There are no rules in this game of life. There is no “one way” to do anything… in fact, there are as many ways to do something as there are people who want to do it. Yet, somehow, we get caught up in a whole lotta “shoulds”.
My own journey with the “shoulds” landed me in a hospital bed - I was physically ill from burnout (diagnosed with a kidney infection, but driven to that level of illness because I was so burned out).
We live in a patriarchal system, in a late-stage capitalist system - certainly in most developed countries (and potentially on a more global scale with a few outliers). This means that corporations have entangled interests in government, financial capital is concentrated in the hands of very few and we can observe exacerbating inequalities in an economic sense and absurdities in any sense of liberalism and democracy.
This system bombards us with “shoulds” - you should look a certain way to be successful; you should want this particular brand of success (oh, you mean you do NOT want two kids, two cars and two garages? What’s wrong with you?!); you should be at a certain point by a certain age…
On top of that, we see over 10,000 advertisements a day that make us feel inadequate, not skinny enough nor smart enough, not creative enough nor outgoing enough – messaging coming from all angles which seem designed to divorce you from yourself, to separate you from the truth of your wholeness, and prevent you from knowing for yourself.
And it is becoming increasingly obvious that the system perpetuating this paradigm is no longer serving us. Allow me to dive a bit deeper into what I mean through an example.
My whole life, I did my best to achieve great things to make my parents proud of me (I am sure others can relate). Fortunately, I never felt explicit pressure to do what they wanted and so I followed my own whims right into the music industry.
I was expected to work hard, pay my dues as others had before me and thus climb the ladder accordingly. I was expected to behave a certain way (not too loud, not too woo-woo, not too opinionated lest I offend some gatekeeper and wreck my opportunities). I diligently chased all of the rankings and awards that are considered metrics for success in a competitive industry where a meager few truly achieve success. I kept myself so busy that I had no time to pause, check in with myself, and listen to the voice inside of me that wanted to shout loudly that something was not right.
When I was finally forced to slow down, stuck in a hospital bed, that voice became very loud. I realized that I was actually deeply unhappy, living according to someone else’s idea of success, the idea of being an independent woman and a “boss bitch” drilled so deep into my psyche that I was chasing dreams that weren’t even my own.
I had allowed myself to become trapped in a race I didn’t even want to win - but I didn’t even know it until I stopped to take a breather and glance up at the end goal.
I have always had a freedom-loving streak – I was raised in a classically libertarian household and a mom who fled an oppressive communist regime, so independence and sovereignty were nurtured from a young age. My parents always took my side when I would get in trouble at school, backing me up in the face of authority and, thus, engendering a strong sense of self in me. And, I can now say, after many years of reflection, that I had been tempted away from what my intuition (and my soul) truly desired and knew to be best for me by the glitzy, glimmery images of success flashed in front of me so many times by magazines, social media, television, movies and, generally, glamorous big city life.
As an ambitious woman, I had gotten completely caught up in all of society’s “shoulds” that I had forgotten to listen to my own “should” - what do I think I should want and do?
Having hit true rock bottom in terms of health and relationships (my business partner at the time made a unilateral decision to leave our company and my husband was asking me to get on any kind of meds to get out of the dark hole I had crawled into), I knew that it was time to make some major changes and get back on track… on MY track, the track that only I wanted and only I could create.
A woman’s greatest superpower and gift is her power to create - we are literal portals for life - and we create from a space of void, a space of total darkness (the womb). We are programmed to forget this. Our power of creation, our intuitive knowing, is a threat to most existing hierarchical structures that prop up a tiny group of people. In short: we are a threat to patriarchy. Yet, its time is waning. And it’s up to us to reclaim our sovereignty, to reclaim our desires, to reclaim our intuitive knowing, and to blaze our own paths.
How? By remembering that we are NOT human DOings, we are human BEings.
We are so busy being busy and keeping up with to-do lists, bosses’ demands, household chores, and endless tasks that we have forgotten that we always know what is best for us. It feels “easier” to give away decision-making and ask others for guidance than to quiet the outside noise and tune into your own intuition. As a unique individual, only YOU truly know what is best for you, in your heart of hearts.
This means putting yourself at the top of your to-do list. This means decoupling your sense of worth from the length of your to-do list. This means making space and time in your day to regulate your nervous system to get outta survival mode and shift into creation mode. This means listening to your intuition and acting on it over and over again, even when it might seem illogical.
I left the music industry as my career was skyrocketing – I had just been shortlisted for a Clio Award, secured a large grant to fund a project I co-authored, and was establishing myself in the London music scene… It was illogical to toss it all in and start again.
But, I was ill, exhausted, chasing dreams that weren’t my own. I had abrogated my intuition more times than I like to admit, hustled my way up the proverbial ladder and I was so unhappy I was driving people closest to me away. So, I finally surrendered to my inner knowing and embarked on an epic journey of change.
Now, three years later, I live in sunny Mexico, am building a business I absolutely adore (supporting women through a similar journey), my husband and I are more in love than ever and trying for a baby. I make time every single day to shop at the local mercado, stroll in the park with a coffee or swim in the pool…
The road has been rocky, but I wouldn’t change a thing. My whole being has been changed by remembering my feminine superpower and letting that part of me take the lead.
Here are my 3 top tips for tuning out the “shoulds” and tuning into your intuition:
1. Make space for yourself to simply BE.
I don’t mean laying around scrolling your phone and laying on the couch not doing anything… I mean being in your essence, taking a walk through a park with nowhere to be and no headphones to fill your ears. Notice the way the wind feels on your face, the birds chirping or the cars rushing by. Observe the details of life around you and notice how perfect the intelligence of nature is. The butterfly knows exactly where to go to feed itself, the tree knows exactly how to grow to soak up the sun… You too are nature and you too are worthy of simply BEing.
2. Regulate your nervous system
Most of us are running around acting out and projecting our trauma on others, just trying to survive. The pervasive scarcity mindset in the media has our subconscious mind triggered and our sympathetic nervous systems (aka fight, flight, freeze mode) working on overdrive. In reality, we live in the safest time ever to exist on the planet (especially in the developed world) and abundance surrounds us. So, remind yourself of this (to wrangle the mind) and create a routine that supports your nervous system to shift into the parasympathetic (aka rest-and-digest or creation mode).
My favorite central nervous system regulators are deep, belly breaths (engaging the diaphragm sends a signal to your brain to relax plus you bring more oxygen into your bloodstream and move the adrenaline out faster), EFT/tapping (a combo of Traditional Chinese Medicine acupressure points and positive psychology) or shaking it out (very literally shaking out my whole body) when I am acutely triggered. The latter is borrowed from the animal world - most animals involuntarily shake after any stressful situation as a way to move adrenaline out of the body and let their nervous system know that they are no longer in danger.
3. Honoring your intuitive knowing over and over again
It takes a lot of courage to reject the beaten path and start to take steps down a completely new, untrodden lane. You don’t have to throw yourself into the deep end, you can take small steps over and over again to build up trust and confidence in your intuition, your inner knowing, and your ability to be there for yourself.
Start with something low-stakes like dinner: allow your inner voice to dictate what you do for dinner (takeout, cook something, go out to a restaurant, etc.). With each decision to be made, simply do what feels best for you, quieting the judgemental voices like “Oh you should eat broccoli and beans” or “OMG takeout again!” etc. The more you feed your intuition in seemingly insignificant decisions, the more you can rely on her in larger decisions.