How to Listen to Yourself and Trust Your IntuitionJun 21, 2022
I spent my 20s climbing the ladder of my career, trying to get to a higher position that would yield respect from my peers. When I went out for parties, my career accomplishments often impressed people, even though I never felt like I was where I should be.
During this time in my life, I met Keith, the older boyfriend of my friend, who always seemed to be genuinely supportive when I shared my career updates and accomplishments. But when I shared some of the biggest opportunities offered to me, he would always smile and ask, “Is that what you want?”
I would get so frustrated as I thought, of course this is what I want! Why wouldn’t it be what I want? This is what I’ve been working towards for years of my life. Who wouldn’t want this?
Even though Keith didn’t know me super well, he could see that I was listening to other people more than I was listening to myself. While his questioning felt super confronting, it also made me aware that I had more work to do with the skill of self-listening.
How We Don’t Listen to Ourselves
While my commitment and dedication to my career was admirable from the outside, Keith was onto my dirty secret: I used my work, career, and community organizing to distract myself from myself. In order to show what a valuable and irreplaceable asset I was to my employer, friends and family, I worked constantly and over-scheduled my life. The blank space on my calendar meant I wasn’t doing enough or being valuable. If there was a blank space in my life, I could obviously do more, right?
Doing something simply because I wanted to or it would be fun was not something that felt very accessible to me. While other people seemed to be content doing one thing or staying in one place, I always felt pressure to develop and become something greater. I needed to advance and improve.
It wasn’t necessarily that I felt I had to impress people — but that I believed the source of my value was based on what I gave to other people. If I was improving, then I could offer more. This need for constant improvement required me to always give more of myself in order to become more valuable. If I wasn’t giving myself and my energy away to others, then I wasn’t valuable.
I was constantly searching for that thing. My thing. I tried so many things and moved in and out of different groups, trying to find the place where I would fit in and where others would appreciate me.
If someone saw a talent or ability in me and invited me to do something with it, I felt I had to say yes because this person was telling me I had value. However, their perception of the value I offered didn’t always align with my greatest talents and genuine interests.
I would rationalize why doing what others told me to didn’t work: it’s an issue with me, I’m not smart enough, I need to learn more, I’m not capable, the place is a wrong place, it’s the wrong time. Ultimately, my attempts to solve these internal conflicts would just be a way to distract myself from my true feelings, which might be that I didn’t have a desire to do the thing I was doing. If I listened to myself, I might learn that while I was fully capable of doing the thing that made me valuable to others, it made me totally miserable. So it was safer to ignore myself.
You might ignore yourself by…
- Saying you don’t care when you actually do
- Ignoring your intuition because you don’t want to deal with the outcome
- Denying your own basic needs when it is accessible to meet them
- Avoiding making decisions because you’d rather have someone else choose for you
- Hiding from connection because you fear rejection
- Avoiding action because you are afraid to have power
- Staying small in your choices when you want to be bigger, bolder and more authentic
Why We Don’t Listen to Ourselves
On the surface, listening to yourself seems like something that we should all be able to do easily. Yet so many of us struggle to listen to ourselves. There are a few key reasons for this.
From the standpoint of human evolution and survival, we can see how it is valuable to make choices that will result in belonging, connection and safety rather than rejection. Belonging keeps us safe, whereas rejection takes resources away from us. If we believe that our own true values or desires will lead us away from what we perceive to be the safest option, then we will bypass our genuine desire in order to do what is safe. We may ignore ourselves in order to protect ourselves.
When we are children, we seek protection, safety and belonging from our caregivers. Through them, we learn some behaviors make us “good” and that we will receive approval or belonging for doing this good behavior. We also learn that some behaviors make us “bad” and that will receive disapproval or even rejection for this bad behavior.
