If you’ve spent your whole life doing what you “should” do instead of what you want to do, listening to yourself can seem like an odd concept. After all, weren’t you taught from a young age to always put others before yourself, to shove your emotions aside, and do what’s expected of you? Wouldn’t listening to yourself violate this rule?
The truth is, learning to listen to yourself is one of the most selfless things you can do. It leads to you making decisions that align with the life you actually want to live. It allows you to show up in bigger, better, and happier ways for the people in your life.
As Ernest Hemingway once said, “The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much and forgetting that you are special too.”
That said, here’s why listening to yourself is so important. In addition, I'll share 10 tips to help you put it into practice.
Why is it important to listen to yourself?
When you ignore your intuition, you create unnecessary friction in your life. Over time, this friction can lead to self-loathing, negative self-talk, frustration, jealousy, anger, and even shame.
But when you do listen to yourself, that friction starts to melt away. You have more clarity about what you want. It’s easier to make smart decisions that lead to the life of your dreams.
Why is listening to yourself so hard sometimes?
A lot of times, it’s so hard to listen to yourself because you have a million voices in your head saying what you should do. These voices come from family, friends, society, social media, advertisements, and even strangers on the street! There are so many of them that you may even confuse them with your own voice sometimes.
As you grow older, all these voices begin to influence the way you live your life. For example, you may:
- Go to college because society says it’s the right thing to do, even though you know in your gut you're meant for something else.
- Date or marry a person everyone swears is perfect for you, even though deep down you know you’re settling.
- Stay stuck in a corporate job you hate because everyone swears it's too good to pass up, even though you hate it and know it’s wrecking your health.
How to practice listening to yourself
If you're ready to start listening to yourself, here are 10 tips you can put into practice. Try out one or two of them, and see how they help you make smarter decisions.
1. Uncover your core values and beliefs
Uncovering your core values and then making decisions that align with them is the very definition of listening to yourself. If you put this one tip into practice, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you begin to love your life.
For example, if one of your core values is freedom, that may be why you feel so trapped in that corporate job you hate. To bring more freedom into your life, you may hatch a plan to become debt-free and be your own boss so you can travel the world as you please.
2. Define what you want your money to do for you
If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it? Answering this simple question can give a lot of insight into the life you want to live.
Maybe you’d love to take a gap year so you can travel the world; bankroll college for your nieces and nephews; write a children’s book; start your own business.
Whatever it is, know this: once you learn to listen to yourself and what you truly want out of life, you can use your money to turn it into reality. You may have to get better at managing your finances first, but if you stick with it, it’ll happen.
3. Listen to yourself by following your gut
Everyone has an inner compass inside them. You can call it your gut, intuition, instinct, or whatever else. It’s that feeling of dread you experience when you say yes to something you know deep down you really don’t want to do. Or, it’s the rush of excitement you feel when you absolutely want to say yes.
Following your gut when making decisions can be a great way to practice listening to yourself. But there’s one caveat with this tip: you need to be aware of your unconscious biases, so you know whether you can trust them.
4. Do more of what makes you happy
Listening to yourself is all about asking, “What do I need right now to be happy?” Maybe it’s more time to focus on a hobby or read a good book, more sleep, more financial security, more time spent outside in nature.
Once you’ve established what makes you happy, carve out time for it. Check-in with yourself periodically to make sure you’re still making it a priority in your life.
5. Journal through your feelings
Journaling through your feelings allows you to be 100% real, honest, and raw with yourself. It's a time to listen to your inner voice, confront old wounds, work through negative emotions, and become more self-aware.
I usually start my morning by spending 10 minutes journaling through my feelings. It could be excitement for a trip that’s coming up, stress about a big assignment that’s due, worry for a loved one in my life, or even gratefulness for the matcha I’m sipping on.
In the end, I always feel more in tune with myself and my own needs when I take a few moments to listen to my emotions.
6. Take stock of your self-limiting beliefs
Self-limiting beliefs are false beliefs you have about yourself — either consciously or subconsciously — that shape the way you live your life. Some examples are:
- I don’t make enough money to achieve my dreams.
- I don’t have enough education/creativity/drive to do what I want to do.
- My spouse’s/kids’ needs are more important than my own.
- I always have to say “yes” or else I’m not a good family member or friend.
- There’s no point in trying ___. I know I don’t have the skills/time/energy to do it.
- I don’t deserve to be happy/make more money/love my life/accomplish my dreams.
These beliefs hold you back from success and erode your self-esteem. By confronting them, you begin to feel more empowered to listen to yourself and chase your dreams.
7. Tap into your inner psyche with morning affirmations
A great way to combat self-limiting beliefs is to create morning affirmations that directly challenge them. This may sound woo-woo, but trust me. Morning affirmations are key to rewriting all those negative beliefs you consciously or subconsciously have.
For example, say one of your self-limiting beliefs is, “I don’t have enough education to do what I want to do.” A morning affirmation that challenges this belief could be, “I have the tools and abilities I need to succeed at everything I put my mind to.”
8. Practice self-care
Self-care doesn’t necessarily mean showering yourself with spa days and pedicures. It also means mundane things like eating healthy, getting at least seven hours of sleep, and exercising daily. These may seem like obvious suggestions, but 35.2% of adults don’t get enough sleep every night.
This lack of self-care can lead to obesity, mental illness, depression, and even heart disease, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
9. Face your criticisms
People are like mirrors. When you find yourself annoyed by someone, it’s most likely due to one of two things:
- That person possesses a quality you also have but wish you didn’t (like anxiety, pessimism, laziness, etc)
- That person possesses a quality you really wish you had but don’t (like boldness, confidence, acceptance, courage, etc.)
Next time someone in your life rubs you the wrong way, stop and ask yourself why. If it's because they have a quality you want, see how you can nurture it in your own life. If it's because you both have a quality you don't want, see how you can shrink it.
10. Talk to a therapist about listening to yourself more
The beautiful thing about listening to yourself is knowing when to seek help. As you embark on this journey of self-discovery, surround yourself with people who will love and encourage you. This type of support may come in the form of friends and family, or it may come in the form of seeking therapy or counseling.
Listening to yourself is key to living your best life
No matter where you are in life, know this: you’re worthy of happiness. You’re worthy of financial success. You’re worthy of self-love. When you learn to listen to yourself, you begin to make decisions that are more in line with the life you want to live.
It becomes easier to say no to opportunities that don’t light you up inside and yes to the ones that do. In return, this raises your self-esteem, improves your happiness, and puts you one step closer to living your best life.
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