A few years ago, I read a really fascinating book called Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a book about the science behind a gut feeling. It goes into depth about how the body and mind are actually wired to have intuition as a fight or flight sense from back when we were cavemen and cavewomen.
For example, you might get a feeling when you go to buy a car that the salesman is lying to you, but you can’t put your finger on how you just KNOW he is lying. There must’ve been something during your exchange that made the wiring in the brain send off an alarm telling you to watch out. Or maybe you’re interviewing a potential babysitter and during the interaction you feel as though there is no way you will hire her. That inner voice in your head is telling you to wrap up and tell her sayonara, but you’re not 100% sure why you’re feeling this way. There is just an uneasy vibe you’re getting.
Only recently did I realize how much this book could have helped me in my life had I read it sooner.
There is this re-occurring scenario that has appeared throughout my life and it is the ability to trust myself – to trust in my own instinct. I’m not talking about trusting friends, strangers, other people in general …trust as in acting on the initial vibe I get in certain situations. My mind is completely blown on this topic. I could think of experience after experience where I trusted what someone else had said to me over my own intuition or knowledge. In other words, I didn’t believe that I could be right in most circumstances.
If someone else was telling me something they were thinking was right, surely I must be wrong. It was rare in my twenties that I ever argued my point on pretty much anything. In my early thirties is when I actually think I started to speak up more and actually debate things with people, friends, and even family. If you’re reading this and you can relate, hopefully some of my experiences below will bring you to your senses-your gut feeling matters! Your opinion matters! I can’t believe this is something I’ve uncovered only in my late thirties. Knock knock self- where on earth have you been?
Here are some significant instances in my life that are prime examples of how ignoring that inner voice can get someone into trouble! I actually trusted what someone else had said to me over what my brain and body were screaming at me.
- The birth of my second son was a doozy. I almost had him in the car, then again on the pavement in the hospital parking lot, then in the elevator on the way up to delivery. I was physically trying NOT to push so we could make it to the room and my body was like HELL NO. This was because I was holding onto the numbers the midwife had given me: 4:1:1. She had told me if my contractions weren’t 4 minutes apart, lasting for a minute and starting again each 60 seconds, then I should not go to the hospital. This was because I really wanted a VBAC and the concern was that if I went to the hospital too early the doctors would come up with a reason to give me a c-section. She also said if I could still walk and talk I should not head to the hospital or call her either. Well… we almost didn’t make it to the hospital room thanks to me not listening to my body. I went from 11:1:1 to 9:1:1 to the uncontrollable urge to push him out pretty much. Forget the contractions being 4 minutes apart! I had a strong feeling that I should have headed to the hospital sooner, but flat out ignored my own sound advice.
- I made a stupid health-related decision that could have caused me paralysis. A few years ago I had a tiny pea-sized bump on my lower spine. My primary doctor told me it was not a problem and not to worry. One day it grew to the size of a golf ball and looked like spider babies were going to hatch out of it. I went to a dermatologist and had them drain it (yuck!). They said if I started to feel sick or if it started to ache to go to a walk in urgent center. 30 minutes later I was in horrible shape. I called my husband and asked what I should do. He said it was probably infected, no big deal, and to follow the dermatologist’s advice and head to a walk in clinic. Looking back-I must’ve been delirious because I knew it was serious and I should have gone right to the ER- not a walk in clinic! The doctor said indeed I had an infection that must’ve got into my blood when the dermatologist had drained it. He asked if he should operate right there to pull out whatever was left and to see what else was going on in there and he told me it could be serious. I was passing out and nodding my head to do what he needed to fix me. This part is nasty- just warning you. The local anesthetic needle missed the area and I felt the numbing medicine drip down my back. I let the doc know I didn’t think he got the needle in and he said legally he could not give it to me twice. I died at this moment. I lay there feeling every cut and tool digging into my back for what felt like an eternity. I am pretty sure there was convulsing going on- no lie- and I cried pretty hard. The deeper he cut into my back, the more he explained how serious the situation was. The cyst had penetrated the 4 layers of skin and was breaking through the final layer, the fascia, that protects the spinal chord. Had I waited a day or two longer, he said I would have lost the ability to walk for up to 6 months, maybe longer. When he got it out, he helped me up and the nurse walked me to the waiting room. I went into shock there. You can’t go through something like that and just walk out of an urgent care center like you’re ready to carry on with your day! My husband called me upset asking which clinic I had gone to -he had been trying to reach me for awhile. I tried to tell him but I could not speak properly. My mouth and brain did not work together and I was starting to oddly shake uncontrollably. The gauze on my back had already been soaked in blood and saturated my shirt, ran down the seat of my pants and was dripping on the waiting room floor. When my husband arrived, he placed his hand on my back to help me out the door and there was so much blood he had to borrow towels to put on the car seat for the drive home. I had to go back 3 times to have drains put in and bandages changed. There is a nasty hack job of a scar on my back now as a result. What’s the take home message? I should have never gone alone and I should have gone to an actual surgeon in the ER at a hospital. I should not have listened to the derm, or my husband, or the urgent care doctor. I should have followed through on my gut instinct telling me “this is damn serious girl”.
- I questioned my smart decision to run like hell from a job with a predatory boss. One of the first corporate jobs I took when I moved to CT at 22 years-old was for a small business that was owned by a couple. There were 3 other employees and we all worked out of their home. One day the wife went on a business trip. That night at around 5 when I was packing up to leave, her husband, also my boss, asked me to stay after everyone else “just for a minute”. He called to me from their basement to come downstairs to his work station for a talk. He started asking me about my life, why I moved from Chicago to CT, and my boyfriend. Then it got all types of creepy and he moved over to the stairs blocking my only way out. Then he SAT on the stairs just as we were wrapping up the conversation. This completely blocked me from getting up the stairs to the exit. He started asking me really personal questions about my relationship and I told him I had a dinner plans and squeezed past him running out of there. I drove the next morning to the recruiter’s office who placed me there and told her I was never going back and why. She debated with me that she had known the couple for many years and surely this was a misunderstanding. She called the couple on speaker with me there and when she explained I was quitting because I felt uncomfortable, the man AND woman flew into a rage screaming into the phone. The recruiter turned bright red and took them off speaker so I could no longer hear their name-calling. I left her office upset and she said she’d call me when things settled down a bit. Thankfully, I had a job at an accessory store in a mall to bring in money until I got another corporate position. To my horror, that was not my last experience with that man. He proceeded to call my cell phone for weeks leaving messages begging me to come back and work for them. Then he started showing up to my night job at the mall at closing time and I would have to hide in the back or duck behind the cash register, petrified he would see me and follow me to my car. We started getting hang ups on the days I worked and even on days when I wasn’t in. The staff also said he left his name a few times and asked that I please return his calls. To this day, it baffles me that the recruiter tried to coerce me into going back there! She had actually made me feel like I was overreacting and had dreamt up the whole thing. I actually doubted myself and thought about going back at one point!
These are only 3 examples where not trusting my own intuition got me into trouble. The crazy thing is -I could give you so many more examples. What’s so interesting about life, that is often forgotten or unrealized is that we’re still learning about ourselves . I challenge you to find out what you could be doing differently to improve yourself. At 37 I learned to trust myself. Who knew?