“Insight is not a light bulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.” ~Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
If there is just one thing I would absolutely love every person on this planet to understand, it is their own inner knowing. And if I could have two things, I would add the power that inner knowing gives to each of us.
When it comes to what’s best for you, your own opinion is the only one that counts—and you can use it to change your life.
It’s easy to be brainwashed in this society because right from the get-go, when we have no choice but to be dependent on others, we are taught to believe that others know better. This inadvertently teaches us to suppress our own desires, feelings, ideas, and opinions about the world.
My parents, probably like yours, had very strong views about what was right and wrong. If I stepped outside those boundaries I was punished rather than left to experience the natural consequences of my thoughts and actions. That introduced self-doubt into the equation, and other damaging emotions like worry, anxiety, fear, guilt, and so on.
With emotions like this in the mix, reinforced over many years, taking action based on our own insights becomes difficult. At best it’s fraught with an obstacle course of emotional bombs waiting to be set off along the way. At worst, we stagnate, freeze, and live our lives according to the opinion of others.
As Malcolm Gladwell says, it’s too easy to snuff out the insights your inner knowing gives rise to—especially after years of suppressing them.
When our parents enforced their boundaries and opinions, they were most often well-meaning, and they were likely just repeating the cycle of what they were taught. But it’s that generalized and pervasive trust in authority, that is perpetuated by well-meaning people, that causes the issue.
I was not taught to trust my instincts or intuition; these weren’t words that were even a common part of my vocabulary. Yet, who else can I truly trust? If I live my life according to the opinion of others, can I ever be happy?
We are each this unique cocktail of highly complex DNA, experiences, and feelings. Other people can inspire me, yes, they can reflect back to me what they are hearing, seeing and/or feeling from me, but I am the only one who can actually answer what is best for me. I started to really get this almost twenty years ago.
“If it sounds ‘off’ to you, it probably is. Trust your instincts,” he said.
This was on a phone call taking place across the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of the night. A mentor of mine, in a successful network marketing business, had turned whistleblower. He gave interviews for the national press and was featured on Dateline NBC.
I’ll never forget it. I had been part of that business for seven years. There was nothing wrong with the plan to make money; it was legitimate. There was a personal development ‘system’ that sat alongside it that also worked well; the growth I had undergone was undeniable and worth every penny.
It was the secretive approach of those in positions of influence, the concealed gains from the ‘system’ and the part that played in their projected lifestyles of success to entice others to follow suit, that was the problem.
At best, there was a lack of transparency. At worst, I could say there was a deliberate attempt to deceive in order to continue to line the pockets of those in positions of influence. I had suppressed the “there is something I’m not being told” feeling often. When I heard what my mentor—one of the previous elite—had to say, I felt a sense of relief; I could trust my intuition after all.
That was in my twenties. Between then and now I have done a lot of work to try and retrieve my sense of who I am, what the inner me actually thinks and feels about things. It isn’t easy; I can never ‘undo’ the experiences I have had, but I have come to look at them in a new light.
I have learned that all anyone has to offer is an opinion. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, who the person or body is, or how highly you hold them in your esteem; it is simply an opinion. Just look at how many ‘experts’ in any given field disagree. The only truth is one that is felt by the heart, and it differs from person to person, from moment to moment; it is as unique as that cocktail that we each are.
Stepping authentically into the world isn’t easy. The feelings attached to those earlier opinions, boundaries, and consequences are part of the fabric of who I am, but I step anyway.
And with each step, together with my new vantage point and the support of others who cheer me on in this quest, my confidence gathers and new habits form. Best of all, I feel happier inside, like life is for the taking now, not in some imaginary future when I’ve satisfied everyone else’s needs.
Each time someone asks for my advice, I always remind them to take only what resonates. But it is no surprise to me that people more often than not doubt themselves and look to others for answers. Someone once left a comment on my blog with contact details for a guru they viewed as having solved their problem for them, but that just told me they had given their power away.
