How often has it occured that you followed someone else's order, only to find out afterwards that you should have listened to yourself instead?
Self-doubt and insecurity are often stopping you from listening to yourself and believing in your own judgment. But there's a clear reason why this sort of thinking is harmful for your potential success. In the end, you only have one life and it'd be a shame if you lived it according to someone else's rules.
In this article, I'll go over 9 tips that I've found most helpful when learning how to listen to yourself more. By using some of these tips, I'm sure you'll find more self-awareness and confidence to trust your own judgment. That way, you can start steering your life in a happier direction!
- Why you can't listen to yourself
- Studies on why we can't listen to ourselves
- 9 ways to learn to listen to yourself more
- Wrapping up
Why you can't listen to yourself
When faced with a tough decision, how often do you step back and truly listen to your own feelings? Do you make decisions based on your surroundings, circumstances, or peer pressure?
If the answer to this question is yes, then you might need to listen to yourself more.
There are many reasons that can cause you to stop listening to yourself:
- A lack of confidence.
- Sheer ignorance (meaning that you don't even know that you have a say in something).
- A lack of self-respect.
- The need to please others more than the need to please yourself.
- Peer pressure (going with the flow is in our nature).
Studies on why we can't listen to ourselves
It's no surprise that humans have trouble listening to themselves. In order to be better at survival, we humans have developed a number of cognitive biases that influence our way of thinking.
There are three cognitive biases that can explain why it's so hard to listen to yourself sometimes:
Studies have shown the impact of these cognitive biases, and the results are clear. These biases keep us from listening to ourselves, even when it's obvious that our own judgment is sound.
In a famous example, researchers showed a room of 7 people a picture of 3 lines. The picture clearly showed one line being the longest. The researchers asked the group - one by one - which line was the longest.
However, 6 of the 7 people in the room were part of the experiment and instructed to provide false answers. The experiment showed that people are prone to being compliant with a larger group of people, even though their feelings are not aligned.
In fact, the researchers found that people are more likely to assume that the larger group knows something that they did not.
We'd rather be false and compliant than risk being the odd one out.
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9 ways to learn to listen to yourself more
More often than not, it's important to learn to listen to yourself. We only live once, and it'd be a shame if we lived our lives according to the opinion of someone else.
Therefore, I've compiled the 9 best tips that will help you learn to listen to yourself more. So whenever you find yourself in a situation where you're doubting yourself, use these tips to listen to yourself.
1. Step out of your negative self-thoughts
It’s really hard to listen to yourself when your mind is clouded with negative thoughts.
For example, a lot of people struggle with something known as imposter syndrome. Whenever you notice that you're doubting your own opinion, it's important to become aware of your negative thoughts. Once you become aware of the negativity, you need to separate yourself from it.
Remind yourself that you are not your thoughts. In fact, your thoughts are designed to doubt yourself from time to time. Learn to step away from these negative thoughts and focus only on the facts.
Whenever I notice this myself, I try to get all these negative thoughts out of my head by writing them down. I find that when I’ve moved past my thoughts, I realize that my situation is not as bad as I have it in my head. There is always room for positivity, hope, and self-appreciation.
2. Understand your strengths
Take a moment to think about your values.
- What are you good at?
- What are your strengths?
You can probably name some things that you are good at and others appreciate about you.
The next step is to be rational about your strengths and let them guide you to make a good decision. Listen to yourself and acknowledge that you have a unique point of view that others don't have.
If you realize your strengths and embrace the fact that you are in a strong position to make the best decision, you'll find it easier to listen to yourself.
If you’re not sure where to start, use this or this worksheet from Therapist Aid as a guide. Chances are that you’ll discover something about yourself and become a little more self-aware.
3. Be kind to yourself
You probably know this, but there are pessimists and optimists.
No matter whether you're a glass-is-half-full type of person or not, it's important to be positive about yourself. If you're always your own worst critic, then it's hard not to question yourself. And if you lack confidence, then it's easy to favor someone else's opinion over your own.
To prevent this from happiness, you need to be positive about yourself. One way to inspire better self-talk is to talk to yourself as though you were your own child or a loved one.
Imagine how you would react if your best friend told you that she doesn’t find herself good enough. What would you say? Surely, you would disagree and say that your friend is more than good enough!
If they told me they thought they were hideous I’d tell them to shut up and say that they're stunningly beautiful, and to never ever think differently. If they told me they were untalented or unworthy of something, I’d tell them that they were very talented and clever and that they deserved the world.
This is the sort of support, encouragement, and love that you should show yourself. Nobody’s stopping you from talking positively about yourself, so why should you?
Here is something you need to know: you are good enough. Your opinion is worth listening to.
4. Practice meditation or mindfulness
Mindfulness is all about non-judgemental awareness. So it's easy to see how mindfulness can help you be less judgmental about your own self-worth.
Practicing mindfulness can help you learn how to observe your thoughts and feelings in a calm, honest, and accepting manner, which creates a strong base for self-awareness and confidence.
