Storm clouds over Lake Erie

Warning Signs: One Thing I Would Tell My 20-Year-Old Self

How many times have you sensed something was wrong? Felt warning signs of impending trouble? Felt the Universe communicating to you that something was amiss? Picked up signals that the thing you had or wanted was not meant for you?

How many times have you embraced and heeded these signs as warning messages from your intuition? Tuning in to and becoming more aware of our intuition is a good thing, right? Intuition is a gift, and using it is powerful.

But what if it isn’t really your intuition? What if you haven’t been predicting or sensing outcomes, but creating those outcomes by your actions and reactions?

I wish I could go back in time and tell my 20-year-old self that a lot of what she will chalk up to her “intuition” will actually be her insecurity talking, and it will lead her down a path of recurring self-sabotage and self-fulfilling prophecies.

The “signs” and “evidence” we read through a lens of “intuition” are first filtered through a medium of our unique experiences and self-image. If we are insecure, fear is our primary filter medium, and it will completely alter the composition of what your intuition is reading.

When making bourbon, the filtering process can dramatically transform a whiskey. Unfiltered…non-chill filtered…plate and frame filter…can filter. Decisions made at this stage alter the color, taste, character, and complexity of the final product. So, if your intuition is a tongue, “tasting” filtered evidence and then sending an evaluation message to your brain, that message is very different depending on the filter through which the evidence flowed. If it flowed through fear, your intuition is going to send a negative message.

Intuition comes from a place of confidence, power, and strength. Insecurity comes from a place of fear and doubt.

If only I’d realized this in my 20s. Instead, I spent decades tuning in to what I thought was my intuition, and then bemoaning the fact that I “ignored” said intuition and ended up with the negative outcome I “intuited” all along. Of course, I wasn’t ignoring my “intuition.” I played the negative messages over and over in my head, and reacted by making behavior choices that ensured the bad outcomes would eventually occur. These self-fulfilling prophecies create a cycle of failure fed by insecurity, fear, and doubt. A self-fulfilling prophecy is so dangerous because it’s a double-edged sword — one side I Told You So and the other I Made It So. It’s a tough pattern to break.

To be clear, I am not referring to the intuition that picks up red-flag signs of danger, abuse, addiction, narcissism, or other disorder. Yes, they can be frightening, but paying attention to these red-flag warning signs — early on — and following your instinct to walk away comes from a place of strength and power, not fear. That is intuition, and I wish my 20-year-old self had trusted in hers the way I trust and follow mine now.

Our intuition can save our lives, protect our finances, and guard our happiness and well-being. Our insecurity can throw us on an endless loop of fear-induced self-fulfilling prophecies. Absent a clear red-flag warning sign, I would tell my 20-year-old self to stop and ask herself two questions when she thinks her intuition is telling her a negative message:

“Am I afraid?”

“What am I afraid of?”

If she answers “yes” to the first question, her answer(s) to the second question will let her know she’s dealing with insecurity, not intuition.

From my 20s on into even my 60s, my answers to the second question have included being afraid of rejection, failure, looking stupid, or not being liked. My “intuition” was really just insecurity, feeding me negative messages that reflected my fears. At 61, though, I can better distinguish insecure fear from powerful intuition. I’m much better at taming fear, taking action from a position of strength, and preventing insecurity from launching me into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I wish I could tell my 20-year-old self that most of what she feels is insecurity, not intuition. I wish I could hold her hand, giving her the confidence to listen to what really is intuition that could save her from harm. I wish I could tell her it gets so much better. I wish I could tell her this is coming.

What about you? How do you tell the difference between intuition and insecurity? Was there ever a time you confused the two? What advice would you give your younger self about this?

