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I Choose Me (and Why You Should Choose Yourself)

Strong woman -coach.

“One should always be on the trail of one’s own deepest nature.” ~Henry David Thoreau

I am watching my beautiful eighteen-year-old daughter begin to navigate life as a young adult. Dating, friends, work, school, future plans: the perennial Big Five in terms of potential landmines.

I am projecting like mad, reliving my own traumas, and hoping she will be more successful, more lucky, more savvy by a long shot than I ever was.

And mostly, I find myself on the sidelines silently urging her (okay, not always silently) to choose herself. 

Choose herself when the friend who only wants to hang with her when there’s nothing better in the offing calls at the last minute with an invitation.

Choose herself when the guy who looks so great on the surface just isn’t consistent in following up with his actions.

Choose herself when the pressure comes to declare a major and everyone else on Facebook is going into Biochemistry or Genetic Engineering or Future Masters of the Universe.

I want her, and I want you, and I want myself to choose me. This is not selfish. Repeat: this is not selfish.

Choosing yourself is the only way to thrive in the world. You can only know yourself and your own reactions, so this is the only truly accurate compass you will ever have. You can’t steer by what other people want or need, and it will make you crazy trying to figure out what that is anyway.

Learn to check in with yourself. Yes, it takes some practice. Yes, it will feel scary at first. Yes, you will get some things “wrong.” This isn’t the same as following hunches or even gut reactions. It’s a much deeper and richer process of learning to know yourself, becoming familiar with how your body reacts, and then learning to trust what it tells you.

And then, most important of all, choosing yourself first.

Make a commitment to love and trust yourself above all others. You will never be sorry for this, ever. Even when it seems like your choice might hurt another. Every one of the choices I made in my life in order to avoid hurting someone has ended up hurting them (and me) more in the long run. You can’t know what is best for someone else, only for you. Choose you.

In the same vein, no one else can know what is right for you (even your mom, unfortunately).

It might feel safer to outsource your decision-making to a committee of friends, authority figures or even oracle cards, but your best decision-making tool is right there with you all the time in your own body and its reactions. Listen up, because I’m going to tell you how to use it.

Our bodies send us signals all the time, but usually they’re drowned out by our busy minds. We tend to place a lot more credence in our thoughts than our feelings, which doesn’t help.

In fact, the “stories” you tell yourself about your experience are probably the biggest obstacles clouding your judgment. In order to listen carefully to your body, you need to practice dropping the storyline and tuning in to the pure sensations.

Feelings, without the story attached, are just sensations… and these are your gold.

The sinking in the pit of your stomach. The buzzing in your chest like a swarm of angry bees. The numb, leaden feeling in your shoulders and neck.

Or maybe it’s a little thrill up your spine, a quiet sigh of peace and relaxation, or that delicious sensation of walking on air.

Tune in and trust what your body tells you, because it never lies.

When something isn’t right for you, it doesn’t matter how many reasons your mind can come up with for why you should do it. Your body will feel constricted and heavy when you think about it.

When something is right for you, even when it’s scary as hell, your body will lean toward it with a feeling of expansion and lightness.

You can practice telling the difference simply by bringing to your mind a past situation that was awful. Close your eyes, scan your body, and note the sensations. Then think of something you absolutely love and do the same thing. See what I mean? There’s a huge difference in how your body reacts.

This is the knowledge that will help you navigate all those tricky minefields.

The potential relationship my daughter wanted so badly to work out? Her body felt sick and queasy waiting for his texts, and even the “good” times were accompanied by an anxious buzzing.

The flaky friend? A feeling of pressure in her chest clued her in to mounting resentment and the need to set better boundaries for herself.

Dancing, on the other hand, makes her whole body smile.

You will be able to use this feedback too. Get curious about yourself. Don’t make any assumptions; just test everything against your body’s compass. What feels great for you (staying home on Saturday night to veg with YouTube) might feel crummy to your best friend.

