Instinct check: Is it your gut you’re listening to, or fear and anxiety?
One of the foundations of my last 8 years in life and business has been trusting my gut. My intuition. My instincts. Having faith that if it feels right, it’s at least worth testing to find out.
And it’s absolutely what saved me in an experience I had earlier this year – the weirdest most unexpectedly traumatic experience.
I was shopping for a consultant to help me expand my business in a new direction. I didn’t want to learn that part of my business through trial and error, which is my usual MO. I was ready to invest in the expertise to help me start, and continue, in a strategically planned way.
As with most of my networks, I’m drawn to women who are experts in their field, and someone suggested a 29-year old who seemed to seriously know her shit. Impressive, at her age. Her voice felt authentic and her experience seemed legit. I was excited.
I messaged her and we began chatting and booked a call.
Superpowers and kryptonite
From my perspective, this was a get to know you chat. Test the waters. See how things feel. I didn’t consider that for her this was a sales call. An actual, hard sell, NLP-manipulation, scripted, exquisitely skilled, completely fuck-with-my-mind-to-get-the-sell, sales call.
So I didn’t go in with my eyes wide open. I went in with my heart wide open cos that’s how I roll. Integrity, authenticity, vulnerability. These are my superpowers.
For about 80 minutes on this call, they were my kryptonite.
She took me on a journey that was so exquisitely skilful (and I know, I’m repeating myself, but it feels like the only accurate description) that I got lost in the conversation. I was supposed to go to a meeting with a beautiful young businesswoman I’m mentoring, and I stood her up. Completely. Left her drinking coffee alone in a café. I was so engrossed in the coerced journey I was completely unaware of the time.
I love NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP). I love how we can use it for good. To open people’s minds. To help people work through resistance. To become more powerful in our own world by changing the languaging we use and the way we talk to ourselves.
But this – this was downright evil.
She had me agreeing to so many things that were reasonable and aligned with my values, so that they were locked in and later, they would become the basis of me agreeing to things I never would have, going in cold.
She used anchoring and double binds and presuppositions and EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK.
The effect was gaslighting.
I became thoroughly confused.
My gut was telling me things felt wrong but my mind was telling me the logic was sound. After all, I was coming to her as an expert in her field – I was open to learning, to advice, and to having my own beliefs challenged. If I rejected her advice that’s the opposite of what I was there for.
I called her out on the scriptedness of the call.
It was at that point she started to get aggressive: “This script has been designed specifically to weed out those who haven’t got what it takes to be successful.” Again, double-bind: If you hang up on me, you haven’t got what it takes. If you trust me, you have to ignore your intuition.
I haven’t had so much fog in my brain for a long time. This was expertly engineered self-doubt and confusion.
So I told her I’ve come to this point in my life by following my instincts. By listening to my gut, and this didn’t feel right.
She said, “You know what you store in your gut, right? Trauma.”
Here’s where she made her mistake: when she tried to suggest that my gut isn’t trustworthy. That it would put me wrong.
Because EVERY SINGLE PART OF MY LAST 8 YEARS CONFIRMS TO ME THAT MY GUT IS GOOD. Every single step I’ve taken, every stage of growth and development, every exciting change has been because it felt right, so I did it.
And each time I’ve always paused to look back and see if there was evidence to confirm that my gut had led me well, and there was evidence of that. Every. Single. Time.
And on top of that?
I’ve lived a really blessed life. I don’t have huge amounts of trauma that I carry with me, and the traumatic things I have experienced, I’ve worked through purposefully and conscientiously.
I don’t carry trauma in my gut, mother fucker. I CARRY THE VOICE OF TRUTH. My most basic, most trustworthy instincts keep me safe and move me forward.
It was that moment I was able to leave the call.
After 85 minutes of mind-control and manipulation, my gut, my heart, my intuition was more powerful than her weapons. I told her, “Well then your script has worked because I am going to hang up on you. This isn’t how I want to work.”
Trusting my gut
As I pulled the phone away from my ear I could hear her hurling abuse at me: “Well that attitude isn’t going to get you anywhere, is it? You’re never going to be successful if you think like that…”
I shook for 20 minutes after the call.
I reflected for days to unravel what had happened. To understand. To learn from it.
And here’s where I landed: The things that were my kryptonite that day will always have the potential to be my kryptonite: Integrity, authenticity, vulnerability, trust in people as my default position. I’ve known this for years. If you start with a position of trust, you will occasionally get hurt. Absolutely.
On the flipside, 9 times out of 10, my trust is rewarded with trustworthiness. Integrity engenders integrity. Authenticity attracts authenticity. Meaningful connections are very quickly formed. We win, 9 times out of 10. Or maybe 99 times out of 100.
And that 1 other time? Out of 10 or 100? I’m strong enough to handle that. I’m willing to take the risk because the rewards far, far outweigh them.
And what saved me here was my intuition. Trusting my gut.
Believing the good in a stranger got me into a hole. Trusting my tried and true strengths pulled me out.
And I think that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work.
Locking in the learning
If trusting your instincts is something you want to get better at, watch Brene Brown’s TED talk. It’s not about instincts, it’s about vulnerability. Because you have to be vulnerable if you’re going to trust your gut. And vulnerability is STRENGTH. If you don’t know that yet, oh my friend, come on a journey with me. Sooo much joy awaits you.
And then, start listening.
In any given situation, ask – what is my gut telling me? Why? Play it out in your mind: what might happen if I listen to it and act? What might happen if I don’t?
Double-check that it is your gut you’re listening to, not fear and anxiety – they come from a different place.
And then, after you decide and act, pause to reflect: What evidence is there that listening to my gut was the right thing to do? What evidence is there that ignoring my gut put me wrong?
Lock in that learning, so that next time, you can build on it.
And remember, go be a badass!
Speaking of badass, have you watched my new keynote promo video?
Reminding you that the world needs people who bring their whole selves to each moment. The world needs people who are imperfect and can revel in their imperfection. The world needs people who are vulnerable and courageous enough to show up that way so that others feel safer to do the same.
And that means hanging up on people who are #notmytribe!