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Why "Always Trust Your Gut" Is Bad Advice with StudioPod Co-Founder, Julian A. Lewis II
Episode 820th June 2022 • Emotionally Fit • Coa x Dr. Emily Anhalt
00:00:00 00:13:17

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StudioPod co-founder Julian A. Lewis II joins Dr. Emily in this Emotional Push-Up to talk about our gut instincts. While it’s considered standard sage advice to ‘trust our gut,’ Dr. Emily says there’s more to it than that. Listen now to hear why she says we should all be a little more discerning about what our guts are telling us. 

Thank you for listening! Staying emotionally fit takes work and repetition. That's why the Emotionally Fit podcast with psychologist Dr. Emily Anhalt delivers short, actionable Emotional Push-Ups every Monday and Thursday to help you build a better practice of mental health. Join us to kickstart your emotional fitness. Let's flex those feels and do some reps together!

Follow Dr. Emily on Twitter, and don’t forget to follow, rate, review and share the show wherever you listen to podcasts! #EmotionallyFit 

The Emotionally Fit podcast is produced by Coa, your gym for mental health. Katie Sunku Wood is the show’s producer from StudioPod Media with additional editing and sound design by Nodalab, and featuring music by Milano. Special thanks to the entire Coa crew!

Transcripts

Emily Anhalt (:

Ready to break an emotional sweat? Welcome to Emotionally Fit, with me, Dr. Emily Anhalt. As a therapist, I know that staying mentally healthy takes work and repetition. That's why I'll share emotional pushups, short, actionable exercises, to help you strengthen your mental fitness. From improving your friendships to managing stress, let's flex those feels and do some reps together. Hey, there are fit fans, I am here today with Julian Lewis of StudioPod Media. Julian, thanks so much for being here today.

Julian Lewis (:

Indeed.

Emily Anhalt (:

Well, today I thought we'd talk about one of the most common wellness myths that I just want to bust because I think it's totally wrong. And that is the idea that we should always trust our gut. You've heard this before, right?

Julian Lewis (:

Yeah, definitely.

Emily Anhalt (:

Has anyone ever told you that that's what you should do to make a decision?

Julian Lewis (:

Yeah, I tend to trust my gut, so I'm curious to see where this is going.

Emily Anhalt (:

All right, yeah. So I hear this all the time from really wonderful well-intentioned people, and they generally say when you're not sure about a decision, you should trust your gut, even if it's something huge and life changing, like whether or not to stay in a relationship or what career path to take. You just trust your gut, you'll be good to go. But I have a different take, which is that always trust your gut is actually really bad advice. And here's why. Our gut instinct tells us what it thinks is going to keep us safe. It's a really wonderful evolutionary strategy. It helps us tune into something that could be dangerous, for example. But our gut instinct or intuition is another way to think about it is a really complicated and undependable guide because it's often formed from trauma and bias instead of truth.

Emily Anhalt (:

So for example, if you were bitten by a dog as a kid, your gut instinct around all dogs might be that they're dangerous. Or let's say you grew up in a culture that taught you that a certain group of people is lazy, and then you're interviewing someone from that group for a job, your intuition might tell you that they're not going to do well in the role. You might not even realize that your culture taught you that, so you might think that you're picking up on something from that applicant that might have nothing to do with them. So for example, I had a patient once who was treated really unkindly by her parents when she was growing up, and in adulthood she'd been in this string of really unhealthy relationships, and we worked together for years to understand this part of her that believed that she did not deserve to be treated with love and respect because it's not what she had been raised to believe.

Emily Anhalt (:

And after a lot of hard work and therapy, she found herself in a different kind of relationship. One where she was treated with compassion and kindness. And you know what she told me? She told me that every cell in her body was screaming at her to run from that relationship. And she felt so confused because everyone in her life was saying, "Well, if it's not the right relationship, trust your gut." But her gut was telling her that she didn't deserve to be treated with love and respect. And that's because it formed at a time when feeling that way is what kept her safe. So I don't say all this to encourage people to ignore their gut or to say that it's not an important piece of information. We should listen to our instincts, and sometimes they really will keep us safe, sometimes they will steer us in the right direction.

