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Should You Trust Your Gut? How to Choose to Listen or Ignore It

Should you trust your gut or will it do more harm than good? Follow these tips to know when you should go with it or when to back off.

In relationships, at work, and in pretty much all avenues of life, we need trust. We need to trust others and most importantly, we need to trust ourselves. But should you trust your gut?

To make decisions, accomplish goals, and move forward with our lives, we need trust. It is as simple as that. Or is it? Trust is not a simple thing. Sure, we can trust that our waiter won’t spit in our food or that our mail carrier won’t read our letters, but above these societal norms, trust is difficult.

We lose trust in others when we are let down, disappointed, or lied to. And from there, we often lose trust in ourselves. For instance, I’ve dated a lot of liars and instead of just not trusting them I stopped trusting my own taste, my intuition, and my ability to know people.

Those numerous betrayals made me second-guess all my own choices because, after all, I did lead myself down that path.

[Read: How to be true to yourself and start living life on your own terms]

Was I wrong to trust my gut in the past? Or was I wrong to ignore it now? Did those experiences influence my gut feeling? Or is your gut feeling something natural that happens regardless of what you’ve been through?

What is your gut?

Physically and medically, your gut is your gastrointestinal system. It is formed of a number of organs like your mouth, your stomach, your gallbladder, your pancreas, and more. Essentially, your gut connects a lot of your body together. And because your gut is involved in so much of what your body does, when one thing goes wrong your gut can usually tell you.

Your gut feeling is the same when it comes to emotions. Your gut reacts to not just physical ailments but mental and emotional ones too. This is why you get butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous. Your gut reacts to stress, fear, nerves, happiness, and more.

[Read: What it means to be your own hero and take control of your life]

This is where the phrase, trust your gut, comes from.

When something is wrong or right, your gut usually knows before your mind even does.

You know when you just have a good feeling about something or someone? You may not be able to describe it but you just know? That is your gut. It is a feeling devoid of rhyme or reason. It is sort of your internal wisdom. It doesn’t need all the factors to make a choice. It is your bodily intuition.

This is also what warns you about red flags with potential partners, sketchy job offers, and your best friend’s new beau.

From this, it can seem obvious. Why not trust your gut? How could it turn you wrong? It is natural. It is just part of you and seems to be all-knowing.

[Read: How to get to know yourself and reveal your true passions]

Trusting your gut

The phrase, trust your gut, is often used to prevent people from overthinking. You might say it to someone who is nervous about getting married, about moving to a new city, or choosing a college.

Our gut instinct is supposed to lead us down the right path without overanalyzing. It should help us make difficult choices without the pro and con lists. But, if it is so trustworthy and reliable why do we all still end up making mistakes? [Read: How to control the butterflies in your stomach and calm it instantly]

Well, as useful as your gut feeling is, it is not fool-proof. And even when we listen to it, we forget what it tells us. We ignore our gut. Our gut is also not free from sway.

Our gut is influenced by our past experiences. Once you’ve been cheated on, for instance, your gut may be in overdrive. It may take a small thing and overreact to it because it is on the defense.

Your gut gets hurt. If you make a choice and it doesn’t work out, your gut is affected by that. And then, when making future decisions, your gut will overcompensate. Instead of pointing you in the right direction, it will point you in the less risky direction which may not be right for you.

[Read: How to be present and find your zone of calm perfection]

Although your gut in initially unbiased, once you’ve lived a bit, it is altered. It is a part of you that is altered by both your physical body and your mind. So, everything you’ve been through, your gut has been through.

That can make trusting your gut better and worse.

Should you trust your gut?

Everything you go through in life offers you more wisdom. Therefore, trusting your gut can help you make the right choice based on previous outcomes.

Maybe your boyfriend lied to you once and you forgave him. Well, if he does it again, your gut will guide you in the safest direction based on the past.

But, your gut is not free from change, souring, or bitterness. Your gut can be full of fear. So, if you’ve been betrayed or left, your gut may warn you to protect yourself instead of taking a risk that could be everything you’ve ever wanted. You see how trusting your gut isn’t as simple as it sounds?

[Read: How to be fearless: Powerful steps to set aside fear and live your life]

How to trust your gut

To trust your gut and hopefully have it work out, you must do it the right way.

If I trusted my gut before each date I went on, I would have never been on a date in my life. My gut always warned me it would be terrible, that I’d get hurt, and that I should be afraid. But, if I listen to my gut I wouldn’t be in the happy relationship I’m in now.

Here’s how to know when to trust your gut and make it work for you. [Read: How to listen to your gut and give strength to your inner voice]

#1 Stop thinking about the what-ifs. What-ifs are the poison of decision-making. This is over-thinking at its worst. Thinking about all the possible outcomes based on what you do will only drive you crazy. You could think about a million and one outcomes, but what will happen will be the millionth and second.

What-ifs overpower trusting your gut. Your gut feeling is an initial good or bad feeling, but if you overthink, you won’t be able to tell if you’re trusting your gut or your overactive mind. [Read: What to do when you’re feeling unsure about your relationship]

#2 Think about yourself. When you are told to trust your gut, it is often for a situation about you. Will you accept a job across the country? Will you marry someone? But will you breakup? Yes, all of these decisions affect other people, but when you want to trust your gut and do it right, you should be your first priority.

My friend once got very close to marrying someone she wasn’t sure about. After a lot of talking, I told her to close her eyes, clear her mind, and just picture her future. Was it with him or without him?

It seems simple but that was her trusting her gut, and she broke up with him and married someone different and has never been happier. [Read: Are you feeling unsure about your relationship? Use this to guide you]

#3 Don’t be outwardly influenced. We let ourselves be influenced by society, our family, and our friends. We want to make the choice most people will be happy with. If you are a people pleaser, the odds are your gut is too.

You know what decision your parents or partner wants you to make, and your gut may lean towards that to make things easier for you. But, in this case, your gut is influenced by others and that never turns out well.

#4 Don’t trust your gut when you’re desperate. Desperation leads to poor decision making. When you trust your gut in an intense and time-sensitive situation, you can often blame your decision on your gut instead of yourself.

But your gut is part of you. So, although it is viewed as this pit in your stomach that will give you wise answers, it is essentially the wizard from Wizard of Oz. It is only offering you what you already have. In desperate times, don’t remove responsibility and go with your gut. Go with yourself. [Read: 17 ways to focus on yourself and create your own sunshine]

#5 Let your gut guide you. Your gut may give you an answer one way or another, but it is not your leader. You make up your own mind. I trust my gut, but if I always did, I would live in constant fear.

Your gut should be like a therapist. They guide you and give you perspective but not actually tell you what to do.

[Read: Your guide for how to live a life a good life you’ll love]

Yes, definitely trust your gut, as long as you’re doing it right. These tips will help you know how to navigate what your gut is telling you.

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