Tell me – what do you think is more important? Is it knowing deep inside that you’re making the right choice, doing the right thing, wearing the right clothes? Or is it looking outside for confirmation that you’re doing it all right?
Now, plenty of people will tell you that the only thing that matters is how you feel inside, and to hell with everyone else. [Sometimes they say this with a bit of a jutting jaw and stomping foot, have you noticed?]
But the majority of us live in the real world and operate within a social compact where it does, indeed, matter how we relate to one another. So, the answer to what’s more important might rightly be: Both.
Humans beings seek belonging, don’t we? And sometimes our happiest path is the one where we make our choice based on our own internal guidance system, and then toggle out to get feedback from trusted folks about the wisdom of our choice.
For instance, I might really be very comfortable wearing a bikini while playing a trombone in Grand Central Station in January but by doing so I’d likely create some discord. Mostly because I am lousy at the trombone.
My friend Crystal would tell me that wearing the bikini was OK, but maybe I should consider a coat given January’s weather, and perhaps I should hum a little rather than attempt the trombone given my complete lack of skill with that instrument. And I’d be very grateful for that input.
So would everyone in the train station.
However, even the most grounded among us can get out of balance from time to time and spend more energy attempting to please others with our choices, rather than making a choice on our own first – and that can lead to trouble.
Sometimes it’s because we lack confidence in our ability to make choices. This lack of confidence often stems from the environment in our childhood homes and schools. If you had authoritarian teachers or parents (or siblings) who always had to be right – thereby making you always wrong – then it’s likely you never really learned how to have the kind of self-knowing that makes deciding easier.
[A note to parents: regardless of your child's age, remember that one of your most important jobs is teaching your kids to have confidence in their choices. Not confidence in your choices on their behalf, but of their choices on their own behalf. Refrain from fixing problems, or solving stuff for your kid - as hard as that might be. Allow them to fail early, and fail well, so they will learn how to right their own ship, and have the kind of self-confidence that some of us have to re-learn later in life.]
The good news is that any of us who didn’t learn it early, can learn it now. And you can start today. First, write down every time you’ve had an gut hunch about something in your life. Did you just know that you’d marry your spouse? Did you just know not to take that job? All of those instances – write ‘em down. Then note whether you listened to your hunch or not, and the consequences.
When you look it over, I’ll bet you’ll find that your gut is almost always right. And I’ll also bet that when you override your gut, you find yourself making a choice that doesn’t work out so well.
Once you know that your gut is always on your side, you’ll learn to rely on it more and more. And you’ll have more and more success. And you’ll feel more and more confident about your choices.
Voila! A happier, stronger you.
Because, truly, no one knows you the way you know yourself. You are the best expert on you, and when you come from that place of knowing – shoot, your decisions get really easy.
And if you feel murky, reach out to your own Crystal for advice on whatever feels like your own Grand Central Station thing. Because feedback from a clear-headed friend who has your back can prevent a number of foolhardy disasters.
Yes, go inside to make choices. And if you feel the need to double-check, go outside.
Ain’t no shame in that.