Don’t Trust Your Gut.
You’ve heard it a million times, “Trust your gut.”
That inkling. That knowing. That actual feeling in your gut.
But how do you know when to trust it? Is the gut-trusting sensation accompanied by some angelic chime assuring you that what you are feeling is right?
No. And, frankly, most of us shouldn’t trust our gut, until we learn a bit about our brain.
I’ve been listening to an audiobook by Dr. Amit Sood called The Mayo Clinic Guide To Stress-Free Living. And, as boringly clinical as the name may sound, the content attached to that turd of a title is sparkly gold.
According to Dr. Sood, we humans come equipped with this thing called “negativity bias”. And IT tells US, to put more stock in that one nasty needle buried deep inside a whole haystack of happiness.
To make matters worse, we tend to remember negative stuff better than positive, because negative emotions require more thinking and more thorough processing, based on a New York Times study.
So what does this have to do with trusting your gut? Well, if “Our system is biased to focus on the negative, threats, imperfections, regrets,” as Dr. Sood notes, and we’re not aware of it, or we forget it during pivotal moments after years of peeing in our own pool, we become worst-case scenario seekers.
That means, that if our gut is trying to have an honest conversation with us, good or bad, we spin it to suck.
For instance, if your gut says, “This friendship is starting to feel gross,” negativity bias might say, “That’s because you’re a bitch. Remember how you dumped your friend in third grade? (Even though SHE was the bitch and totally deserved the dumping. But in retaliation, she said terrible things about you, which you believed more strongly than the myriad good things super cool people have said about you.)
If your gut says, “I think I should ask for more money,” negativity bias might say, “Fine, dummy, your client will just work with someone else.” (Even though said client has never properly valued your work, or time, or above-and-beyond awesomeness, you validate his opinion over the eleventy million great clients who think you walk on water.)
If your gut says, “Hey, you’re killing those jeans,” negativity bias might say, “For someone your age. Actually, throw a tunic over that mess.” (Even though you are super healthy and have yoga’d your ass into a firm cantaloupe. It wasn’t produce-perky before you whipped it into shape, so that busted booty is burned into your brain.)
Damn. Does your gut stand a chance against all that?
No. The end. Die miserable. Bye.
There’s always a way to win the day…but in this case, it’s gonna take some training.
First, the next time you find yourself believing the disproportionate negative thing, thank it. It’s trying to keep you alive. It’s primal. It’s the part of our brain that scans the big, beautiful horizon for the one thing that will kill us. (The saber-tooth…or dumb ass Lyft driver.)
Next, be pro-positive. The problem isn’t that we have negative thoughts, it’s that we pick them first for the team. Not anymore. Bench those bastards.
Follow that up by thinking back on all the times you trusted your gut and it worked out well. Finding evidence that you have gut-check-chops boosts your confidence.
Finally, start creating new neural structures in your brain. Y’know. Like you do. The next time something good happens, savor it like it was the last pint of Cherry Garcia on the planet. Just five seconds of noticing the cool thing that made you happy helps you do it again, for a longer period of time, until one day, you’re friggin’ Penelope Positive Pants. (Slightly reworded from a Psychology Today article.)
Then, AND ONLY THEN, are you allowed to sorta, kinda trust your gut.
Start with small stuff like what you order from a menu, work your way up to the crappy friend breakup, and one day, you’ll be able to thank your gut for helping you make major decisions like moving to another country, completely changing your career, or getting bangs.
So, yeah, trust your gut. Just shovel all the shit out of the way first.
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