What do I want?
This was the question that I landed on after a long-winded (and not fully formed) internal dialogue I had with myself about how life is unfair, how living intentionally is one way of trying to even that out, and how to live intentionally you need awareness about yourself, your situation, your needs, your wants. That’s a whole lotta awareness... But the one that stumps me the most is the last one.
After a lifetime of “I have to,” “I should,” “Make the best of this,” and “I need to”, plus a pretty dramatic loss of identity in my late teens, the question of “what do I want” feels wrong to ask, as if it’s bad to want something. Especially when what you want is something other than what’s given to you.
The feeling that it’s wrong to want something else makes it that much harder to listen to my inner voice. Too many other thoughts, voices, internal and external expectations try to override what my own Self is telling me. I think that’s because what my Self is saying goes against survival mentality (i.e. fit it, don’t stand out, don’t go against the grain, etc.). Having the confidence in myself and what I want was key to the positive changes I was able to make in my life.
My inner voice is my guide to knowing what I want and feeling confident about those wants. My inner voice is my guide to know that I want to living intentionally. So what now? I learn to listen for and to my inner voice. I’m learning, and slowly making progress, so I’ve outlined the things that have helped me and given my self-confidence a boost.
Building Self-Confidence by Listening to & Following Your Inner Voice
Your Body Knows Before Your Brain.
Your body is a direct path to your inner voice. I am a strong believer in that the body knows much faster than the brain. Our brains yearn stories, it wants to know why things are the way they are, it’s curious; while our bodies sense, react, and they don’t need to know the full saga to know enough to make a decision.
Here’s a short story to show the difference: A person I know had been picking an office space to rent and had found the perfect office, the perfect location, the perfect price, the perfect start date. And yet, she had a bad gut feeling when she spoke with the landlord. There were so many real and good reasons to sign the lease, but she is aware of her body and she trusts her body. When she got the gut feeling, she said to herself, “I’m going to take that as a No”, declined the lease and found another great office space where she felt comfortable.
You see, no matter how many outward reasons there were to take this office space, her body was telling her that something was off. She didn’t know exactly what but she listened. That’s the beauty: she didn’t need to stay and find out where this feeling was coming from, or to have bad events occur to confirm her gut feeling before she listens to it.
So how do we get to this point?
I like to do body scans meditations (here’s a quick 3 minute one) to train myself to pay attention to how my body is feeling. Start there. As your awareness of your body grows, you’ll start to notice how your body is feeling when you are faced with situations and decisions.
Once you notice it, the next step is to listen to what it is saying. If it’s sending signals saying it’s a “no”, take it as a no. No matter how polite you want to be, no matter how you don’t want to let someone down, no matter how many good reasons there are for saying yes.
2. See a Therapist
Learning to trust and to act on what your body is saying is difficult, especially after years of conditioning to do the opposite. And with so many pressures to fit in, be “nice,” to not rock the boat, and to not be myself if being myself means it will not give someone else what they want (ahem, I’m looking at you toxic relationship), it became beyond my strength to have the courage and confidence to stand up for myself and my inner voice. That’s when seeing a therapist helped me and can help you. A good therapist isn’t there to fight your battles for you; they are there to help you stand on your own two feet. That’s why you don’t need to have a mental health illness or be in a crisis to see one.
A good therapist can help you bring your inner voice forward, help you to listen for it, learn how to trust it and build more self-confidence.
3. Personal Chants.
Part of what I learned about myself in therapy is that I hold a belief that I am not allowed to have a job that is aligned with who I am inside, to have a relationship where I feel met, or to live life in a way that matches who I am. This belief is very effective at shutting down my inner voice and crushing my confidence.
When we talked about this with my therapist, her response resonated through my entire body. She said: You can have that.
Such a simple phrase and yet not one that I’ve heard before; it’s such a different mindset than I’ve known. I cried when she said that. After hearing her repeat the phrase, I found it held healing for me so I made it into my personal chant. Being honest though, I don’t chant on a daily basis. It’s just not a habit yet. But when I need a confidence boost and am filled with doubt about whether I can have the career, the relationship, or the life that matches who I am, I repeat my chant. Try it for yourself. Having a chant or phrase that supports, cherishes, and nurtures your inner voice makes it easier for it to come out and awaken the confidence in ourselves that we didn’t even know was there.
The way I see it, listening to your inner voice and knowing what you want is a skill. If you haven’t been taught to do that, or you have been taught the opposite, it’s okay. It’s something that we can learn how to do and we can do it regardless of our past experiences. It’s never too late to self-connect and gain more confidence in who you are and everything you can do.
Remember, you can have that.
Till next time. Wishing you well, dear reader.
Anna is a blog contributor, meditation leader and teacher, and photographer. You can follow her on Instagram @skillsforwellness and find her blogging away at reset brain + body. reset brain + body is a mental wellness practice where traditional talk therapy is elevated through the integration of meditation, nutrition, yoga and mindfulness. Connect with reset brain + body on Instagram & Facebook, check out the class schedule, or contact us to book an appointment.