Intuition, Self-Doubt, & Your Period
Updated: Oct 31, 2020
Being the executive decision-maker in my business is all fun and wonderful...until it's not. Most of the time, I love getting to make decisions: I use my gut, I move quickly, and usually it ends pretty well. Most of the time.
In the moments in which I don't love making decisions, it's typically because of a little voice in my head called self-doubt. I've gotten better at reminding myself that self-doubt is normal and not objective, but the problem occurs when I struggle to distinguish between my intuition and unfounded self-doubt.
Plus, as a woman, I have hormones thrown into the mix, which can make listening to my intuition especially difficult.
Productivity & Periods
On a sunrise hike the other day, I was talking to a couple friends about menstrual cycles and circadian rhythms. First of all, we talked about how we have circadian rhythms plural, not singular. We're most familiar with the circadian rhythm that dictates our sleep-wake cycle, but our internal rhythms encompass more than that. Circadian rhythms are related to our hormonal cycles, which dictate our metabolism, ability to mentally focus, emotional states, sleep...basically everything. Because women experience a 28-day hormonal cycle, our metabolism, ability to mentally focus, emotional states, sleep, and everything else shift throughout that 28(ish) day cycle.
Expectations of the modern work-world are—and I can't stress this enough—definitely not built on this reality. Men designed those systems, and their hormonal cycle is 24 hours. It makes more sense for men to expect to be about the same from one day to the next in terms of productivity, emotion, and mental state. It makes more sense for men to perform similar tasks regardless of the day of the month, and to measure productivity on a static scale. It makes more sense for men to need approximately the same amount of sleep each night. (More sense...but still not perfect sense. #dismantlethepatriarchy)
For women this is definitely not the case. Jenna Kutcher has a great episode on her podcast, The Goal Digger, about this topic. She interviews a woman named Kate Northrup who digs into each phase of the menstrual cycle and what we're best wired for during those periods (no pun intended). For example, during the ovulation phase of the cycle, we tend do be more verbal, receptive, and articulate. Kate says that this is a great time for things like networking events, presentations, and social get-togethers (may they rest in peace). The whole thing is fascinating and I definitely recommend a listen.
Lately I've been reminded of that podcast as I reflect on intuition. I realized that, because our brains and emotions are not the same every day, it can make it difficult to consistently lean on intuition.
For example, before I started tracking my cycle, I'd frequently have moments of doubt and fear, moments when I thought I was making a million mistakes in my business. When I started tracking, I saw that these thoughts typically occurred during my Luteal phase (right before my period).
Now when I feel those thoughts start to creep in, I glance at my calendar. In the Luteal phase? Great. What I'm feeling is probably being magnified by my hormones right now. It's not the time to make big moves or throw an idea away. It's time to reflect and get grounded.
This has allowed me to discover a hack to tell the difference between intuition and self-doubt: intuition doesn't go away.
Whether I'm at day 7 or day 25 of my cycle, a client who doesn't share my values will rub me the wrong way—that's my intuition telling me it's not a good fit. This is distinct from self-doubt, which on day 25 may make me feel like every decision I'm making spells my doom but on day 7 will gladly take a backseat as I realize that I'm a badass and good at this.
For women, I think harnessing the power of our intuition, and learning to distinguish it from self-doubt, can give us a true superpower in running our businesses. We have a lot of palpable disadvantages in our culture, but thankfully we're allowed to experience and listen to our emotions more than men. This is a distinct advantage, so let's hold onto it.
In order to truly hone your intuition superpower, I recommend getting in better touch with your cycle. If you start to doubt yourself, check out which day it is: your hormones may be pulling the puppet strings rather than your intuition.
This is not to say that if we're in the Luteal phase (PMS-ing) we shouldn't listen to ourselves. But learning to distinguish between self-doubt magnified by hormones and our intuition can allow us to get to know both feelings better, making it easier to distinguish between the two.
If there are any men who have made it this far into the post, first of all, thank you for being open to learning about this stuff and reading a blog post with the word "period" in the title. Second, this applies to you as well. Yes, men have 24-hour hormonal cycles, but that doesn't mean you all are robots who feel, think, and act the same every day like clockwork. As humans we naturally go through phases. We change with the seasons and the world around us. We're affected by news and politics and how much sunlight we're getting and everything else.
So whether you identify as male, female, or something in between, give yourself a break. Take a breath. Meditate. Journal. Tune into your gut, because chances are it has something pretty interesting to tell you.