Earlier this year I read the book The Gift of Fear after I heard someone on a talk show say that every woman in America should read it. How could I resist!?
The book was fascinating and empowering. It gave a lot of information on what to do when you are in a threatening situation and how to interpret the actions of an offender. As the title suggests, fear is a gift that we have that helps us to determine when we are in danger. Reading this book really got me thinking a lot about following our instincts and how in many ways we are conditioned to ignore them and how far reaching the negative effects of this can be.
We don’t believe in happy plates at our house, but we encourage the boys to listen to their bodies to see if they are still hungry.
We talk about taking a reasonable portion and how you can always get more if your body tells you that you are still hungry. There have been times where I’ve tried to get one of the boys to eat more of something and they will fuss back at me that their body is telling them that they are full. Good for them, I’m doing something right. Today they are fussing at me for trying to make them do something that their body is telling them not to do (shame on me), and tomorrow they will be standing up for themselves in some other way. And of course they don’t get to say they are full and then go have cookies.
We were all raised to do what we were told by our parents at home and by our teachers at school and by our coaches and doctors and of course there is a need for this some of the time. But when were we taught the importance of listening to our own inner voice? To our own bodies? When our body feels tired , we need to rest. When our bodies tell us that we are full, we should stop eating. When our bodies tell us (through reactions to stress) that we need to slow down and relax, we need to do it. Ignoring our inner voice and messages from our bodies is going to get us fat, tired and stressed or worse. Just as ignoring our fear of a situation could mean finding ourselves in danger. Is it any surprise when we become adults that are so un-used to listening to our inner wisdom that we then look for any pundit, nutritional expert or self-help guru to tell us what to do, what to eat and how to think. Are they telling us anything that we wouldn’t already know if we were listening to our inner wisdom?
In trying to nurture the boys own instincts I find myself having to question my own motives a lot to make sure I am serving their needs and not my own ego.
Instead of making one of my boys play with the neighbor boy who is often not very nice, I talk to them about how everyone can have bad days but that it’s also ok to choose not to play with someone when they aren’t being nice. I tell him that it’s his decision to make.
I talk to the boys about not being afraid of strangers who say hello to them, but that they need to listen to the voice inside them that tells them if they are safe or not.
I don’t want to suddenly give them control of their own lives at 18, nor do I want to struggle to keep more of the control than I need to have. I want them to feel like I listened to them, that I heard them and that I encouraged them to listen to their own inner whisper. I’m not saying that they have complete control of their lives right now, but I want them to feel competent to make as many decisions for themselves as they can that are appropriate for their age.
I hope that by encouraging the boys to listen to their instincts and their inner voice that they will become confident adults who make decisions that not only keep them safe, but that also lead them towards their passion.