When I was in primary school I remember this moment in math class where one of the smartest girls in class gave the wrong answer, and I knew it. But since math was not my strength and she was never wrong I thought I must have been the one making the mistake. When the teacher corrected her I was really angry at myself. Why didn’t I speak up? What was I afraid of?
In this example the answer is pretty obvious – I didn’t trust myself. I wasn’t very good at math and I was quick to believe I had made a mistake because it had happened many times before. But this actually happens a lot in people’s lives and not just in school. I’m 28 now and I feel like I’m finally starting to trust my intuition and believe in myself. Because while the answer to a math question is either wrong or right, when it comes to life decisions the answer is different for everyone.
We don’t all enjoy doing the same things
I feel like many of us are still living our lives as we feel we should, without speaking up. There’s a safety element here; if we have a normal job and follow a course most people expect us to take, we won’t be surprised and the risk is low. Or so we think. Like I wrote in my previous post, the paths we take in life are different for everyone. We don’t all enjoy doing the same things, so why is it that we feel such a strong need to fit in with everyone else? We do it in school and we keep doing it as adults. Why don’t we speak up if we think our path should deviate from everyone else’s?
Isn’t it much riskier to make a choice you don’t really agree with?
Like I said, I think it has to do with risk. Some of us are risk-takers and some of us aren’t. In fact, there’s a lot of research on this. We seek other people’s approval all the time – when buying something online and when making a bigger life decision. We talk about it, ask people for advice and listen to their opinions, while the opinion that matters most is our own. It has often happened that I’ve made a decision everyone around me agreed was the best one – and it made me miserable. For example, when I was 18 I went to law school (in a faraway past!) and everyone thought I would do great. I hated it. Every fiber in me screamed I was in the wrong place. After a failed semester I left, but it didn’t feel right. After all, everyone told me I should go and that I’d be good at it. So why wasn’t I?
Isn’t it much riskier to make a choice you don’t really agree with or keep doing something you don’t really like? If I had been better at listening to myself I never would have gone to law school. Yes, the picture was pretty and the prospects were interesting, but it just didn’t fit. I don’t really believe in making mistakes and I don’t consider that one of them, but I do believe I went there for the wrong reasons. Thankfully, it taught me a lot about who I was and what I didn’t want and helped me make better choices in the future. While I struggled with it back then, now I laugh when I talk about it. It so clearly was the wrong choice for me and I don’t regret leaving for a second.
The only one who knows what you really want is you
While I believe learning to trust yourself and listening to your gut instinct is something that grows with age, there are a lot of people who never learn and keep seeking other people’s approval. You are unique as a person and the only one who knows what you really want is you. So try relying less on other people for advice and turn to yourself. The answers may not be clear all the time, but your intuition always tips the scale a little. There is always a feeling you have towards something, whether it’s a job, a city or a person. And this feeling tells you a lot about yourself. Why are you attracted to some people but not others? Why do you prefer certain colours, smells, types of music and not others? Because you are your own person with your own personality and there’s no need to fit in everywhere.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” – Albert Einstein
I really believe that in being the best and happiest version of yourself it is crucial to take the time to listen to yourself and trust your gut instinct. Deep down you always know what to do, what choice to make, but we often stray because we get distracted by other people’s opinions. Now I don’t mean ‘dare to be different’; if you don’t want to quit your job and travel the world, then don’t! If it makes you happy to stay in on Saturday night and read a book, by all means do it. What I mean is accept who you are, both with your strengths and your weaknesses. While I may not be great at math, that’s fine because I am good at other things. And those are the things I focus on. Don’t climb a tree if it’s not what you’re good at. Swim and be great at it. Life will be so much more fun!