It can be incredibly, frustratingly, deceptively difficult to know how we feel.
When I spent some time chatting with Kayla Hollatz a little while back in an episode of her #createlounge podcast, we spent a lot of time unpacking big, important ideas like gentle strength and self-trust. (If you missed it, talking with Kayla was an absolute pleasure and I’m so proud of the episode we created! You can listen here.)
The more I think about these two ideas, the more I believe they’re related. Not just related, but dependent on each other. Shaping a healthy relationship with ourselves demands a delicate, purposeful balance of gentle strength – firm but forgiving, patient but assured. And the ‘strength’ part of that equation – feeling strong, self-assured, and centered – comes from building an immense sense of trust in ourselves over time. Trust in our abilities, in our intuition, and in our ability to make sound decisions. Plus, that trust affords us the ability to be gentle with ourselves in moments of stress, or doubt, or tension.
But, where does the trust come from?
One of the first steps to building self-trust is believing that somewhere inside us, we already have the answers we need – even if they aren’t clear at first.
Whether we like it or not, we will continue to find ourselves in tough situations with people we love. We will be asked difficult questions. We will face decisions that only we can make for ourselves. And it’s so important to engage in those situations and to actively choose a path forward, even (especially!) when it’s tempting to be passive and shy away from the issue altogether. (Remember: it’s worth it to rock the boat when that’s what it takes to honor who you are!) But sometimes when we try to engage –- to make that choice, or to answer the questions that are asked of us – a storm of conflicting thoughts comes tearing through our minds, leaving only confusion and anxiety in its wake.
What’s the right thing to do or say here? What do I want? Am I being selfish? Unrealistic? Will people judge me for this choice? Will I regret it? And if that’s what I want, why does this other opposing idea make sense, too?
Even if the ‘right’ choice is buried in there somewhere, the task of untangling that mess of thoughts, feelings, questions, and anxiety to find it can feel impossible, and exhausting.
Sure, we may have the answers we need, but how do we retrieve them when nothing feels clear?
My answer to this question only came to me recently, after years of doing the things we all do when we’re faced with a difficult question: we second guess, we bargain with ourselves, we over-complicate, we talk ourselves in circles, we tell ourselves distracting stories that only contribute to our own doubt and anxiety. But when we’re caught in those dilemmas and feeling the urge to give into the inner turmoil, sometimes it’s our job to be still, and to gently notice the idea that rises to the top. The one that wants to be seen, but that got buried beneath the mind games we play with ourselves.
In moments of mental or emotional chaos, sometimes finding our way is as simple as getting quiet, taking notice, and trusting in the wisdom the simple answer.
Is it time to leave this job?
Does the culture of this relationship feel good to me?
What’s not working in this space, and how can I fix it?
The nature of a difficult question is that there are no easy answers. The case can often be made for several options, which is exactly what makes the process of choosing so dizzying and heavy with the pressure to choose ‘right.’ But a foundation of self-trust isn’t born out of a track record of ‘perfect’ decisions, free of stumbles or missteps; self-trust is rooted in a belief that our inner compass knows what it’s doing, and that it will continue to orient us toward what’s right for us as long as we’re paying attention.
Easy and simple aren’t the same. Choosing a path forward is rarely easy, but sometimes the simplest choice is the one that’s aching to be heard all along.
P.S. Thank you so, so much for your thoughtful responses to my reader survey last week! If you missed it, I'm looking ahead to 2017 and I'd love your input as I start putting plans together to build a community and an overall meaningful experience for you here. The survey is still open, and only takes about 5 minutes. You can take the survey here, and thank you in advance for your help!