A few days ago I received my final classification for my Broadcast Journalism degree. After a lot of very hard work and discipline, I thankfully graduated with a 2:1. Not the highest grade, but much better than the 2:2 or 3rd I would have received if I hadn’t have pulled myself together at several stages during the last two years.
After finishing my degree, I had a very specific memory of sitting in Huddersfield train station in 2018. I sat watching young people in gowns and graduation hats as they awaited the train to York university. At the time, I’d just dropped out of my first year of university and I’d completely written off the idea of ever returning. I’d been aggressively applying for apprenticeships, traineeships and full time employment, and sat in the train station on my way to a job interview that day.
Something in me clicked, and as I looked at the graduates, I had a deep down knowing that I was going to be in their position one day. Despite feigning passion and enthusiasm for the underpaid jobs I’d applied for, I knew deep down that I wanted to give university another shot. Fast forward three years, (technically four years, as I won’t officially have a graduation ceremony until April 2022 – thank you covid!) and I’ve achieved it.
There’s a lot of self help rhetoric surrounding trusting your gut feeling, which can be particularly hard if you’ve got anxiety, or you’ve eaten a dodgy meal. However, a little bit of practice and self reflection is all it really takes to trust your gut feeling. Intuition has guided me in and out of situations that logic could never have succeeded in.
This isn’t a quick stop guide to how to listen to your intuition or make the right choice in every scenario. I don’t really think there’s ever a subjective right or wrong choice, there’s always a battle of morals, logic, experience and influence.
Simply put, the way I’d describe following my intuition is paying attention to when my heart feels warm. If you’re a particularly self conscious person, start to notice the people who your walls naturally come down with. Start to notice who you keep your walls up with.
If you’re up all night thinking about something, there’s probably a reason for it. Sometimes we feel trapped because there’s so many logistical and practical issues standing in the way of something that we know will make us feel lighter and happier. I’ve lost thousands of pounds, made huge risks and broken apart a perfectly structured future in order to trust my gut feelings before; and it’s worked out well in the end.
We can often feel trapped in circumstances because we feel as though we want change, but there are too many external factors holding us there. Examples are relationships where it would be financially, emotionally and practically difficult to leave, but you’re no longer in love with the other person. Friendships that feel like they drain the life out of you, but you have years of history and memories with the person and you can’t completely cut them off. Maybe you’re stuck in a job that you despise, but you need the salary to afford your bills and rent.
Often times, taking the plunge and the risk doesn’t work out well. I remember when I first left university, I instantly owed student finance over £4,000 and I had absolutely no idea what to do with myself. I wasn’t in a situation where I could rely on my family to pay my debt off, and I struggled for a long time. When I eventually returned to university, I spent the first year heavily in my overdraft and unable to take part in most social things without intense guilt. But that experience taught me a big lesson and I’m very grateful to have worked myself back up to a good financial position and in the end, the risk was worth the sacrifice.
There has been countless more situations where I’ve felt trapped or stuck, knowing that I need to take the plunge and make the change – leaving the comfortable structure of the things holding me back. A very recent one is making the decision to end a relationship and spend a good amount of time alone. It was initial very scary and isolating. But I look back on the last six months and the amount of growth I’ve made as a person is far superior to the stagnant feeling I would have had if I’d have stuck in the relationship.
Part of the process also comes with getting more comfortable being alone. I am a natural extrovert; I feel more energised and full of life when I am engaging with other people. However, I also respect the fact that I have a very limited social battery, and it’s important for me to have a few days a week and a lot of evenings to myself. I’ve gone into more depth on this topic in my blog post about setting boundaries. But essentially, the time I spend alone is often when I can become more in tune with myself and understand what it really is that I truly want from my life.
I used to spend a lot of time going to multiple friends or online forums for advice or ideas on how to make difficult decisions. Something I’ve always found tricky is making decisions. But over the last few months, I’ve gotten a lot better at trusting my own choices and perspectives on situations. I still value input from close friends, but I’m less inclined to listen to the advice from those who’s lifestyles I wouldn’t want to lead myself. When you take advice from someone, you need to take into account whether they are from a perspective you feel aligned with.
A lot of indecision is exasperated by the fact that we have a constant stream of other people’s lifestyles and choices slammed into our eyeballs on every single social media platform. There’s so many ways to live life, and the very nature of social media means that most people try to portray their lifestyle as the better one. A classic example is the battle of the 9-5’er versus the self employed. The young mother vs the gap year traveller. The fitness fanatics versus the thrice weekly ravers. There’s always exposure to how you could be living your life, even if you’re pretty happy where you are now.
With all this waffle said and done, one of the greatest factors in trusting my intuition has been my involvement with therapy. I’m very fortunate to have found a therapist in February who has really supported me in the trust and belief I have in my own mindset and actions. Therapy has a different purpose for different people, but for me it has been brilliant in helping me to develop trust in my own choices and have faith in my decisions.
This isn’t to say that every choice I make is going to be brilliant. This isn’t to say that I now know that exact answer to everything I want to do. But I have a lot less critical judgement of myself, and I am able to listen to that gut instinct a lot more carefully and develop an understanding of what is best for me.