Jasmin Chew

How I Learned To Trust My Gut As An Anxious Perfectionist

I’ll be honest: I used to think the whole concept of trusting your gut was BS. I mean, what kind of sound decision is based on the first thought that pops into your head? Isn’t it much better to consider the pros and cons beforehand? I was the type of person to meaningfully consider each possible course of action before making any decisions, because I was certain that with more thought, the right answer would dawn upon me. There was no way my anxiety was letting me make a decision right away, that was for sure.

So, naturally, when people would advise me to trust my gut when I was stuck between two options, I’d roll my eyes. I never thought it was something to live by — until recently, when my mindset completely changed.

It all started one weekend, when I got a bad feeling about attending a party. I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s chalk it up by saying it just didn’t seem like the scene I’d enjoy that night. However, because of my intense FOMO and extraverted attitude, I shrugged it off and decided to go. Particularly after a tough week of studying, I was in desperate need of some fun, and I decided that the pros of not missing out and being in a social environment outweighed the major con of me preemptively getting a bad vibe.

Lo and behold, I realized too late that I was not in the right mindset for a party, especially one where I wasn’t surrounded by my best friends. To top it off, this particular type of party isn’t usually my thing (I prefer to dance and play games, and this was more of a hang-out-while-drunk type of gathering). I ended up wishing I was curled up in bed with some pizza and a movie, or chilling at home with my roommates. I was full of regret, and I had to ask myself, How did I not see this coming?

The answer is clear: instead of trusting my gut, which clearly had a bad feeling and told me not to go, I chalked it up as irrational and followed what everyone else was doing. But this experience, among others, has taught me that sometimes gut feelings without any concrete evidence can tell you more about the best course of action than a list of the pros and cons. When your mind or body sends you warning signs, it’s important to listen to them and reconsider your decision. Getting a bit of FOMO is better than being upset — believe me, I’ve been there!

This idea of trusting your gut doesn’t only apply to parties or gatherings; I’ve also found that it applies to people, too. Now, I’ll preface this by saying that I tend to be great at reading people — maybe it’s because I’m the daughter of two doctors specializing in the mind, but the point is, I can grasp someone’s energy and personality from just one conversation. This also means understanding whether their vibe matches mine, which is a useful tool in forming new friendships. When making new friends, I’ve found that the tool of trusting my gut still applies — if something inside me tells me that the people I’m speaking to may not be the right friends for me, it’s important to trust my gut and take space. This doesn’t mean ghosting anyone, and it definitely doesn’t mean making a snap judgment based on the first sentence they say — you should still remain kind and open! Instead, trusting your gut means acknowledging the potential for future issues to grow after making conscious attempts to overcome any doubts. If your negative gut feeling persists, you owe it to yourself to keep them at an arm’s distance.

In this vein, one of my main issues when learning to trust my gut was that I didn’t put myself first. For years, I was afraid to let my friends or acquaintances down and didn’t want to hurt or inconvenience anyone, so my solution was to ignore my gut feeling altogether. The funny thing is, I used to make jokes about how I’m a bit selfish — but now I realize that in so many moments, I’d actually forgotten to put myself as my first priority until it was too late, and I reached my breaking point. Labeling myself as selfish for self-deprecation and comedy’s sake just made me ignore my own feelings and instead accommodate others even more.

However, in trusting my gut, I can now prioritize my own comfort and happiness in the decisions I make. I’m no longer afraid to make an unpopular or unexpected decision, and I’m trying not to feel bad for the people around me when I do so. In each situation, when I’m unsure, I can listen to myself without letting anything else get in the way and easily determine the best path to take. The first step toward achieving all of this was doing something I never thought I’d ever try: trusting my gut.