We've written about mindfulness before and you can find a quick guide to get started here. The short version of this article is that mindfulness is easy to practice.
By embracing a life of mindfulness, people have changed from constantly doubting themselves to being confident and in charge of every decision they make.
5. Trust in your ability to make the right decision
If you find it hard to listen to yourself, it's likely that you've experienced some kind of failure in the past.
- Maybe you've tried to launch a business but just couldn't get the ball rolling.
- Or you made a big mistake at work and messed up in front of your colleagues and superiors.
- Or perhaps you got drunk once and made yourself look like a fool in front of your friends.
These are all things that can hurt your confidence and your ability to trust your own judgment. But these failures shouldn't keep us from trusting our ability to make the right decision.
And when you do decide to follow your intuition, it may happen that you don't directly see the results you hoped for. Perhaps, you're trying to launch a new business but struggle to find a footing again! This can cause you to stop listening to yourself and act on impulsive feelings instead.
"Screw it, I knew I shouldn't have listened to myself", might sound like a natural reaction at this point.
No matter what you decide in the end, it's important to know that failure is part of success. Failure is not the opposite of success. Instead, failing is a sign that you're growing and one step closer to future success.
So trust in your ability to make the right decision, listen to yourself and accept that failure is part of the game.
6. Accept yourself
Confidence often starts with self-acceptance. While there will always be things you’d like to improve about yourself, accepting yourself means that you realize your intrinsic value.
Accepting yourself means recognizing that you’re human with all your quirks and flaws. Nobody's perfect. If you don't accept yourself and think that somebody else is more capable of deciding what you do with your life, you need to realize that you're just as perfect as someone else.
Everyone has different good (and bad!) attributes. It’s easy to compare your own work with the work of your co-workers. But if your conclusion from this comparison is that you’re not good enough as a person, then that’s wrong.
When you find yourself trying to make another unfair comparison, I want you to remember the previous list of strengths or think back to yourself a year ago. Have you grown since then? Yes? Now that’s a good comparison. When you’re comparing yourself to your past self, then you’re actually comparing apples to apples.
7. Keep a journal
Writing down your honest thoughts and ideas is a great way to listen to yourself. Journaling helps you open yourself up for exploration and awareness. The keyword is “honest” and that’s why journaling is one of the best ways to start listening to yourself more – you can be completely honest in your private journal.
There's a reason why a lot of famously successful people are journalers. Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Mark Twain, Barack Obama, Charles Darwin, and Frida Kahlo: these are all successful people who have benefited from the clearance that journaling provides.
Journaling helps you become more self-aware, which in turn helps you understand yourself better. This makes it easier for you to listen to yourself more. We've written a comprehensive guide to journaling for self-awareness here.
8. Focus on yourself and not others
While it's good to spend your time and energy helping someone else, you have to consider your own happiness as well.
Some people find it hard to listen to themselves because they feel the need to please others. We've written an entire article on how to stop from excessively trying to please others, and focus on yourself more. The tips included in this article are:
- Take a look inside yourself.
- Learn to say no.
- Take your time.
- Stop explaining yourself.
- Prioritize yourself.
- Learn to resolve conflicts instead of avoiding them.
- Embrace the discomfort.
I've found that learning to say "no" is one of the most efficient ways to prioritize yourself more.
Learning to say no doesn’t mean that you have to decline every offer. If you’re used to saying yes, then it’s better to start small and say no to little things with no consequences. It’s also easier to start by saying no to people with whom you have a close and comfortable relationship or complete strangers. It’s the people in the middle of the spectrum – neighbors, coworkers, acquaintances – that are tricky.
Consider doing the following:
- Start by declining the invite to the party you really don’t want to go to.
- Decline the Facebook event invites from friends, instead of letting them sit unanswered in your notifications forever.
- Say no when the barista offers you an extra pump of Amaretto syrup in your frappuccino.
If you learn to say no to these relatively small things, then you can slowly move on to bigger things, like declining extra tasks from your boss.
This is how you can slowly focus on yourself more and learn to listen to what your inner-self is saying.
9. Work with a therapist
Therapy can help you recognize all the unhelpful things that you're unconsciously doing. I've covered some of these things already in this post:
- Conformity bias.
- Compliance bias.
- Imposter syndrome.
It would be wrong to say that therapy is for everyone, but you definitely don’t have to have a diagnosis to give it a go.
The goal of therapy is to help you live a more fulfilled, functional, and happier life by helping you deal with your thoughts, emotions, and the daily stresses of life.
If you’ve been wondering about therapy, but you’re afraid to try it, we've written an entire article about the benefits of therapy here.
💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, we've condensed the information of 100's of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇
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Self-doubt and insecurity are often stopping you from listening to yourself and believing in your own judgment. But in the end, you only have one life and it'd be a shame if you lived it according to someone else's rules. I hope these 9 tips will help you learn to listen to yourself more. That way, you can steer your life in a happier direction!
What did I miss? Is there something you've found especially helpful in your quest for confidence and self-acceptance? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!
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