Gut check

August 8, 2013

in Mindfulness

I was traveling with my family recently, which resulted in me utilizing my smart phone a lot and the computer very little. Which means the ratio of my consuming content to creating content was quite high.

I browsed my Twitter feed any time I found myself waiting for someone to go to the bathroom or change into a swim suit or fetch the bug spray. While fending off boredom I came across the fight between the two Honests. In one corner we have Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company, and in the other we have a hilarious tweeter/author/blogger with her Twitter handle, book and blog, The Honest Toddler. HuffPo explains the battle with lots of links, should you be waiting on someone to go to the bathroom or change into a swim suit or fetch bug spray.

Mostly, this post isn’t about the battle for who owns “honest.” Considering that once upon a time I, too, got a sharp warning from a corporate lawyer, I doubt that I could be objective about The Honest fight.

Instead, while poking around, I found the true identity of The Honest Toddler (not really a secret) and found Bunmi Laditan’s grown up blog. Which, unlike her wildly popular alter-ego toddler blog, currently has no google pagerank and very few comments (moderation, perhaps?). I feel like I did on my honeymoon, when Roger and I found a deserted nook on a Greek island beach that we had all to ourselves (until a couple of days in when other tourists stumbled upon us getting suntanned in all sorts of places).*

gut instinctBumni, with prompting from her friend Doug, a performance coach for athletes, writers and entrepreneurs, brings up the idea of instinct in her gutsy post, Advice from a Mentor and Intestines. Doug speaks about differences: between what we feel and our feelings, and between being nice and being kind.

And even if we believe we know the right thing, we’re always trying to FEEL the right thing as we do the right thing.  But we can’t tell the difference between what we feel and our feelings. In other words, if you can FEEL the right thing based on experience, you don’t have to rely on this fight between feel and feelings.

– and –

It comes down to the difference between being nice and being kind.  Being nice is doing what will make others like you.  Being kind is doing the right thing knowing in the long run it is what’s best.  You have to be kind as a mother.  Being nice screws up your kids up in the long run, but they like you in the moment.

(Emphasis mine.)

That was the mentor aspect of her post’s title. Bunmi then follows with the intestine angle, finding similarities between our digestive and our cognitive processes:

It’s funny- I wrote about farts all day on Honest Toddler; the perceived silliness a small child might have at the idea that we need to be apologetic about the digestive process. One might say that the body’s biological process by which it breaks down food molecules through chemical reactions for the purpose of absorption mirrors the cognitive process by which we consume and interpret our daily experiences.

– and –

While it’s impossible to find shortcuts when it comes to the breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates so that they can be separated into waste and energy, the belief in the presence of instinct is a game changer when it comes to the consumption of life: separating the infinite possibilities and choices into what we’ll absorb into our experience and what we’ll let pass.

She goes on to equate digestive enzymes with a “biological representation of instinct.” She wonders if the tummy ache one gets when ignoring one’s gut instinct is akin to suffering from malfunctioning or imbalanced digestive enzymes.

“I knew this was a bad idea.” I can recall times that I didn’t listen to my gut, didn’t tune into my inner knowing. I went on dates when I knew I didn’t want to. I took jobs I knew were wrong for me. I bought products that I knew couldn’t possibly live up to their billing. I still on rare occasion take the nice way out instead of the dealing with what I know to be true. When I do this, I pay the price in my gut and sometimes in other ways.

To be honest means to live in integrity — to bring integration among what one knows, what one says, what one does (getting back to the Honest fight).

How about you? Are you attuned to your instincts? To what degree are you able to be honest with yourself? Do you have a story about a time when you chose “nice” over “kind” or didn’t listen to your inner guidance system? Leave a link if you write up your story.

Image courtesy of dream designs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

* (Upon further research I find that Bunmi Laditan has a more developed blog in her name on the WordPress.com platform, which looks better trafficked, but I still like the deserted nookish one better.)

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Alicia August 8, 2013 at 11:20 am

I’m just in the process of being honest with myself about what is working for me and what is not as part of our open adoption. Interesting that you throw this out there right now.

I think being honest with myself is actually way harder than being nice. Being nice is easy, isn’t it? We’re trained to be nice, but being honest with oneself takes some elbow grease and a ton of self-reflection.

I’m taking the next little chunk of time in my life to listen to my gut. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Thanks for these insights Lori!

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Lori Lavender Luz August 9, 2013 at 8:56 am

“being honest with oneself takes some elbow grease and a ton of self-reflection.” — so true.

The first step is knowing what is and isn’t working. The next step is developing healthy boundaries around those issues. I wish you well as you do this, specifically in your OA relationships.

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a August 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm

I tend to be honest more than I am nice. Don’t get me wrong – when people ask silly questions they’ll get the nice answer the first time. They’ll get a terse answer the second time. The third time, they’ll get all the honesty they never wanted. But in general, I feel like it’s better to say what you mean and mean what you say.

I will certainly never use flatulence as an analogy, though. There’s some honesty for you. :)

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Lori Lavender Luz August 9, 2013 at 8:56 am

I can get behind the idea of gradient responses to silly questions.

Yeah, as an analogy, this one probably stinks (baDUMbum).