Make it a priority to feel good and stop worrying so much about what other people are feeling. You can’t know. Allow them to have their own experiences, and always trust their actions to show you who they really are and what they really want. The mind is an expert at making up excuses for people, but your body won’t be fooled.

Better yet, teach them by your example how to value and care for themselves. If everyone chose themselves first and consistently communicated their authentic needs and wishes, then true connection would be the norm rather than the exception. Wouldn’t that be beautiful?

When you’re out of your body you can’t be true to yourself, because the body is the doorway to your essential nature, who you really are at the deepest level. The mind is a chameleon, spinning on a dime from one agenda and persona to another. The body is an unwavering star you can follow through the darkest night.

When you come home to yourself you’ll experience a deep peace and a knowing that feels so exquisite, you will never want to leave.

So please, choose yourself, choose yourself, choose yourself! And live a wonderful life. You’re welcome.

About Amaya Pryce

Amaya Pryce is a spiritual coach and writer living in the Pacific Northwest. Her newest book, How to Grow Your Soulis available on Amazon. For coaching or to follow her blog, please visit www.amayapryce.com.

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  • Ed (E.J.) Godwin

    “Tune in and trust what your body tells you, because it never lies.”

    I’m sorry, but this is dead wrong, and very bad advice. Trust me when I say that your body can lie to you. Why? Powerful emotions affect both the mind and the body, for they are not nearly the separate entities Western culture has led us to believe. As any experienced psychiatrist can tell you, powerful emotions can and often do profoundly alter your perception of both yourself and the world around you. (Those who have recovered from chronic depression can especially attest to this.)

    Though emotions are nothing to be ashamed of, it takes patience and experience to identify what actually triggered them. Accept what you’re feeling, but be patient with yourself before making judgment calls that could end up hurting yourself or those around you. You may find that the “punch in the gut” you’re experiencing has a very different source than you first imagined.

    “Tuning into yourself” takes a lot of practice.

  • Rae Ritchie

    How I wish someone had shared these words for me when I was 18! The passage which really struck me was ‘It might feel safer to outsource your decision-making to a committee of friends, authority figures or even oracle cards, but your best decision-making tool is right there with you all the time in your own body and its reactions.’ – read for that older men and bottle of wine (not necessarily in that order). I’m learning to listen to myself more & more but still flounder – I needed to read these words today to gently realise why a particular job prospect may not be the right way for me to go. Thank you!

  • Amaya Pryce

    Oh, I’m so glad that helped! I agree, I wish so much that I had known this when I was younger. which is why I try so hard to get my daughter to understand it. Although in the end every person has to learn for themselves. Good luck with your decision-making! All the best, Amaya

  • Amaya Pryce

    I agree with some of what you’re saying, although obviously not with your conclusion! Yes, this is a process that takes time to learn. Notice that I wrote it is not “the same as following hunches or even gut reactions.” In my life this process, and the decisions that have come from it, have been a gradual noticing over time that something was just “not right.” In the examples given regarding my daughter, she had several months to gauge her true feelings. I often counsel her against making snap judgments for precisely the reasons you have given. Thank you for clarifying some of the pitfalls to this! Warmly, Amaya

  • Ed (E.J.) Godwin

    Thanks for being so understanding of my objection. I admit I phrased my conclusion a little too strongly. Your use of the word “pitfalls” is a much better way to convey what I meant, which is this: There’s a big difference between offering advice to someone you know and offering it to a wide audience, each of whom can interpret our words in many different ways — which I should have considered before I shot from the hip like that! My apologies.

    Your advice is spot on for many who read your article, including of course your daughter. But I can tell you from personal experience that even gut reactions that happen over and over again can be misinterpreted if we lack the proper perspective. The all-too-common illnesses of chronic depression and other emotional disabilities can distort our reality for years, and the reactions they evoke can be powerfully persuasive. How many of us fail to seek help because we feel ashamed about it, when in reality it’s an incredible act of bravery? It’s because we believe the lie of our emotions, and those are often the people out here seeking help.

    Of course your intent was never to mislead, and we could use a lot more of your kind of generosity in today’s world. Thank you for sharing this!