Emily Anhalt (:

But we should listen with discernment, we should explore what comes up. We should remember that our gut is not this source of infallible truth. And we have to bring our rational mind to the stage to have a conversation with that gut instinct. So our push up today is going to help us explore this idea. So step one is take two minutes to think about one thing that your gut instinct tends to scream loudly about. Maybe it's a feeling of danger when you see a spider, maybe it's the feeling that you should stay quiet in meetings. Maybe you get really honest with yourself about a bias that you have. And for those listening in, feel free to press pause while you think of your example. So Julian, what is one thing that your gut tends to scream loudly about?

Julian Lewis (:

I think when it comes to my career, my gut reaction has always been to pursue what makes me happy and not necessarily fight through some situations to see if there is some upside on the other side. And I would say that was for the core of my career. But I think most recently when taking a leap to start a business, I was a little bit more methodical about it, realizing that not going with my gut of just leaving my job and starting this business, it worked out because I was in a better financial position to succeed and grow in the direction that it's growing today.

Emily Anhalt (:

So your gut instinct was like, "Just go do it, because that's what's going to make you happy." But you brought your rational mind in and your rational mind was like, "Yes, let's do it. But first let's make sure we're in a good financial situation."

Julian Lewis (:

Exactly.

Emily Anhalt (:

So step two is to ask yourself what that gut instinct might have been trying to protect you from. So the person who's scared of spiders who says run every time they see a spider, they're probably scared of getting bitten or even dying. For the person whose gut instinct says not to talk in meetings, maybe it's a fear of looking too aggressive or opinionated, something like that. So what would you say that gut instinct that's like, "Don't think about it. Just do it. This'll make you happy." What do you think that might have been trying to protect you from?

Julian Lewis (:

I think when I've made the gut reaction to just leave companies, it was due to feeling a lack of appreciation/not feeling like I truly belonged. So I think my gut reaction is to leave and seek something else that will make me feel more comfortable in those situations.

Emily Anhalt (:

Well, it sounds like what you're saying is your gut is trying to protect you from being in a place where you don't feel like you belong. so step three is to ask yourself where this fear might have come from. So in our spider example, it might just be evolutionary, we all hate spiders, but maybe also your mom was really scared of spiders, so it was really ingrained in you that that's a danger. Or for the meetings example, maybe once you got really penalized for speaking up in a meeting, and maybe even you were raised in a family that discouraged questioning authority, so you really believe you shouldn't be doing such a thing. So your fear of staying somewhere where you might not belong, if you're willing to share, where do you think that might come from?

Julian Lewis (:

I was actually talking to my therapist about this. My first job out of college, my boss, he and I had a great relationship. So much so that I would finish a proposal right before we'd go to a meeting, and he wouldn't have to look at it because he trusts me. But in 2008 there was the recession and there was a lot of pressure that was coming from the top down onto managers. And my manager started treating me a little bit differently. And I think because I was doing so well in my position, I was trying to figure out where this was all coming from, and I think in that moment I realized that when tough times presented themselves, people react in different ways and they start to potentially suppress the things that were working before from individuals like me. So instead of like staying there and dealing with it, I just decided, "You know what? I'm not happy here. Let me jump ship."

Emily Anhalt (:

I feel like that's a really beautiful example of this whole dynamic at play. But I wonder if I might challenge you to go even a layer deeper about what the seed of needing to escape situations you don't belong in might be. I can imagine as a person of color that not always feeling like you belong in certain situations could be part of it. I don't know, I'm curious, if you really think about what it looks like to say, "You know what, if I don't belong here, I'm out," what that might look like for you?

Julian Lewis (:

I mean, I think you nailed it. Throughout my entire life, my parents grew up in the Bronx, they're both immigrants, though. So they did a lot of work to get us to where we are today, my sister and I. So I think that is a part of it a lot of times, because there were moments as a child where I didn't feel like I belonged, and not just amongst my white peers that I lived with or played sports with, but I sometimes played travel basketball in predominantly black spaces, and I felt like I didn't belong because they knew that I was from predominantly white spaces. So I think escaping and seeking out my own community or tribe is something that probably in the last two years that I've really focused on, and leaving my last job and doing this on my own, I have the ability to now build that.

