Do you have a habit of asking everyone else what they think before making a decision? Or relying on one person in particular to determine your next steps?
Do you let others dictate your schedule?
Do you even know your own needs?
So many of us don’t. And so many of us don’t listen to ourselves, letting others’ opinions cloud our own judgment. We assume they know better than we do, even if that information lives inside our hearts. We let others’ needs override our own.
It’s tough to start listening to yourself after years of not doing it. Because after years of not listening, we forget that it’s actually important. We forget that we’re important. And we don’t carve out the time. And we forget what our voice sounds like.
This is easy to do, particularly in a culture where you’re not even trusted to decide what goes in your mouth. How can we make significant decisions for ourselves when we can’t even choose what to eat?
So how can you listen to yourself when you haven’t for a long time?
These are some ideas and examples to consider and try:
- Every time you reach for your phone, instead ask yourself: What am I feeling? What thought is running through my mind? What do I need right now? Am I trying to escape a certain emotion?
- Before consulting anyone else about a decision (big or small), ask yourself what you want to do. Journal about it. Make a list of pros and cons. Write about the various scenarios that might result depending on what you do. And make your decision. Then, if you’d like, see what someone you trust thinks.
- Listen to guided meditations, or learn to meditate for a minute or two a few times a day. This is how we sharpen our (self) listening skills.
- Carry a small notebook everywhere you go. Jot down your random thoughts and musings. Jot down what inspires and uplifts you. Jot down where your attention goes at different points in the day. Jot down what puts a smile on your face. Jot down what makes you feel resentment. Jot down when you feel at peace, and when you don’t.
- Start the week by thinking through what activities you need to support your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. Then write them in your planner. In pen. Treat these activities as meetings with your boss (i.e., non-negotiable and essential).
- Keep a journal by your bedside. As your alarm goes off, as you open your eyes, instead of reaching for your phone (or some other distraction), reach for your notebook. Jot down the first thoughts that pop up in the morning light. Sometimes, these might be fragments of the night’s dreams. Sometimes, it might be worries about not being able to complete your to-do list. And sometimes, it might be thoughts that give you a surprising insight. Because that early in the morning, you’ve yet to put on your shield.
Maybe it’s been years since you’ve really listened to yourself. Maybe your reasons for not listening to yourself are complex and multi-layered. And so listening to your needs and opinions and feelings feels unfamiliar and uncomfortable and impossible.
It may be complicated, very much so, and you can take the steps to act. Because you don’t have to wait to dig through the layers to begin. You can pick a practice and let it become a habit.
And you can do that just by deciding to.