Can I do this?
Is this the right choice?
Am I fucking it all up?
Who am I to do this?
Is this how I want it to be?
Am I doing okay?
Will I look back and see a million ways I could have done better?
Nothing has so consistently triggered my feelings of doubt as motherhood and entrepreneurship. My brain has the incessant inclination toward rambling.
Some of these questions are real, and deep. They’ve spurred me to become better. Some of them are weak and immobilizing, unfounded and fearful. Over time I’ve learned to ask one critical question, and it’s transformed me:
We all have instincts, gut feelings, intuition (call it whatever you want) that will steer us in the right direction. We also have minds that are prone to looping, overthinking, analyzing; going wild.
Doubt is an insidious form of worry. Worry can trick you into thinking that you are doing something productive, that you are protecting or saving yourself.
Doubt is the voice that comes with many decisions, even after you’ve made an initial decision, one which is usually the right choice, because it’s usually intuitive. Your doubt will find a dozen little reasons why you shouldn’t do the thing you really want to do. Doubt will ask you for a reasonable explanation for why you’d like to override its incessant screaming in your ear. Doubt won’t leave you alone, and the more you pay attention to it, the louder and more disruptive it will get.
I’ve always trusted my instincts, but I’ve also had plenty of doubt and listened to my raging mind over my infinitely more intelligent gut. The process of learning to listen to my intuition has been intentional and mindful, it has been a repetitive practice that is growing into a natural allowing. Shutting off my mind and listening to my gut instinct is moving from a forced practice to…a gut instinct.
Think back to a time when you made a gut choice, not a head choice. Where your gut and your mind were at war but something in you said “Do this” or “Do not do this” even though you couldn’t make it align with your mind’s opinion. Chances are that while your intuition was giving you a clear answer, your mind stepped in to tell you that you were crazy. How did it feel? What thoughts raged up in response? How did it all turn out?
I’ve had a many of these moments, big and small, where my gut feeling was so strong that it cast aside my doubts. These past moments are future breadcrumbs that guide me through doubts and decisions now.
For me, this was an all-caps, ultra-bold BIG DEAL. It was so out of character that when I told my always-supportive parents, they laughed, certain that I was joking. I had never been athletic. I never, ever ran, and when I did I was slow. Slooooooooow.
The idea came from a ridiculous place (an episode of the MTV reality show Made, of all places), and as quickly as it was there I knew I had to do it– that I would do it– and I tried to think of reasons why I absolutely wouldn’t.
It made no sense. It didn’t fit my interests or skills, my past or any kind of vision I had for my future. I didn’t know where I’d find such an event near me; maybe there wasn’t one. I felt certain I’d embarrass myself. Was I even capable of a triathlon? It was such a big undertaking, and for what? It wasn’t my intention to become a pro triathlete, or to win the race, or to ever do it again…so what was the point?
It turned out that the triathlon changed everything, in ways I never planned or could have expected. Through the process, I became super healthy, let go of my preoccupation with meeting “the one”, reclaimed my love of writing, and found an immense amount of joy in life as it was. I’m certain that it’s because of this shift in energy and perspective that by the time I crossed the finish line, I had undergone a complete metamorphosis. I had also met my now-husband. In a winding way, it’s because of that triathlon experience that I am even sitting here right now, a married mom of two with a business that allows me to live life on my terms.
It’s that transformation that I keep in mind when I start to doubt the seemingly nonsensical instincts that arise in me. It’s that accomplishment that proves to me that I am capable of anything. I use it all as fuel, as proof that can never be argued, because I’ve seen it, felt it, tasted it, touched it, lived it.
My mind couldn’t see the point of the triathlon; it couldn’t work out the logic. That’s not because my mind was missing something– the logic wasn’t there. What the brain doesn’t understand is that sometimes, we don’t need logic. Sometimes, doubt doesn’t keep us safe. It keeps us sheltered. Stuck. Stagnant.
It’s up to us to know the difference. Listen. Listen. Listen. Get to know the sound of the whisper that comes from your gut. Understand the too-loud voice of your mind. From which place do you want to live? One might feel more stable, but that’s just your mind playing tricks on you. Nothing is certain. Nothing is guaranteed.
It’s not an either/or choice. You will continue to have a mind and have doubts, and you will still listen. But, you have to choose: Which call will you respond to? Which voice will stop you dead in your tracks?
Take the chance, or don’t. Cross the finish line, or walk away from it. Meet the man, or choose a different path. But do it from your gut and you’ll find yourself sitting somewhere, almost 10 years later, marveling at how your choice to listen to that little whisper changed absolutely everything.
MotherHustle panelist Stacy Firth is a writer and content strategist who helps moms who are small business owners and solopreneurs create online content that keeps it real. She also leads workshops that help mamas lead a lit-up life, and is mama to two. You can find her on her website or on Instagram at @stacyrfirth.
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