  • sara

    This totally resonates to me and actually explains a lot. Thank you for sharing these important words and your daughter is lucky to have a mom like you!!

  • monta

    Wonderful post, Amaya!
    I could very much relate to your daughter’s experience with the guy and your perspective on it. I had something very similar and you put it very nicely “the guy who looks so great on the surface just isn’t consistent in following up with his actions.” It was almost 2 years ago, when I was 23. No matter how nice it was to spend time with him, I just knew something wasnt right, just like your daughter, when you wrote that her “body felt sick and queasy waiting for his texts, and even the “good” times were accompanied by an anxious buzzing.” Totally had that. Well, now after 2 years (we hung out only for 2 months, then I ended it) of sulking and grieving after it, I realise that I need to choose myself. I just wish somebody would have told me this, that it is totally okay and even necessary to choose myself. Before I came to realise this about 3 months ago, I kid you not, I always thought that I should ask for everybody’s opinions, so I could make the best decision. I thought everyone knew better. Like you said, I can be my own best compass. Cheers on that!
    And I totally agree with sara that your daughter is lucky to have a mother like you!

  • Amaya Pryce

    Your response was very well noted, Ed, and no apologies are needed! It’s always a balancing act, isn’t it? Absolutely any advice can be taken too far or out of context, especially if there is an underlying condition involved. Even under the best conditions we can’t know that the results will be what we hope, but I do believe that our bodies’ reactions are a more reliable guide than thoughts. Cheers!

  • Amaya Pryce

    Thanks, I tell her that all the time! 🙂

  • Amaya Pryce

    Yay for you that you’ve discovered this so early in life! It took me many more decades. I just watched the movie “He’s Just Not That Into You” with my daughter and it really helped both of us see even more clearly that this particular guy was not walking the walk, however well he talked the talk. She is determined to find someone who’s really “into her” next time. Good luck to you!

  • sian e lewis

    At last I am seeing it with crystal clarity. I was always asking myself why did I react the way I did. Now I know its my body talking. How did it take me so long to realise? Thanks Amaya.

  • Amaya Pryce

    You’re so welcome, Sian! Clarity is exactly what you get when you burrow down through all the thoughts to the part of you that just “knows,” and then trust that knowing. Oh so simple, but not always easy. 🙂

  • Ellen Lederman

    Those three words (I choose me) are so powerful. Thanks so much. I’ve reread your article three times already! At 62, I am finally ready to put aside my need to please others, be a “nice girl,” and sacrifice my own wants and needs, thinking that trying to make others happy will make me happy (and trying to make anyone else happy is futile, anyway). Yoga and meditation have helped me listen to me body and discover/accept who I am. As much as I tried to shake my introverted nature, it’s who I am. My brain, emotions, body, and spirit are so much more at peace and joyful when I do things that nourish it—and hanging out with most people frankly just isn’t nourishing to me. I do believe in being positive, but telling ourselves a story that there is anything positive when our bodies are saying “Get me out of here! This isn’t good.” is just denial or living in a fantasy land.

    But—many exercise instructors and yoga teachers will advise “fake it till you make it.” I was taking this to heart, thinking that if I just conformed to how other people relate to each other, live life, have fun, treat their bodies that eventually it would be second nature to me as well. It’s good to be open and try new things and give new people a chance. And in a situation that’s not ideal but that you find yourself in and can’t escape for the time being, best to have a positive attitude and deal with it as gracefully as possible. But not faking it or deliberately putting yourself in soul-depleting activities or relationships….and faking it is always going to be counterproductive, wasting time and energy.

  • Amaya Pryce

    I so agree with you there! Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, “The most exhausting thing in life, I have found, is being insincere.” I am also an introvert and I have to really protect my energy if I want to be happy. Learning to check in and recognize what isn’t actually nourishing me has been hugely helpful in that. I’m so glad you’re doing yoga and meditation (I love them too), but YOU are the expert on you!!

