How To Tune Out All The Parenting Advice And Trust Your Intuition
I hate it when I dismiss a gut feeling only to discover later that I should have paid more attention to it.
The sheer number of books, blogs, and articles that offer conflicting advice for parents — from breastfeeding to discipline to helping children prepare for college — is enough to make a person crazy (and often does).
As someone who devours parenting and self-help books at a ridiculous rate, I understand how time-consuming, confusing, and frustrating all of that contradictory advice can be.
When I was struggling with breastfeeding, for example, I kept reading and reading to find the “perfect” solution to my problem; that one pearl of wisdom buried beneath stacks of books and online articles that would ultimately convince me to stick with breastfeeding. Or not.
I spent all that time searching and suffering, rather than trusting my intuition, which was telling me to STOP. Instead, I could've been using that time to bond with my baby.
Several of my clients have also told me that they feel paralyzed with fear because they're scared of making a decision that will somehow land their kid on a therapist's couch for life. So they consume more and more information and delay taking action.
This is not to say that we should make decisions based solely on our gut feelings and forget about logic and facts. Being informed and learning about proven, effective parenting strategies can certainly be helpful. I think the key is balancing what we know intellectually with how it makes us feel.
The difficulties I've had trusting my intuition began when I was a child. (Settle in with a cup of tea, friends.)
I often knew when something seemed “off” in my family (like when my father repeatedly told me he loved me no matter what in the weeks leading up to my parents' divorce), but when I confronted my parents with questions, their explanations usually seemed to make sense. I needed to be able to trust them, so I doubted myself instead.
My father also had very strong opinions and beliefs about what he considered to be right and wrong. I sought his approval and often mistrusted myself when my ideas or opinions differed from his.
By college, my self-doubt had grown so strong that I had trouble making even the smallest decisions. I often asked others what they thought I should do in different situations because I wanted their approval, and feared making the “wrong” choices.
When Marissa was born, I was filled with insecurity. Mother's instinct? What was that? I had to re-discover the power of intuition and learn how to trust myself.
A few years ago, I picked up a book in my “to read” pile from the library. It was called, Big Fat Lies Women Tell Themselves by Amy Ahlers. After reading it, I wanted to learn more about Amy and her coaching business. (By the way, I'm not an affiliate and I don't know her personally…just telling you about my experience). I discovered that Amy helps women silence their inner critics (she calls them Inner Mean Girls) and get in touch with their Inner Wisdom.
As a therapist, I knew all about negative self-talk and positive affirmations. I even used affirmations in my daily life! But something about Amy's work appealed to me in a new way and I started following her advice.
The first step in developing my intuition was to become more aware of my Inner Mean Girl (IMG) when I was thinking, What should I do?
Like I said, I had trouble making even minor decisions. What should I order off the menu? What should I wear today? Should I go to the bank or the supermarket first? Then there were bigger decisions like, Should we move to a different neighborhood? Should I start my own business? Should I wait and become a Certified Parent Coach or is my Social Work license enough?
My IMG would say things like, You'll make the wrong choice. Other people will judge your decision. You need more information.
After I let my IMG rant, I would get quiet and ask the question Amy prompted me to ask myself: What does my Inner Wisdom know?
It may sound hokey and too good to be true, but almost instantly, my Inner Wisdom's voice would “speak” to me and tell me what I needed to know.
Your body is craving pizza. You feel good in the black shirt and jeans. The bank. Yes. Go for it. Don't wait. You are enough.
The practice of becoming still, tuning out all the mental noise inside my brain, and asking that one question: What does my Inner Wisdom know? has helped me so many times when I would have otherwise gotten really overwhelmed.
I always say that at the end of the day, YOU are your family’s best parenting expert. You know yourself and your child best, so do what feels right for you. The last thing you want to say to yourself is, “I should've listened to my gut.”
Although it takes some vulnerability and courage, sharing your thoughts and experiences in the comments below can help you find your own inner wisdom and may provide an Aha! Moment for someone else. Please take a minute to share about a time you trusted your intuition to make a parenting decision. How did it turn out? And, if you're currently stuck in an information-gathering rut, close your eyes, breathe, quiet your mind, and ask yourself: What does my Inner Wisdom know?
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