I’ve had something of an epiphany and I really wanted to share it here.
Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve leaned heavily on other people to help me make important decisions. At school, I listened to the advice of my teachers and my parents as to which classes I should take. Ultimately I let them decide which college degree I would aim for.
I’ve spent countless hours reading magazines and blogs, watching films and trying to glean ideas from these sources about how I should be living my life. I’ve used them as a compass to show me the way, to help me decide on my next step.
Also, I spent nine of the most formative years of my life in a relationship. From the time I was 17 to the age of 27 I was in a relationship with a man I wanted to marry. As a result, a lot of the decisions about my life that I made during this time centred around him. I made a bunch of massive life decisions based on our mutual plans. At the time, this was what I wanted and I don’t regret making those decisions.
Also, when you’re one half of a couple, your decision-making-process tends to involve a check-before-deciding step. When we first started dating, my weekend and holiday plans would always be determined around what my boyfriend was planning on doing. As we became closer and started living together, even things like what I would cook for dinner or which towels to buy had to be run past another person before I could make a final choice.
And now that my relationship has ended, and I’m out on my own, I don’t have to run every tiny decision past another person. And that’s both liberating and terrifying.
It occurred to me that all the years of consulting others about my decision-making has hampered me in a very significant way: I seem to have lost the ability to hear my inner voice.
My internal voice, that speaks the truth about what I want, has become stifled by years of consulting others before choosing. To the point where even the simplest of choices is baffling to me.
For the first couple of months that I was out on my own, I felt totally overwhelmed by the task of every day life. I was paralysed every time I had to decide what I would make for dinner. My weekends became a minefield, a chunk of blank time that had to be filled with …what? Before then I’d always worked my plans around my boyfriend. How was I supposed to decide the best way to fill my time?
I realised that I needed to practice listening to my inner voice again. At first I was afraid. Afraid that it would tell me something I didn’t want to hear. That I was useless and stupid. Then I realised that I’d been confusing depression with my inner voice. Those niggling doubts and crippling worries aren’t the product of my inner voice, they’re something else entirely.
It occurred to me that my inner voice wouldn’t steer me wrong. She wouldn’t tell me something that I don’t want to hear because she is the very essence of me. She’s my desires, my needs, my hopes and goals distilled and waiting. If I need an answer about which direction to take, all I need to do is ask her and she’ll tell me.
So I’ve been working hard to try to listen to that elusive inner voice. As I said, she’d been buried under years of chatter from the other people in my life about what I “should” be doing. I needed to silence that white noise in order to hear her again.
To begin with, I’ve been sitting down each evening and asking myself, “What do YOU want to do?” And just listening for the answer. Sometimes I’ll realise that I feel like cleaning my flat. Sometimes all I want to do is read my book. I’ll often feel motivated to get in touch with a certain friend or jump on my yoga mat. I’ve tried to set aside an hour each night to honour what I truly feel like doing.
When I’ve been feeling depressed, I’ve been asking myself, “What is it that YOU need?” I’ll feel a tug in a certain direction: towards journalling, towards calling my family, towards crying, napping, music or cooking. Ultimately I’ve managed to find that thing that has nurtured my soul and helped me to feel human again.
And on the weekend, I decided to ask my inner voice about a bigger decision. I’ve been wanting to work harder on finding a career that makes me beam. And she’s given me some answers. It was an exciting moment.
If you’ve lost touch with your inner voice, I’d certainly recommend trying to reconnect. Don’t be afraid, it won’t steer you wrong. Tonight, sit down and ask yourself, “What to I WANT to do? What do I NEED right now?” and be open to the answer that arrives.