A simple way this occurs might be that you say you don’t want to do something, but when you make your case, you are told no. When you ask why, you might be told that it’s because “parents know best.” If our parents know “best,” then their knowing supersedes our own—they know what’s good for us more than we do. We also might learn to listen to the needs of our parents or caregivers above our own in order to maintain peace or follow the rules.
Psychologist Alice Miller outlines some of the toxic intergenerational doctrines that are passed down about parents knowing better than children in her book For Your Own Good.
The toxic doctrines of the "Poisonous Pedagogy" include…
- Parents deserve respect simply because they are parents
- Children are undeserving of respect simply because they are children.
- Obedience makes a child strong.
- The body is something dirty and disgusting.
- Strong feelings are harmful.
- Parents are always right.
- Parents are creatures free from drive and guilt.
- Duty produces love.
- A high degree of self-esteem is harmful.
- A low degree of self-esteem makes a person altruistic.
- Severity and coldness are good preparation for life.
- A pretence of gratitude is better than honest ingratitude.
- The way you behave is more important than the way you really feel.
- Neither parents nor God would survive being offended.
As you view the world through this lens, you prioritize and believe other people are more valuable and important than you are. You respond to the commands and cues of people around you rather than listening to your own internal cues. In order to avoid rejection, you become very defensive about your potential vulnerabilities or perceived weaknesses.
These conditioned beliefs take you further away from knowing and listening to yourself, and deeper into believing what you think doesn’t matter.
You might have learned that the short-term benefits of ignoring yourself outweigh the long-term pain of ignoring yourself. At certain points in your life, this might be true. However, as we mature, we often experience something that forces us to listen to ourselves and prioritize our genuine soul's desires over short-term acceptance. It often starts with a feeling that something in our life is just off or totally unaligned.
Perhaps you are at a place where you feel able to make choices for yourself for the first time—and you start to become very aware that you need to change something. Often, rather than saying, I have a sense that something is off and I want to get curious about what it is and how I can change it, people will shut down their inner voice and ignore it even more. You might become afraid that if you listen to this voice, you will find disappointment or overwhelm. You might not trust yourself to do anything about what you find, that you don’t know how to change it or that you don’t know what you actually want.
There might be a tremendous amount of internal conflict at this stage, because on one hand you might know what needs to change or have some kind of sense, but on the other hand, you might not want to take responsibility to make the change. You might be afraid of letting other people down. The short-term belonging and acceptance can feel more important and valuable than your long-term desires, especially if this is what you have prioritized throughout your life.
What Happens When We Don’t Listen to Ourselves?
When you don’t listen to yourself, you continue to feel out of alignment. You might feel like you don’t have ownership or control in your life because you rely on others to make choices for us or validate our decisions.
As you try to move out of this cycle and develop self-trust and inner knowing, you might have a hard time differentiating between what you want and what others want. It can feel almost embarrassing when you realize you are a full-grown adult who doesn’t know what you want, what brings you pleasure, what makes you feel cared for—but the truth is, so many people feel this way.
You also might have issues telling the difference between your intuition and your anxious thoughts. You might get carried away wondering… What will my family think if I do this? What will my partner think? Will I still be able to have a job? Will I still be able to find love?
Essentially, will I still belong if I do the thing that I desire most?
These thoughts make it a lot harder to trust your intuition because your thoughts might tell you that listening to yourself is going to put you in a very uncomfortable situation—for example being rejected—even if you are already in an uncomfortable situation because you’re not listening to yourself and rejecting yourself.
When you listen to yourself more than others, you do have to get comfortable with the reality that respecting yourself and listening to yourself might sometimes mean losing the respect of others. It might be that other people don’t understand you and they might not be excited for you. When you decide you aren’t seeking their approval, the way they respond will no longer hold this weight over you.
As you develop your intuition, one of the biggest hurdles you come across is not being able to listen to yourself. It is actually impossible to honor your intuition while you are ignoring yourself. Listening to your intuition requires you to differentiate between what is you and what is not you, so you have to know who you are and what your own voice sounds like.
