Everyone I know is looking for guidance in one form or another for how to live life better. We want to know how to ease the pain points and fix the places that aren't working. We seek the answers for how to make life easier and how to succeed in our goals. We ache to know what will give our lives more meaning and satisfaction.
This restless seeking for answers only intensifies in life's broken places as we long to know how to heal, how to put the broken pieces back together, and how to make sure we never hurt like this again in the future.
The first place most of us look for these answers is outside. We consult self-help books and gurus. We ask for advice from friends, family, and experts. We watch what others are doing and compare our lives to what we see of theirs.
We look to those sources because we assume that others know something we don't, that they have somehow discovered the answers we are seeking. We also look to those sources because they are so much easier to hear.
The problem is that true guidance for each one of us comes from inside. The advice and insight we get from others might inspire us, and we may discover new options to consider from their experiences, but we can only know which pieces of advice, insight, or possibilities fit our lives and our situations from the guidance that comes from within.
Listening to that inner guidance doesn't come easily to most of us, though. Not only have we not been taught how to listen to and interpret it well, we've often been taught to ignore our own inner guidance in order to "fit in" and be better controlled by others (including societal norms).
The biggest challenge in attempting to listen for our own inner guidance is that we tend to confuse our voice of inner judgment with that of inner guidance. We think that listening to that voice of self-judgment will lead us to the answers we seek and help shape us into the people we want to become.
As we learned in last week's post, though, that voice of self-judgment is just a bully who is trying to tear us down. It's usually an echo of the harsh voices we've heard from others over the years playing like some kind of destructive earworm bent on keeping us small and conformed to others' expectations.
True guidance, however, always seeks to make us bigger, to lead us more deeply into becoming our own unique selves, to help us shine as only we can.
The voice of self-judgment makes us shrink into ourselves and prompts feelings of shame, guilt, despair, and discouragement. The voice of true guidance, on the other hand, creates a sense of expansion, hope, and possibility.
This is true even when the voices may touch on the same thing. For example, imagine you have a weakness in your life that is causing you difficulty.
The voice of self-judgment will berate you for that weakness and point out all the ways you are helpless in the face of it. After listening to it, you feel stuck and hopeless about ever making real change.
The voice of true inner guidance may point out that same weakness, but it will offer hopeful suggestions of how your other strengths and resources can be used to turn that weakness into a strength. You can recognize this voice by the sense of hope and possibility that emerges from its suggestions.
It's not possible to listen to both at the same time because they are pulling us in opposite directions.
Too many of us have been taught to pay more attention to the voices of self-judgment, as if listening to this criticism of ourselves is somehow more responsible or practical or more likely to motivate change, but real change is only found in the answers that our true inner guidance offers us.
Growth and change are fed by hope and inspiration, not by criticism and discouragement.
The next time you are seeking answers for the big questions in your life, pay attention to how the inner voices make you feel. If you come away feeling hopeful and inspired by possibilities of growth and change, chances are that you've tapped into your inner guidance. If what you hear leaves you discouraged and stuck, then you heard a voice of self-judgment that you can ignore.
Remember, your voices of self-judgment will never make you stronger or better or help you grow or heal. They will only feed your fear and keep you stuck. Every single time.
Seek instead to listen to the voices of true inner guidance that inspire and encourage you to grow and expand into all that you can be. That's what will make you stronger and will point you to your gold. Trust it.
How do you best listen for true inner guidance in your life? How do you recognize the difference between the voices of true inner guidance and self-judgment as you listen?
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