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  • Writer's pictureSam

5 things that hold us back from our inner wisdom

What’s getting in the way of knowing what’s right for you?

Photo Credit: Rod Long on Unsplash


I got that job offer email and I was ecstatic! I couldn’t believe that I would finally have a job that paid me a decent amount of money.

I’d been getting by for the past few years after university ok, I wasn’t in poverty but I was living paycheck to paycheck without much hope of saving for anything substantial. Then, along came a job at a brand new state-of-the-art neuroscience facility! I’d already been doing the lab tech job on a temporary basis that they were advertising for a few years so I knew that I had everything I needed to score that job. And I did!

Not only was I going to be paid well but I was going to have access to all of University College London’s (UCL) facilities such as their clubs/societies, a state-of-the-art gym, I had access to private mental healthcare, an annual railcard, loads of discounts around London for working for UCL… And yet, it felt like I was just layering more icing onto an already rotting cupcake.

What I was ignoring though was the fact that, for the past few years, I hadn’t been enjoying my job at all, I’d been considering going back to university to retrain in different fields and thinking about what other careers I’d rather be doing. However, when this permanent job came up with nearly double the pay attached to it, all that went out the window and I dove right in, ignoring any red flags that my Inner Wisdom tried to point out to me.

The job that paid me the most out of everything I’ve done so far made me miserable, and that’s entirely because I didn’t listen to my Inner Wisdom.

I stayed in that job for 2 years before I finally quit, I don’t regret it even though looking back I knew that it wasn’t the right choice for me. Well, I did regret it at the time when I realized, but now a few years later the power of hindsight means that I can see how much I learned from that experience, the main thing I learned I want to share with you guys now.

What is Inner Wisdom?

Inner Wisdom, your gut feeling, consulting your higher self, listening to what God is telling you, there are so many ways people talk about this feeling which all mean the same thing, paying attention to how you really feel deep down. I generally opt for Inner Wisdom as I feel like that’s the most inclusive and accessible of the various ways of describing the feeling.

The ability to listen to your Inner Wisdom is one of the most useful skills that you can master. If you’re able to stop and listen to those nervous feelings when you’re making a decision, it can mean the difference between long term happiness and long term misery, and possibly even your mortality! Other animals have this ability, what do you think it is that causes them to flee when a natural disaster is on the way?

Listening to our Inner Wisdom is something that we are all born with. Think about how little kids just decide that they do or don’t like something, they don’t have much experience of life to draw on yet, they’re just going with their gut.

But as we grow we want to fit in. It’s biologically programmed into us to want to fit in with the social group, social ostracism would have been a death sentence for you 10,000 years ago, and that sort of stuff sticks with a species for a long long time.

To fit in, you often want to show that you’re chill and easy-going with whatever the group wants, so you start to ignore our Inner Wisdom, and that is enforced from all kinds of places in your life:

  • Unconscious pressure from your parents to be a certain way

  • The pressures of wider society and the media

  • How you want to be perceived and your self-image

  • Your peer group

So many things reinforce you ignoring your Inner Wisdom that it becomes tough for you to know how to listen to it.

But don’t worry, it isn’t as hard as it might seem to get back in touch with that Inner Wisdom of yours and start hearing it loud and clear again. Let’s take a look now at the main things that hold us back from that Inner Wisdom as it’s essential to know where we make a mistake, so we can fix them.


 


1. When You Desperately Desire a Particular Outcome

This was the main one for me when I took that job at UCL, the outcome that I desperately wanted was more money and job benefits. So much so that it completely overrode the part of me that was saying “What the hell are you doing? You hate working in this industry!”

This is probably the most common one in general, it happens a lot in relationships as well:

You decide to enter a relationship (or stay in a relationship) with someone because you want that happy fairytale ending more than you want THAT person. You want to keep your family together and desperately want to believe that it’ll all be ok in the long run. Or maybe they’re just very good-looking so you tell yourself that that makes up for all the problems.

Desperately wanting something can really cause you to shut down your Inner Wisdom, sometimes even angrily, because we don’t want to be told that that thing that we’re trying to get won’t be achieved that way. I think if someone had tried to tell me that taking that job wasn’t right for me I would have probably reacted pretty defensively to that.


2. Settling for what is “normal”

This one was also a contributor to the job I should never have taken. Staying in the laboratory technician industry was the easy thing to do, and Oh My God! Wouldn’t it have made life so much easier if the only problem was that I just working in the wrong building, not the wrong industry! All I needed was to switch to another company and everything would be fine.

Upon leaving university, I went straight into working in the Laboratory Technician industry. I worked in the industry for 5 years, and even with just that sort time in one industry, the thought of leaving it filled me with anxiety about starting again in a new career. I’d have to start over, yet again! What if I spend my whole life never knowing what I want to do? And just switch from career to career living in entry-level positions?

Thankfully, I did manage to listen to what my Inner Wisdom had to say, which was a resounding “Is skipping between careers really a worse life than staying in an industry that makes you miserable?” and when put that way it was much easier to make that decision.


3. Overthinking & Underthinking

Overthinking your way into, or staying in a not so great situation is oh so common! My example a couple of paragraphs up where I talk about all the ways I was worried about what my life would be like if I left my job is a classic overthinking job! I was so concerned with the worst-case scenario that I wasn’t looking at the pretty bad scenario I was in.