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jjiraffe August 8, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Oooh, I love this post. First of all, I forgot you had your own similar situation to The Honest Toddler! I think Alba and company are making a huge PR blunder by going after a funny, beloved writer. They look like bullies.

But the gut instinct stuff is interesting. I worked in politics once upon a time and “gut check time” was a very common exercise. Beyond the research and polling data, at some point most politicians had to go with their “guts” at some point during an election. But I often found politicians and those working for them had stomach problems! Indigestion, acid reflux, inhaling tums, etc. Make of that what you will. :)

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Lori Lavender Luz August 9, 2013 at 8:57 am

That’s fascinating! And also I’m somehow not surprised.

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Jessie August 9, 2013 at 9:55 am

I like the distinction you make between “nice” and “kind”. I tend to be very honest, and try to do it in a kind way, because I have always felt that’s what serves people best. I think it’s actually cruel to reassure someone of something that you don’t actually agree with–if you feel, deep down, that it’s not right, it usually ends up not being right, and you’ve set them (or yourself) back in a way. We have to take the right path eventually, to get where we’re going, and the sooner we get on that path, the sooner we can get to an authentic life that serves us well. Plus, lying to yourself or others makes the blow that much harder when the truth does come. Great post, Lori! :)

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Lori Lavender Luz August 9, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Exactly this: “lying to yourself or others makes the blow that much harder when the truth does come.”

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KeAnne August 9, 2013 at 11:26 am

I think I read something about your gut having a large amount of nerve endings which is why it is a reputable guidance system. When we decided to move into our previous house, I knew it was a bad idea. My gut tried to warn me, but I didn’t listen because we could get a brand new house very inexpensively. We tried to make it work, but almost 2 years to the day after we closed and moved in, we closed on the sale of the house. I felt so relieved, but I wish I had spared us the anxiety of the previous 2 years.

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Lori Lavender Luz August 9, 2013 at 12:07 pm

That’s a very helpful example. I’m glad you were able to reverse your decision. Did you use your gut with the next house?

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Kristi Campbell August 9, 2013 at 4:14 pm

I try to be in tune with what’s right for me but sometimes, it’s really hard. My biggest personal “what should I do” life circumstance now is related to blogging/writing/working IRL. In my gut, I know that writing and my blog are more important to me than my job is. But I do love my job, making money, and helping this company (my boss is amazing). So I struggle and try to do all of the above, which leads to too many nights ending at 2am while I’m squinting one eye, trying to get something done.
Great post, Lori! And YES to kind over nice.
PS – If I recall, when I read this from my phone yesterday, it had quite a different title???

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Lori Lavender Luz August 9, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Busted!

Every time I saw the post I got a feeling in my gut to change it. Who am I to argue?

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Haralee August 9, 2013 at 5:51 pm

I try to listen to everyone and I could do better listening to everything as well!

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Justine August 9, 2013 at 8:51 pm

I am trying so hard to listen to my gut today. This new job offer, only a month into my old job. My current boss who is a decent human being, who actually seems to be happy I’m working with her. The network I’ve started to build in this role, who would learn that I’ve deserted the position so quickly. But also, the fact that this other position is a big step up (financially and responsibility), an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often. Unfortunately with less flexibility to work at home occasionally, I suspect. And more evening responsibilities. But less summers. I don’t think that staying in the job I just got would be only “nice” … in some ways, it feels right. But how can I turn down the other possibility?

I went to the farm to get our CSA share today, and picked beans in a thunderstorm. And of course, was on the top of the farm’s field when the rainbow appeared. OK, a sign … but what is it supposed to mean?

My gut said it was going to throw up earlier today. Tonight, walking around ShopRite picking up groceries, my gut said I was going to burst into tears. I wish it would give me a more clear sign.

Great post. And so apropos for me today.

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Esperanza August 9, 2013 at 9:35 pm

I don’t think I’m very good at checking with my “gut” when I make big decisions. I’ve never had that feeling that I just want to do something, even if I’m not sure exactly why. Well that is not true, I wanted to have another child even though rational arguments seemed to support not having one. But I guess I thought that was my heart talking and not my gut. I’m suppose I’m not really sure how to tell the difference.

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St. Elsewhere August 10, 2013 at 1:45 am

There are times when I choose to be nice rather than true when dealing with others, often because the true can be hurtful, and there is no tactful way of being true.

But I do not bluff myself. I am honest with myself, even if it means admitting things I can’t verbalize to the rational world.

Then there are areas in me that I do not want to explore currently.

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Kathy August 13, 2013 at 10:22 am

Very interesting!

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Kathy August 13, 2013 at 10:24 am

I noticed the same thing, also having read it on my phone first, and prefer the new title! :)

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Kathy August 13, 2013 at 10:26 am

Great comment J and I appreciate how frustrating it can be when our gut feelings aren’t so obvious, as they are in other situations.

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Kathy August 13, 2013 at 10:28 am

What an interesting and thought-provoking post and discussion here! I often gave “gut feelings” about things and try to listen more and more, the older and more mature I get. I don’t have a lot to add, but will definitely be thinking about all of this long after I click away today.

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