  • Mahesh Sahu

    Nice article, Amaya!
    The all problems are arising from tensed/unrest mind. Thus hearing signal of body is very good idea. But probably for hearing the sensation of the body, mind should be quiet.

  • Amaya Pryce

    True, Mahesh! I’m a huge fan of meditation for that reason. Do you meditate?

  • Aelio

    Thank you, this is great. I’m continuously amazed by the timing of these articles and how I’m feeling. I’ve finally figured out how to connect with myself again except now it’s much deeper and I feel pretty good. I’m not sure it was solely this article that helped me but it gives many great messages. I used to feel like I didn’t know what to do with myself half the time, especially when there was nothing to do. I’ve now realized how to simply put my focus inside. I’ve been trying to do this for some time. I feel I’ve found myself again. Thank you for writing this.

  • Amaya Pryce

    I know, that is so counter to what we’re taught: always to put the other person first. Once I got old enough to really track the long-term results of some of those decisions, the results were staggering.

  • Bernarda

    So many of us were taught to please others and that choosing yourself WAS selfish! It is a long arduous journey out of that!

  • Amaya Pryce

    Yes, it is! I have even been guilty of teaching my daughter that… but being kind (which is a major value of mine) is not the same as people pleasing. We should always be kind, and still choose ourselves first, which is the kindest thing in the long run. 🙂

  • Shannon Rooney

    Thank you for this. 🙂 Wise words.

  • Amaya Pryce

    You’re welcome, Shannon!

  • Jessica

    Hi Amaya, thanks for this article. I find that my headspace though really affects what my body is feeling from day to day. Right now for instance, when I’m feeling particularly anxious, I feel my gut is telling me that certain things aren’t good for me. I usually project these feelings onto my relationship. It’s really hard to tell when it’s the space I’ve come from or the space I’m truly in. And what my nervous system is actually reacting to. Do you have any insight? Thank you!

  • Theresa Destrebecq

    I think we throw the word “selfish” around too much. A few weeks ago I was working with a client and she kept insisting that if she took action on what she wanted it would be selfish. When I asked her to define selfish, should couldn’t. We ended up consulting the dictionary and when I read the definition to her, she no longer thought she was selfish, but potentially frivolous, or opportunistic, and on we went. Why is there such a negative stigma with choosing yourself?

  • Amaya Pryce

    Good question! We are just so socialized (particularly women) to put others first. But it so rarely works in the long run, at least in my experience!

  • Amaya Pryce

    Yes, I think you’re right that if you have a baseline of anxiety running on a fairly constant level, you need to factor that in as a potential complication. Is there any activity that helps you relax and quiet that down? Hot baths? Walks in nature? First try to get quiet (ideally make this a daily practice). Then see what happens when you introduce the idea of your relationship, or whatever else you’re seeking guidance on. Don’t take any major actions based on those gut feelings until you’re really familiar with how your body reacts without the baseline of anxiety. Does that make sense? Let me know!

  • Annika Hoffmann

    Thank you Amaya, I needed this today, I think I was meant to find your article. My counsellor has been telling me for months to put myself first and that this isn’t selfish. I am learning that this is right but what I really needed this weekend (as I am about to make a very difficult decision) was the advise to listen to how my body feels and not what my head tells me.

  • Amaya Pryce

    I’m so glad, Annika! And I have to hear things several times before I really pay attention too. 🙂

  • Justme

    Wow! You are a gift to me today. Thank you!

  • Deegan

    This makes a lot of sense and i agree with most of it but the thing is what about when something feels wrong but is right in the longterm? Jogging is uncomfurtable and when i have to do it i resent it but i will feel better for it and its good for me, what would you do in that situation?

  • Amaya

    Hi Deegan – good question! I do think there are slightly different “rules” when you’re talking about habits and personal care. In that case I like to think about how I will feel at the end of the run. If you resent it, and are only doing it because it’s good for you, then maybe you can find a different way to exercise? If you feel happy and exhilarated, then focus on those feelings rather than the resistance you might feel at the beginning of your run. You still want to move toward what genuinely feels good!