe while deciding whether to use your free time to rest or get things done, your gut is saying “hey, you really need a break, please put your feet up” but your perfectionism is LOUDER, saying “don’t be lazy, you need to always be accomplishing something”. Which do you listen to?
People Pleasing- when we hold others’ opinions of us higher then our own opinions of ourselves, it’s hard to stay true to our intuition. In valuing your intuition you are saying “I matter. My values matter. What I think of me matters more then what others think of me.” An example of this for me was quitting book club a few years back. All my friends were attending this super fun book club in our community, and after about a year I realized it wasn’t really for me. The books didn’t intrigue me, I had a lot on my plate and spending 3 or 4 hours a month away from my family (not including the time it took to read the book I didn’t want to read) didn’t feel like much fun anymore. But I worried, what would my friends think? Would I be missing out? What if they had all this fun without me? In the end, I had to prioritize what I wanted, instead of prioritizing how I thought people might view me. Another example: maybe you get invited to an event that you really don’t want to attend, but you don’t have a “good” reason to says no. Can you simply say “No”, or do you go, or feel like you have to make up a “good” excuse instead of being confident in just saying “No, thank you”?
Lack of identity / Lack of practice / Lack of definition- I think the majority of people fall into this category, honestly. We don’t know who we are, we don’t know how to hear our inner voice, or we think that listening to our intuition is “woo woo” or will lead to making huge mistakes (and is maybe even a sin*). We spent most of our lives as consumers, blindly accepting what the media tells us to like, to buy, to focus on. We don’t take the time to ask ourselves “Wait, do I even want to lose weight? To have a bigger house? To buy that new car?” Once you start asking these questions, it gets easier and easier to tune into your true likes and dislikes, even with simple things. A really silly example: ordering food at a restaurant. I used to PANIC every time we ate out. I’m naturally very good at making decisions (I’m a Judger), but before I found intuitive eating I had a hard time slowing down to ask myself what I really wanted to eat. So I would order whatever I thought was “healthiest”, something cheap, or whatever my husband ordered. And then I’d be disappointed when I didn’t like it (and that I wasted my money on food I didn’t want to eat)! Now, I know how to order based on how I’m feeling, what flavors I’m craving, and how I want to feel after I’ve eaten my food. And I don’t have to panic and ask the waiter to come back 12 times while my husband and the waiter pretend to not be annoyed. But it takes practice! It takes slowing down and valuing the time it takes to find out what I really like, because I matter. A good practice for this is looking back at the things you liked as a kid! The reason this is helpful is because as children we are less influenced by others opinions and we care less if what we like isn’t “cool”. What did you do for fun as a kid? What were your favorite foods? What ways did you enjoy moving your body? These questions can help you get back to the root of who you were before society told you who you should be.
No one will understand you. It is not, ultimately, that important. What is important is that you understand you.”
― Matt Haig
At the core of tuning into our intuition is this truth: you matter. Your voice matters. Knowing yourself matters.
So turn up that voice inside that says “hey, pay attention to this”.
Tune into what you really need, not just want you think you need or think you should need.
And do it because you matter.
“It is up to each person to recognize his or her true preferences.”
-Isabel Briggs Myers