Is It Your Gut, Or Are You Just Scared?

I used to think I had really bad instincts.

People would always talk about how they “felt it in their gut” or they’d tell me to “trust my gut” and I’d think I have no idea. My gut must have been broken.

But I do get what they mean now. And everyone has a working gut (metaphorically speaking – I have no idea what kind of physical issues you may have going on, and I can only apologise). You might be like me and think it’s not working, but it’s there. It’s the instinctive pull to one choice or reason, the split-second option you want the first time you’re given a decision. You can get better at detecting that ‘sense’, with practice and intention, and it’s usually a skill worth working on.

But then there are times when we feel uneasy about something, and we mistake it for our gut. We talk ourselves out of something because it “doesn’t feel right” and we assume that means we have some innate ‘gut’ knowledge that’s protecting us from doing something stupid.

And okay, here’s the thing – that could be your gut. It could be saving you from making a mistake.

Or it could just be you being scared.

Think about: let’s say you want to start a business. You find something you’re passionate about, something you’re good at, maybe you do a bunch of research, make a plan, start investing a little bit of money. You get ready to launch.

And then all these niggling doubts start creeping in. Perhaps this isn’t what I want to do. Maybe this isn’t quite the right idea. Something doesn’t feel right. Before you know it, you’ve got a knot in your stomach and you decide that’s your gut telling you something’s amiss and you better call it quits now before you make a big mistake.

Phew. Your instincts just saved you.

Did they? If you’re starting a business, you’re going to be nervous. You’re going to have doubts. It’s a big deal! That doesn’t mean it’s wrong. If you didn’t have doubts (at least one tiny one) – that’s when something’s probably wrong. The trick is working out whether that feeling really is your instincts telling you something’s seriously out of whack here, or if it is just regular nerves.

And I say it’s a “trick”, but it’s actually, honestly, very simple. We all know, really, if we sit ourselves down and ask, if we’re scared. And we know when something truly feels off. The actual trick is whether you’re going to let your fear (when it is just fear) talk you out of it, or if you’re going to forge ahead anyway.

Because nothing good comes without fear. Fear means there’s something to lose or a reason to care, and nothing’s worth having if it comes without one of those conditions. And the emotion that’s most closely related to fear is excitement – what does that say?

So if you think your ‘gut’ is talking you out of something, be honest with yourself. Does something really, truly, honestly, absolutely feel off, or are you just nervous? And if you still really aren’t sure, ask yourself if going ahead and potentially making a mistake (if, on the off-chance, it was your gut) is worth the risk of missing out on something important over some temporary fear?

Everything worth having lives beyond your comfort zone. If you feel a little uneasy, it’s probably a good thing, so roll with it. As one of my favourite quotes says: “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Maybe sometimes we’d all do better if we ignored our gut a little more.

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