Sometimes you get preoccupied with the best-case scenario. Maybe that might happen when you’re trying to believe that everything will be great if you just get through this toxic bit of your relationship. It'll all be rosy as soon as they do all those things they’ve been saying they’ll do for months!

Being preoccupied with the best-case scenario is a problem, but let's be honest, most of the time you’re preoccupied with the worst-case scenario:


  • "If I get a divorce my life will be turned upside down! What will happen with the kids? The house?"

  • “What if I leave my job and there’s nothing? Nowhere to go. What if I can’t get a job? What if the job I get is worse than this one?"

  • "What if I get into this relationship and I end up stuck with someone I end up hating?”

  • “I might start going to the gym and immediately have a heart attack and die!”

You get the idea, and I’m sure you recognize some of them. Well, what about underthinking? What’s that? I hear you ask. Underthinking is when you fall back on your own biases. You don’t let your thinking move past biases you have from your past or the things you’ve been taught, things like:


  • “Why bother dating? Everyone out there is either taken or a creep!"

  • “There’s no point in leaving my job, there’s no such thing as a job you enjoy really."

  • “I’m not going to bother getting healthier, I can’t stick to anything anyway.”

Shutting down what we want to do because of beliefs we hold that are limiting us is not uncommon. I bet you have a few. I can tell you that I didn’t want to leave that UCL job for a while because I “knew” that I’d never find something that paid me like that job did, which funnily enough wasn’t true at all.


4. Society/ Peer Pressure


Society has taught me that I should stick with a job, work hard, and slowly make my way up the corporate ladder. This shows that I have many of the qualities that are useful to society; hard-working, sticking with something, loyalty to a company, etc.

This definitely contributed to me taking that job that I wasn’t right for and staying in it longer than I should have done, because of course it did! You’re taught to think that this outdated model of success is the thing to strive for, so when it’s being offered to you it’s very hard not to immediately take it.

Sometimes societal pressures are a good thing, handling conflict maturely and not murdering people for example is a societal pressure that I’m happy to keep around. But think about how many bad ones there are:


  • The pressure to get a job, stick with it, and work your way up

  • Getting married and starting a family before it’s “too late”

  • Not following your passions because they’re not worth it

  • Conforming to various stereotypes

Wanting to please society, or maybe just please our parents who adhere to society’s “rules”, is very hard to break away from, and I doubt there’s a person alive that hasn’t struggled with it. Outside pressures are often a big factor in listening to our Inner Wisdom, and in fact probably where the loss of that skill originates.


5. Past Trauma


Mild trigger warning here.

If you have trauma in your past then I’m so sorry you’ve had to live through that. I understand how it can feel when you’re hypersensitive to certain things simply for your own protection.

Thankfully this is not what impacted my decision making when taking the job I’ve been using as an example this whole time, but there’s a different story for my friendships.

I was very unlucky in school in that I met a damaged person who became my friend. I didn’t understand at the time that friendships can be abusive too. She got angry at me often, claiming that I was a terrible person for the most benign things. I, having been raised in a loving, caring family who had given me a great emotional education, didn’t understand that I wasn’t doing anything wrong and the fault was with her.

I spent most of my time at school feeling guilty for making my friend feel so bad, not understanding what boundaries were, let alone that I needed to stand up for mine.

Thankfully, I did eventually realise that she was a toxic person and I needed her out of my life, I’m proud of myself for that. But, for a long time after that, I struggled with trusting friendships.

You know when you have this trauma response trigger, it’s when you start to do something you think you might enjoy, making a new friend in my example, but then there’s that part of you that springs up and says “No no no! Remember the hurt of that one time? She said ‘hello,’ just like that toxic friend of yours did! Don’t you think that’s a sign that she’s the same!?”

This response can come from abuse, it can come from disappointment, it’s just there to help protect you. The big damage dealer is that past trauma can shatter the trust you have in yourself, let alone others, and that’s often the most difficult part to work through.


In order to listen to your gut instincts, you need to start building trust in yourself again.

Rebuilding lost trust in yourself after trauma is a tough but not impossible battle, many have come through it and managed to trust themselves again. I did. I just had to give that little voice space to say it’s bit and then come back at it with caring logic.


 

Takeaway


How many of those do you think you’ve done? I know that I have done every single one of them, hence all my examples! So don’t worry, you are not alone.

As you can see from the example with the job I eventually escaped, the things getting in the way of Inner Wisdom can be one or even all of the things listed here. But, as with so many things, knowledge is power! And now that you know what might be getting in the way of you making a decision, it should be a hell of a lot easier to get to the bottom of what’s standing in your way.

Remember to be patient and understanding with yourself. It’s tough to realize you’re not paying attention to your Inner Wisdom. I didn’t realize for a long time, I didn’t even really think about it until a few years ago, and that in itself was a huge blocker for me! But when I first realized that I wasn’t listening to my Inner Wisdom, I gave myself some time and approached the situation with an open mind. And you can do it too.

Once you start to approach indecisiveness by looking through the lens of what is standing in the way of your Inner Wisdom, you’ll begin to recognize the most common ones on the list that gets in your way. Once you know that, you’ll be well on your way to spotting what’s going on in your head, and getting back in touch with your Inner Wisdom.

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