I was around twelve or thirteen when I learned to ignore my intuition. I was—and am—a hypersensitive person, so my intuition routinely fires off warning signs to avoid, or gives me the go ahead to pursue something. Basically, it’s loud. But on the brink of my teenage years, which some would argue is the most formative time of our lives, I was taught to ignore what my gut was saying in favor of being more palatable to society, like not speaking up when my gut told me someone made me uncomfortable for fear of being ‘disruptive’ or keeping my head down throughout most of junior high school for fear of being seen. Growing up, I naturally wanted to be in the spotlight. When I turned twelve, I was told to tone it down.
While I don’t believe this was done with malice, I do believe it was done with intention to keep me in a box of safety, compared to my male peers who were encouraged to go big, take risks, and occupy space. Now, at twenty-nine years old, I’m ready to bust free from my safety bubble, ignore homegrown societal expectations, and step back into the spotlight. I want to be seen. I want to live my one and only life for me.
And you should too.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been working with my therapist on re-learning how to effectively state my wants and needs and listen to my body’s response to situations, experiences, and people. It hasn’t been easy. Learning to sit still long enough to honor my intuition has been challenging in and of itself, especially as someone who struggles with toxic productivity and rarely takes the time to rest without guilt. But the more and more I practice intentional stillness, the easier it becomes to identify—or re-learn how to identify—my body’s warning signs and green lights.
Turns out, there are a lot of things I put up with that I don’t want to, and a lot of things I want to do that I’ve yet to give myself permission to do. Luckily, for me and for you, this can change.
We’re naturally born with our intuition in place. As babies, we had specific cries for specific desires, which was our natural way of honoring what we needed and communicating that to our caretakers. It was cute when we were babies and children. Look at them telling us what they want! Good job. But somewhere between infancy and adolescence, communicating our intuitive needs was no longer considered cute. Instead, it was irresponsible.
Our answers to ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ are no longer admired and shared with friends and family the older we get, unless they’re of a certain breed of career: doctor, lawyer, accountant, teacher. Our reluctance to take part in activities where we don’t feel comfortable is no longer of the ‘They’re just tired’ or ‘They just need to warm up to you’ variety, and instead are considered rude and disrespectful.
Somewhere between infancy and adolescence, communicating our intuitive needs was no longer considered cute. Instead, it was irresponsible
It’s almost as if the moment we become preteens, our individuality is discouraged in favor of adopting a more appropriate personality for society. We’re told what our intuition about people, our life path, and our own feelings is telling us, is wrong. But I have to ask: since when do we trust a baby more than we trust a twelve-year-old? Or a teenager? Or a twenty-nine-year-old woman who knows what she wants and what she doesn’t?
Learning or re-learning to trust your instincts is a lot harder to do when you’ve been conditioned not to. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be encouraged to listen to your gut throughout those formative years and beyond, but I’d like to imagine a world where it’s normalized. Imagine the amount of energy we’d save by not waffling back-and-forth between desire and longing and remembering what we’ve been taught about taking risks. How risks are ‘scary’ and how we need security above all else and how we shouldn’t be impolite when we’re offered a handshake or a date or someone’s company, regardless of how we feel intuitively about that person.
The only person who has autonomy over how you live your life and who you allow into your orbit is you. I know this now at twenty-nine. I wish I had known it my whole life.
Throughout my journey of re-learning how to trust my intuition, I’ve learned to pay attention to signs when something is for me and when something isn’t. My therapist practices physical body check-ins, where she asks how I’m feeling in my body when I’m discussing my feelings. Right here, as I write this, I’m realizing that what she has been guiding me towards is my intuition and learning to listen to it. To give it space. To give it a voice after all these years of it being silenced.
For me, when something is right, the physical feelings I have in my body are butterflies in my stomach that make my eyes light up. It’s a jumpy excitement I feel in my gut that makes its way to my face, and my eyes widen with wonder and curiosity. My therapist points this out every time, and now I’ve learned to recognize it myself. Another sign is when I smile. A smile, for me, tells me that I’m accepting of whatever feeling I’m experiencing. She’ll point this out, too.
“I can see on your face that you like this idea,” she says.
When something isn’t right, however, my face will also tell a story. My brow will furrow, and I’ll frown or scowl. I shift in my seat often. And sometimes my left arm begins to tingle, and my stomach becomes knotted. It’s not excitement I feel. It’s dread.
“I can tell that you’re uncomfortable by that thought.”
When I think back to my childhood, I try to remember the moments when I had butterflies. The moments when I smiled. I remember them when I stood backstage at my dance recitals. I remember them when I was playing with my friends on the playground. I remember them when I was with my grandmother watching Home Alone in the living room eating Tootsie Pops. I know what safe is. My body knows what safe is. And I know what I want and like and what I don’t. And I also know that it was so wildly unfair for that to be taken away from me at such a young age. And it was wildly unfair for you, too.
“Embracing your inner child” has become popularized over the years when it comes to mental health and psychology, but I think we’re overthinking it, still. I don’t know if I necessarily believe embracing your inner child means eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and digging up worms in your backyard (but if that’s your jam, by all means). I think embracing your inner child means embracing your inner knowing.
I know what I want and like and what I don’t. And I also know that it was so wildly unfair for that to be taken away from me at such a young age. And it was wildly unfair for you, too
Embracing your inner child means embracing you for who you are at your heart’s center and rejecting anything and everything that does not appeal to you. And we knew that intuitively as children, and we’re re-learning that intentionally as adults.
Who are you? What do you want to be when you grow up? Who do you want to be? What do you like? What don’t you like? How does that feel in your body?
You know the answer to these questions. Take a moment and let your intuition speak to you. And whenever it answers, heed the call and move forward unafraid, unashamed, and unapologetically.
People may try to stifle your intuition and your inner knowing, but this time around, they won’t win. You will. You always will. Because if anyone knows what’s best for you, it’s you. You hold all of the answers for your life. You hold the divine wisdom. You hold the smiles and the butterflies and the tingly arms.
And the best part about all of this is you don’t really have to re-learn anything at all, because you were born already knowing. The only thing you need to do is listen. So, listen. And put the trust you had in others for guiding you through life, safely back into yourself.