All images The Hot Goddess

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  1. This is masterfully thought through. Makes absolute and good sense. The beautiful thing is we’re never too old to learn, to change, to be a better form of ourselves. Thanks for this. Dee

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Very insightful post. Love the choice of photos as they subtly progress with the ideas presented. I think many of us have walked this path. Thank heavens we learn as we go through life.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Another thought provoking post; and I love the filtering analogy. I don’t think I’d tell my 20yr old self anything. I believe I would go back farther, to my 6 or 7 yr old self. A time when self image, self confidence, and self worth are just starting to form. I’d tell that little me if I was afraid to try something, do something, or be something to be brave for 20 seconds. If, after 20 seconds I was less afraid or just able to do it, keep going!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I love this! I have also made many decisions based on fear, I believe. I like the idea of asking those questions. I have learned in the past year that some of the things I was most afraid of were actually not as bad or scary as the situation I was already living in. Thank you for another thought provoking post! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful post. I can relate so well to this. After a bad first boyfriend, my intuition—what I called my spidey sense, kicked in and I listened when it came to men. But there was that other thing. That insecurity, that lack of confidence that held me back from so many other opportunities. I alway felt that I was not good enough and would fail. Little did I know that everyone else was bluffing their way through life. I too would love to go back and talk to my 20-year-old self.

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  6. Lovely photos and landscapes Natalie, and great advice to our younger and current selves. I’m still figuring out intuition. Not a strong suit for me. Usually I can recognize the voice of fear and try not to let it guide my choices.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sooo many things to share here! First, I think it’s so amazing how your Bourbon journey is becoming this metaphor for life. There’s a reason you were drawn to that path I think! Also, yes, ugh that double edged sword is so tough, and how do we sort out all the muck inside of us to make sense of it and make clear decisions? I think for me it was a process of trial and error and when more self love came (from therapy, from myself) then my decision making automatically got better. Hmmm, to my 20 year old self I’d say, wow good lord, she was intense, I’d say “Lib, it’s ok, everything’s gonna be okay. Just trust me and hang in there. You kick so much ass and you don’t even know it. Be yourself and screw everyone else. Just hang in there and be patient, this path you’re on takes time, sorry but it’s true. But you have good things coming and you’re so great! Ok? Believe it 💖” that’s what I’d say ☺️

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much Claudette!❤ My insecurity and fear were such stealthy demons for so long. It’s taken lots of little steps — and some missteps — to feel some progress. I appreciate you!😊


  8. Oh, if only I could talk to her…you know, at this point I don’t know that I would have changed much for her only because I know that the right decisions sometimes bring unwanted results too. I would probably tell her to live more in the present and be a little more careful and a little less impulsive. But just a little 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Such a thought-provoking post. You sure got me thinking about my 20-yr-old self. Fear, insecurity, intuition. An incredible dynamic when mixed with honest vulnerability creates a pathway to self-affirmation and empowerment when combined with another forty years of life experience. Cheers, my introspective and wise friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I would tell my younger self that my mother really knew very little and was locked into place by her own insecurities and thoughts on how things “should” be. In my 20s I went against my own intuition and listened to my very controlling mother when I wasn’t sure. Big mistake. I should have failed in my own terms. I know that’s not what you were asking, but it’s sort of my take

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Natalie, your article is insightful. I have learned to listen to my intuition, that is a strong guide. Your bringing attention to insecurity and how those to inner voices can be confused and conflict with each other is an interesting perspective. I also enjoyed your comparison of the whiskey making process. Analogies help us make sense and remember important life lessons. Great post!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. This is good. I recently read something like this: the difference between intuition and fear is that one is a loud roar and the other is a silent murmur…or something like that lol

    I would tell my 20-year-old self to just be herself.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Finding our true voice—such as differentiating between intuition and insecurity—is something we have to learn through experience, though I do feel you on wishing I could go back in time and show my younger self how to tell these things apart. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that the 20s are a confusing time perhaps even more so than the teens. 20s is when you make it on your own without parents and try to act as if everything is ok when really it isn’t. 30s is definitely a smoothrt process than the 20s ever was

    Liked by 1 person

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