Trust myself

I’m on a weekend away with my husband’s extended family. I suppose being married to him, they’re also my extended family, which is lovely to think about as I adore them.

But in the lead-up to coming away, I was feeling the same anxiety I always have in the lead-up to going away. The kind where I feel like eating the entire contents of my cupboard to squash the intensity of the feelings inside.

And yesterday, I asked myself why this was – what was the reason behind how I was feeling?

And I realised that in the past a weekend away would have been a weekend of squashing myself.

Bending in each and every way to make sure I chatted to everyone, tried to make everyone feel included, people pleased at each and every turn.

Even if this wasn’t anyone’s expectations of me, this is what I did. I didn’t know how to be any different.

It included me going along with the crowd consensus even if the activity suggested wasn’t what I wanted to do.

And I’d have ended what should have been a beautiful weekend feeling depleted and sucked-dry of the little energy I had started the weekend with.

Or perhaps the weekend would have surprised me and I’d come away feeling recharged and energised from the conversations I’d had.

Either way, I’d always feel anxious in the lead-up to time with other people.

But yesterday, I reassured myself that this wouldn’t be the case.

I know myself better than I ever have done before.

I love myself and am able to look out for what I need in any given situation.

I advocate for what it is that I need.

But this is still new – loving myself and allowing myself what it is that I need in any situation – and so I am aware that I’m still building up trust in myself.

Trust that I will listen to myself.

Trust that I will be aware in the moment when I want to make conversation to fill the silence in between. And instead of peddling, hustling, finding things to say and questions to ask, I’ll allow myself to hold the silence.

Trust that I will do whatever it is in that moment that I want to do.

And that’s exactly how I find myself this morning.

Having listened to myself, I’m now alone in the house having some peace and quiet – time for reflection and quiet and stillness – while other people are out and about exploring the area, visiting crazy model villages and walking in the countryside.

I listened to what I needed and said ‘no thank you, I’m going to stay inside and have some time to myself‘ when people were making plans for the morning.

And so while I still felt the anxiety in the lead-up to this weekend, I know that it’s ok.

Because I recognise that trust takes time to build up, even trust in myself.

And I know that I will get there.

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Intuition

I’ve not been great at trusting my intuition, instead I’ve always tended to trust people in positions of authority. I think our education system, culture and my personality has meant that I tend to trust others and this has often manifested as trusting others more than I trust myself.

This is a tricky one to untangle but I think the crux of me trusting others more than my own intuition is this:

  1. I make assumptions about small things in life – where a restaurant is, what time a party starts, how long it will take me to get somewhere – but for the big things in life where others are depending on me being right (things at work, finances, facts), I will make sure I’m 100% certain that I’m right before offering my thoughts. So when someone else puts their opinion forward with conviction, I assume that their view is right (I mean surely they wouldn’t put their views forward if they weren’t 100% certain they were right?!). But I’ve become aware that this might not always be the case – they may not be right.
  2. I also used to think in absolutes – that there was a ‘right’ answer to everything. But my thinking has changed and I know that there are multiple answers to everything and I believe that one person’s right might be another person’s wrong.
  3. I’ve never liked confrontation very much or disagreeing with other people. As a coping mechanism – to not have to disagree with anyone – I’ve tended to let go of my opinions in favour of other people’s views. But I know that this isn’t how I want to live.

And so I know that I need to start listening to my own intuition more. And now is exactly the right time as a mother navigating the many and varied polarised views about parenting. There’s so much that I need to form an opinion on at the moment – feeding, whether to use a dummy or not, sleeping, how much stimulation he needs, the types of nappies we use, weaning, nurseries… So many decisions that need to be made and so many people weighing in with their opinions about what is best.

In order to trust my intuition about these things, I know that I need to address some of what I’ve explored above – getting better at confrontation, reminding myself that there are very few absolutes in life and practice living by the very eloquent words of the hiphop artist Chipmunk (is he still around?!) in the song Champion:

“opinions aren’t facts take them in and let them go”

And I also know that I need to trust my intuition about how to start trusting my intuition – I hope that makes sense! There are so many books, blogs, videos and people who have their own opinions about so many things. They can drown out my own instincts about what is best for me and my family. So I’m going to have a hiatus from reading, watching, following all these things in order to get some quiet and space to understand what is right for me.

One of my coaching clients made a really great point when we last spoke – how it’s better to start making small incremental changes instead of going for 100% perfection. And so I’m also going to take her very wise advice and work on trusting my instincts with trying to get my son, Jenson, to fall asleep by himself in the daytime.

And that’s what I did yesterday.

I put Jenson down in his bed when his eyes were red-rimmed and he was milk-drunk tired. He is used to sleeping on me and let me know he didn’t like this new arrangement by crying. I set my timer to 5 minutes – a time I was comfortable leaving him to grizzle (as long as it wasn’t the distressed cry that I recognise and would always respond to). But before the timer was up he stopped crying for a few moments and sat peacefully by himself before starting to grizzle again. And on this went for about 15 minutes until he went to sleep and had a 30 minute nap.

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I’d felt nervous about trying this but it showed me that I could set my own parameters – only leaving him when he was grizzling – and that my intuition that he was able to sleep alone was right.

And oh the things I did in those 30 minutes (I wonder how I spent my time before he came along!) – made and ate lunch, hung out the washing, wrote most of this, responded to some e-mails, sat in quiet for a moment. It was totally worth trusting my intuition for me to find some alone time in the day and for Jenson to learn to soothe himself – a skill I think is really important for him.

I know that this approach is not for everyone – some of my mum friends aren’t even considering leaving their little one to self-settle if it involves them crying until they are much older. But that’s what intuition is about, right? Knowing that we are individuals who will have different views, opinions, needs. And trusting ourselves that we will make the right judgement call…and that it’s ok if once in a while we get the call wrong.

It’s all about learning.

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