How to Listen to Yourself
Other people’s thoughts, feelings, and expectations—your perception or the reality of the—are going to make you feel very uncomfortable as you begin trusting yourself and your own intuition. I have seen many people walk away from making changes they need to because it feels too vulnerable and raw to be witnessed as you change from one person to another.
Your intuition might lead you in a different direction from the people in your life, to a totally different place, a different life, with different people. It might lead you away from belonging at first, and that can be very scary. It can be very scary to feel like there’s no one to turn to and ask, “Am I right about this?”
Maybe you have people, but you don’t know yet who they are. At first it’s you and your intuition, and you validating what you sense and getting quiet enough to listen to yourself.
When you listen, the invitation might be to make a giant mess. You might start listening to yourself and realize that you need a new foundation in your life. That might make you really uncomfortable. At first, you just need to acknowledge the mess. The mess of the emotions, the internal conflict, the lack of clarity. You don’t have to figure out the mess or fix the mess.You don't have to rationalize what you know or how you know it. You only need to the courage to start hearing yourself.
You might doubt your courage and tell yourself, “Soul work, intuition — that’s for other people, not me.” You might start walking down the path of listening to yourself and discover you have a longing or calling, but it feels too uncomfortable to face it because facing it would mean radically changing or overhauling your life in such a way that would make you too exposed. Or you begin, and some person’s brief comment or judgement spooks you. So you take your toe out of the water.
That judgement will activate something in you that says, “I should be somewhere else. I shouldn’t be doing this. I should stay where it is safe.” And because you are just at the beginning of listening to yourself, you might believe that this voice is your intuition and your wisdom when it’s just someone else’s voice and their own stuff.
Even though we are always changing and always in transition, we culturally don’t really know how to be in liminal and transitional space. It’s human nature to want to get out of transitions and into what we know because it is more comfortable. As you learn to listen to yourself and trust your intuition, you will face major transitions as you shed old ways of thinking and knowing. Sometimes, even if you’ve decided that you are willing to be uncomfortable, other people’s discomfort about you changing your life will be even harder to overcome (especially if you are highly sensitive).
You might think that you need to change direction because of their discomfort, when you are actually learning how to be with your own discomfort in the midst of big changes and the vulnerability this brings up. This isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass or for the change to become less difficult. This is about going out into the storm and dancing in the rain. If you’re just waiting for the next season then you’re missing out on what’s happening right in front of you—which is your life and what your life is inviting you to move with and experience.
Astrology and Tarot as Tools for Self Listening
Since it is hard to listen to ourselves after many years of ignoring our inner voice, you might seek out tools to support you in knowing who you are, what you think and what your intuition tells you. We often think intuitive tools like astrology and tarot are for predicting the future, but that are also powerful tools for listening to yourself and developing your inner voice.
When you first care for houseplants, you might need a watering schedule because you don’t know when to water plants. Eventually, you learn to look for the signs that your plant needs to be watered and you let go of the schedule. You create an intuitive process.
Before you have a fully developed intuitive process, you might like to have a schedule to check in with yourself. Which parts of you need to be listened to? Which parts of you are asking for attention? When you develop your intuition using astrology, you learn how to tend to and listen to yourself through all seasons of life.
The biggest thing that helped me develop my intuition and fully commit to a Soul-led life was learning the language of astrology. This gave me an amazing framework for aligning with my natural energy cycles, getting super crystal clear on my Soul purpose, and surrendering my desire for control to the wisdom of the Cosmos.
Do you want to develop your intuition and align with your Soul led life using the language of astrology? Join Cosmic Cycles.
Use astrology to break cycles and align with your calling.
In the Cycle Breaking Astrology Masterclass I will show you
how to identify inherited family patterns in your natal chart to determine the patterns you are here to integrate.
- How to identify inherited family patterns in your natal chart
- Determine the patterns you are here to integrate
- Find the gifts you are here to bring forward
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