It’s great when I can look to others as support, or even a facilitator, but if I see them as the person who solved my problems for me, I become reliant on them again and again. I increase their power and decrease my own, in my head.
And that is the real issue. This is about our thoughts, the things we believe to be true.
The only reason someone else is able to appear as if they have solved my problem for me, is because I don’t understand and can’t see my own part in solving it. The very fact that I see whatever it is as a problem creates a resistance in me to seeing the solution. It’s like when I ‘lose’ my keys. I tell myself that I “can’t see” them and this literally blinds me to them.
Other people’s problems don’t seem as insurmountable, though; we tend to hold less doubt about others’ abilities than our own. So someone else’s belief in us to solve it, particularly someone held in high esteem or purported as a guru, lowers our resistance to the solution that has been right there for the taking all along.
There is only one time when I don’t fully trust my intuition, and that is when I am having fears and self-doubts. I am always aware of my entry into to this world, the well-meaning opinions that shaped my early beliefs. I know how much self-doubt I still hold despite years of focusing on things to build my self-esteem.
While I have a great gift for understanding others and their dilemmas, when turning that on myself in moments of stress, I know my ability to read between the lines can develop into more of paranoia. That is when I find it useful to look to someone else to help facilitate me seeing what is truly going on.
But there are other pointers—the things happening around me, the way my body is feeling, the dreams I am having—all these things can tell me what is really going on beneath the surface more objectively than my mind.
While ideally I would have liked to have been born into a world that taught me to nurture and value my inner knowing, my intuition, right from the outset, simply becoming aware of it and practicing using it often also gets great results.
For example, moving to New Zealand, even moving within New Zealand to a new city in recent years, these have been intuitive moves. While my head could explain the rationale, overriding all of it was this sense of “it felt right.”
Trusting what feels right for us, and having the courage to follow up on it, this is what gives us the power to create our best life.
I sometimes get blog comments from people who really push and prod me on this point, a point that I think is absolutely critical to understand—that any one of us has the power to change our life at any point.
It doesn’t matter if you are lonely, penniless, homeless, overweight, underweight, sick, really sick, feel useless, are an abusee, an abuser, or even a psychopath, while there is breath in your body and conscious thoughts in your head, I believe we all have the power to change, with no exceptions.
I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s possible.
A quick Google search will fill your cup with example after example of people who have turned their lives around. Libraries and bookstores are filled with in-depth accounts of people who have changed their lives for the better. The inspiration is there, the tips and tricks and opinions are there, you just need one thing—to believe you can.
And, as I have said, if you can’t quite believe it of yourself consistently enough to keep going, find someone who believes in you until you begin to prove them right.
While other people can’t live your life for you, they can help boost your confidence when you want to make changes. If you need to increase your self-confidence, find those who support the kind of changes you’d like to make and let their belief in you be the thing that nudges you forward. Today, with online communities and forums, it is easier than ever to find what you need. Though you will be surprised at how other people show up in your life when you least expect it.
Start by creating a conscious awareness of your self-defeating thought patterns and behaviors. Becoming aware of what is going on is crucial since 90% of our thought patterns are just a recurrence of yesterdays’ and, like anything we do repeatedly, we become less aware. The easiest way to turn this around is through meditation and taking some regular time to just contemplate.
Take the time to hear your own thoughts, to truly feel into your own feelings, to begin to trust your own intuition. This is your true opinion of anything, and it’s the only one that counts. With it, you can start to contemplate positive changes in your life, looking for examples of when things have worked out for you in the past.
And, finally, consider a life where others you know are equally aware of their own thoughts and feelings, their own insights and intuition. A world where people are focused on their own authentic happiness rather than in pursuit of trying to be ‘good enough’ to satisfy others’ standards. To me, this feels like a happier world—less judgmental, more free; free to evolve. We can help create this world by showing the people around us what it looks like to trust ourselves.
Consider taking this step for yourself, and your loved ones, and you will not only change your life for the better, you will have changed our world for the better.