“For me, intuition has been a major force in my life and I am grateful to all that is God that I have been smart enough to listen to it. Intuition is what first told me I needed to have my own studio. Intuition told me that I needed to own myself.” – Oprah Winfrey
I have a hard time trusting myself and my instincts even though they usually turn out to be right.
Despite this, I typically talk myself out of acting on my own intuition and/or needs for a few different reasons: to keep the peace, to not be judged, and to not be rejected.
A few weeks ago, Ava Duvernay’s film, Middle of Nowhere, about a woman who goes to extremes—working double shifts, borrowing money, giving up her life—to support her husband who is incarcerated, premiered across the country. Although the movie looked amazingly well done (it was) and had won awards, I was scared to see it. Why? It hit too close to home.
I rarely talk publically about the fact that my son’s father is incarcerated. At least not using my own name. I kept an anonymous blog for years, which chronicled the struggles of keeping our family together (or trying to) despite the fact that his dad is nearly 3,000 miles away and behind bars. But I rarely even broach the topic anymore.
Perhaps one day I will write a book. I mean, I probably need to write a book because the entire story is quite epic (and sad and happy and a whole host of emotions I usually bury). But in thinking about why it’s important to trust yourself, I keep coming back here. To the moment all of our lives changed in an instant.
Back in July 2005 I was six months pregnant and living with my boyfriend (le kid’s dad) in Brooklyn. One night he brought home a gun, and instead listening to myself and insisting he get rid of it, I said nothing.
He’d already been robbed once, and was even stabbed in his hand about a month after he moved from Bermuda to New York, so he was a bit on edge. He said the gun was for protection, “just in case.” I acquiesced.
When he brought the gun along with us a week later I still said nothing. And when he dropped me off to go hang out with his friend, gun still precariously in his backpack, I said nothing despite feeling like carrying a gun with him was the worst decision in the world.
10 p.m. came and it was confirmed.
Beloved, son’s dad, called to say he had to “lick shots” at someone and he was headed home. He wanted me to throw some clothes in a bag so he could head to his uncle’s house in Queens. He sounded frantic, and I was freaking out.
A year later we sat in a courtroom listening to testimony about that night.
Here’s the short version: Beloved had gotten into an argument with a bartender at a reggae club. The two exchanged words and Beloved was asked to leave. He did. Before he left, however, the bartender said he was going to “f—k him up.”
The situation seemed over and done with until the bartender came around the corner while Beloved—blocks away from the place—was smoking a cigarette. The argument continued. More expletives exchanged. More threats from the bartender…and a bag.
According to a witness, the bartender reached into a bag and, according to Beloved, he felt threatened. He pulled out the gun and shot the bartender.
Thankfully, the man wasn’t killed or seriously injured. He ran away and was released from the hospital that night, not even needing a stich.
But our lives—Beloved, our unborn son, and mine—were changed forever.
I often think back to that night and how things could have gone much differently had I just spoken up and asked him to leave the gun at home. Sure, he may not have listened to me, but I think I could have made a case for it. I think I could have convinced him.
I didn’t trust myself in that moment. I didn’t trust that he would listen to me and didn’t trust that my unexplained feeling was right.
These days, I know it was. But who wants to pay for not trusting yourself by losing years (for us 15) of your life?
In business and in life it is often difficult to trust yourself and your instincts, especially if you’ve been taught that other people—your parents, your boss, your professors—know more, and are therefore more trustworthy, than that little voice deep inside you. But sometime you have to have a little faith in yourself.
Perhaps you are a student who really wants to switch majors, but you’re not sure you can make a living studying what you love. Or maybe you’re trapped in a “good” job like I was and itching to change.
Whatever it is, listen to yourself.
I wish I would have believed in myself back in 2005. Perhaps my son wouldn’t have to hang out with his dad over a table in a prison visiting room. Perhaps he’d be here, taking him to soccer practice and to get haircuts, teaching him about Jamaica and Bermuda and taking him on trips.
But life doesn’t give us any do-overs; all we have is today.
Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. And live your life without all of the nagging regrets of what could have been, if only you would’ve listened.
Do you have a difficult time trusting yourself and your instincts? Please leave a comment and let me know how you deal with it.
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**image via Tearsforthoughts