Emily Anhalt (:

I love that. Thanks for sharing that. So the final step of this is to ask yourself in any given situation, is this still something I need protecting from? Sometimes the answer is yes. I mean, it sounds like this is a great adaptation of not subjecting yourself to being in spaces where you don't feel like you belong. But other times it might be that your instinct is telling you don't belong, but your rational mind if brought in might say, "Well, no, that's not actually the case." I got this queue that made me feel worried about it, but maybe if I were to dig in a little, I would see that some of that is fear based and not reality.

Emily Anhalt (:

So if the answer is no, then we can explore what might this gut instinct actually be keeping us from? So perhaps that job that you wanted to bolt from actually ended up being this really amazing stepping stone because you were able to build the financial security you needed to do what you wanted. So I'm curious when you think about that, do you think there are situations where this desire to protect yourself might actually be keeping you from certain opportunities?

Julian Lewis (:

Yeah, I definitely think so. Again, recently I've been talking to my therapist just about how visible I'm not, I guess, on social. On my Instagram, for instance, I have one picture, and it's me in my buddy's old car, and you can only see me in the side view mirror. And on LinkedIn, now that I have a new business, I do DM people one off, but I'm not like publicly sharing things. And I think part of that is a sense of am I the right person to be speaking in these spaces? Do I belong? Do people care about my opinion? Because when I was in those corporate environments, they said they did and to a certain extent they did, but for the most part, I didn't feel like everything that I was putting out was properly received. So I think I don't want to have to feel like I have to put things out there and not have it reciprocated or appreciated in the way that I didn't feel appreciated when I was in those spaces.

Emily Anhalt (:

Do you imagine, if you were to bring your rational mind in and have a conversation with that fear, is there an argument for putting yourself out there anyway?

Julian Lewis (:

100%. And it's led to conversations with people who we can potentially bring on to our company/that potentially want to work with us. So I see the value in spreading the message of what we're doing to try to attract more customers and build those relationships. So I see the other side, it's just trying to get over that hurdle.

Emily Anhalt (:

That makes so much sense. And that hurdle being there makes sense to me because I think there are a lot of systems and structures that have been built in our culture to keep BIPOC folks from feeling safe and from feeling like they belong. So having that gut instinct to protect yourself, that feels like it makes a lot of sense to me. The goal here is that when we're not sure whether or not to trust our gut, that we go through this exercise. Sometimes we have that voice in our belly that says, "Hey, this is dangerous. Don't do it." And when we bring our mind and have a conversation, we realize, "All right, I'm actually just scared, and maybe I should confront that." Other times we realize, "No, this is unsafe and I should protect myself." But the whole point here is just for us to be curious, to ask ourselves questions, to allow ourselves to sit in the discomfort of not being sure about certain things for long enough to make the best choice. So thank you so much, Julian, for going through that exercise, and I'm curious how it felt,

Julian Lewis (:

It felt good to talk through it. Therapy obviously helps me with that and I do it on an ongoing basis, but even the hour every other week doesn't seem like enough, so it's nice to have some frameworks that I can kind of think through as I'm like deciding, "Okay, what is that roadblock?"

Emily Anhalt (:

And I mean, I was in therapy three times a week for eight years and it still sometimes didn't feel like I had time to cover everything, so I'm with you there.

Julian Lewis (:

Fair enough.

Emily Anhalt (:

Thanks for doing this pushup with me, Julian.

Julian Lewis (:

Yeah, most definitely.

Emily Anhalt (:

Have a beautiful day.

Julian Lewis (:

Yeah, you too. Thanks.

Emily Anhalt (:

Thanks for listening to Emotionally Fit, hosted by me, Dr. Emily Anhalt. New pushups drop every Monday and Thursday. Did you do today's pushup alongside me and my guest? Tweet your experience with the hashtag #EmotionallyFit, and follow me @DrEmilyAnhalt. Please rate, review, follow, and share the show wherever you listen to podcasts. This podcast is produced by COA, your gym for mental health, where you can take live therapist led classes online. From group sessions to therapist matchmaking, COA will help you build your emotional fitness routine. Head to joincoa.com, that's join C-O-A dot com, to learn more and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @JoinCOA. From StudioPod Media in San Francisco, our producer is Katie Sun Ku Wood. Music is by Milano. Special thanks to the entire COA crew.

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