For most of my life I’ve been a “yes woman.” I often agree with what people say, sometimes before I’ve even thought through what they said. Someone might share their opinion about recent political events or something that’s going on in their relationship, and before I realize what I’m doing, I find myself nodding and “mhmm’ing” in agreement.
I think one of the main reasons I do this is to avoid conflict. I’ve always perceived conflict as the enemy.
Conflict makes my skin crawl. It creates knots in my stomach and pain in my shoulders. Many times, I would rather drink hot sauce than disagree with someone.
Most times, this has resulted in me not getting my needs met. Or laughing at sexist jokes. Or witnessing unacceptable behavior without doing anything to stop it. Or thinking that I’m a horrible person because of someone else’s opinion of me (yes, I tend to agree with people about everything – including their opinions of me – even on Facebook).
This tendency gets even worse with authority figures. Put me in front of a doctor, or a self-help/spiritual leader, and I often find myself taking their words as truth.
Over the years, however, authority figures have told me several things that were, in fact, not true. Things like:
- “Based on your personal and family history, you will probably need to be on antidepressants for the rest of your life. But it’s ok, because for depressed and anxious people, taking antidepressants is like diabetics taking insulin – you need the drugs to balance your system.” (My doctor)
- “Your professional choices are career suicide.” (My boss)
- “You need to focus on the positive. Positive affirmations. Moving energy to the higher chakras. Connecting with spirit. Meditate more. Eat raw. Go vegan.” (Various spiritual teachers)
- “After getting a PhD in social psychology, the only option you have is to find a postdoctoral fellowship, then become a professor. It’s rare for companies to hire people with research-focused psychology PhDs. And even if they do hire you, you’d be taking a step down. The only acceptable place for you is at a top-tier university.” (My graduate school program)
- “What are you doing trying to meet guys on the internet? Isn’t internet dating for losers?” (Friends)
- “You can’t just quit your job to go live in the woods, then skip off to Europe. You’re being financially reckless and professionally irresponsible.” (My ego)
- “You can’t write a book about how to get off antidepressants based on your personal experience. You aren’t a medical doctor or a psychotherapist. You’re being unethical.” (Former colleagues)
In all of these cases, people vehemently denied or opposed things that my Soul, or True Self, was nudging me to do. In all cases, I followed the advice of my Soul. And I don’t regret a single decision I made.
In contrast to what those around me expected, my choices led to:
- Ending a six year stint on antidepressants (I’ve been off the medication for ten years).
- Doing research on yoga for Harvard Medical School and the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, as well as school-based yoga companies across the United States.
- Focusing on the deep, dirty, difficult (and rewarding) work of connecting with my Soul. (Plus connecting with mother earth, meditating less, playing more, eating cooked food – and meat – and feeling great).
- Getting a corporate job that paid me well and taught me a lot.
- Meeting my future husband online.
- Moving to Prague, where I have a higher quality of life and am more financially healthy than I’ve been in years.
- Writing a book that has helped many people safely and gradually taper off antidepressants, including those who have been on medication for years.
I’m not trying to suggest that authority figures are always wrong. If your doctor tells you that you need medication, don’t immediately throw his or her advice out the window. But if your Soul is nudging you otherwise, get a second opinion from a different doctor or a naturopath. Similarly, listen to what your bosses and supervisors tell you. Digest it. Then take it with a grain of salt.
Because what I’ve learned from these experiences is that:
When it comes to making decisions, my Soul is the one with the answers. @BethanyButzer
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Friends, colleagues, and authority figures can provide advice, and I will listen. However these days I’m doing my best to avoid being a “yes woman.” I don’t automatically agree. I consider their opinion. Then I take some quiet time to tune into my Soul.
Sometimes this means that I stand up for myself. I might make other people angry. I might disappoint people who I really respect. But, oddly enough, this is not often the case. Over time I’ve noticed that people respect the fact that I have the courage to make decisions that are right for me. I have yet to burn a bridge with a professional colleague. And people who have known me for awhile have gotten used to trusting my sometimes strange ideas, because they’ve seen how things tend to work out in the end (even if there are difficult periods at first).
Today I encourage you to listen to your truth, instead of immediately trusting the advice of others. The path of the Soul is not always easy. You might be called to make choices that scare you. Things might go badly for awhile. But the difference between following your truth versus the advice of others is this: when things go badly, you are willing to take a huge bite of the sh*t sandwich that your true life is serving. Why? Because it’s way better than a sh*t sandwich served by someone else.
Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution.
If you’d like tips on how to create a life you love, plus some personal instruction from Bethany, check out her online course, Creating A Life You Love: Find Your Passion, Live Your Purpose and Create Financial Freedom.
Image courtesy of Leeroy.