How to listen to your heart – despite a lack of support from people around you
Do you long to do something different? Are you worried about what other people may think if you change jobs, break up from a relationship or speak up about something? You are not alone. Although we often hear that we should respect different opinions, when it comes to expressing our own different view, it can be very difficult.
Many of us grew up with the programming “What are other people going to say?” So, we hesitate. We are scared that we will be ridiculed or disrespected if we have different views and dreams. That we will be perceived as odd and not fitting in. This is partly due to our upbringing. We all want to feel loved, accepted and connected and we desperately try to oblige. We ‘shrink to fit’, forget about our big dreams and miss out on opportunities.
This happened to me in my early 20’s. I had been doing what everyone was expecting of me. I had been a ‘good girl’! I had excellent grades and got a good job at the local council. However, after a while I realised that office work was not for me. I was bored and found the office mentality stifling. Instead, I wanted to be an artist. My step-dad was very talented at drawing and painting and he inspired me. But despite this, I was scared of change. To suddenly become an artist was not the done thing! However, after four years of working at the council I realised that I just had to quit as I couldn’t stand it anymore. I simply had to listen to my heart. The final straw was when I turned up to work one day in a full-length purple skirt and was told off for being inappropriately dressed.
Everyone thought I was mad to give up such a ‘good job’ but I had such a huge sense of relief the day I left. It was like being let out of a prison. But little did I know what was about to happen.
My mother did not support me in my decision. I had several long and painful arguments with my mum, who condemned me for leaving my job. She was furious and behaved very irrationally. In the end I had no choice but to cut off our contact. We didn’t speak for a year.
This was a huge test of my decision to follow my heart. I had such a strong feeling that I needed to move ahead and try to create a new and better life for myself. The only support I had was from my step-father, who had by then left my mum. When you are young, and a bit ‘lost’ this kind of support is invaluable.
When you encounter such resistance, you become even more rebellious and there followed a few years of turbulence and confusion! Sometimes I thought that I was following my heart when I wasn’t! So, there were some ‘disasters’ on the way, which are only really learning experiences.
Looking back now I am very grateful for all the experiences I had. Even with all the drama, I am definitely a better person from having taken that big step in my early 20’s to quit my job.
So, sometimes you just have to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ as Susan Jeffers says in her book with the same title. And yes, you may feel really scared, but on the other side of fear is something so much better. Because the option of staying in a stressful and draining job or situation is often not possible as it may have serious consequences such as ill health.
Often, I am asked, ‘What do I do when I feel that I am unhappy in my current situation?’ Try this heart-based exercise from my book ‘The Miracle of Yes – Reconnecting with Purpose, Passion and Peace, and Creating a Life You Love’:
I often use the following technique for decision-making. It can be anything from small to big decisions. Remember that your heart’s intelligence is always with you. You can trust it.
Focus on your heart
Allow your awareness to move from your mind to the area of your heart. In this way, you turn inwards and move away from the outside world.
Slow down your breathing
Take a few slightly slower breaths than usual, counting to four on the inhalation and four on the exhalation (approximately four seconds on the inhalation and four on the exhalation). Do three or four rounds. This is stimulating the parasympathetic branch (relaxation response) of the nervous system and helps you to relax. Have a sense that you are letting go.
Generate positive feelings
Start to generate genuine feelings of care, appreciation or gratitude for anything or anyone. It is the quality of your feelings that are important here. Sincere and heartfelt feelings. You are now starting to improve the coherence between your heart and your brain. Everyone can experience this, but it may sometimes take a little training. To generate positive and loving feelings I often think about the dog I used to have and how much I loved him. Or I might be thinking of a wonderful holiday I had.
Ask your heart a question
You can ask anything you like, small or big. It can be questions about a decision you have to make about your health, relationship, job or home, or anything else.
See what comes up: Notice any feelings in your body. Or any spontaneous thoughts or images that come up. Write it down in your journal. If nothing comes up immediately, notice if you get an answer later.