Image of eyeball - Is it anxiety or intuition?

Is It Anxiety Or Intuition? How To Trust Your Inner Wisdom

Jul 27, 2021

This post explores the question, "Is it anxiety or intuition?".


Intuition is a tricky and complex thing.

For starters—it's something that feels very individualized, which makes it harder to understand person-to-person, as each person's experience with intuition will likely be different.

And then on top of that—it's definitely more of a 'soft-skill'—something that we can't quite put an exact process to, but rather a practice we can experiment with on our own and cultivate more of over time.

Personally, I'm still learning a lot about how my intuition shows up and how to listen to it.

And the fact that I'm learning about it at all is strides ahead of where I was even just a couple years ago, when I used to be extremely uneasy thinking about my intuition.

I was uneasy because I was zeroing in on my intuition for one reason and one reason only: in regard to my relationship with Nate.


Is it anxiety or intuition?


Back in the thick of my relationship anxiety days, I was convinced that my intuition was trying to tell me that our relationship wasn't the right fit.

Every time I heard someone on a podcast or in a book say, "just follow your intuition," or discuss how we often have this "inner knowing" of what to do—I panicked.

I thought my intuition or "inner knowing" was the tightness I had in my chest when I woke up each morning, and the pit in my stomach I would get when I thought about marriage, and those bodily responses were telling me I had to leave my relationship.

I thought that the doubts I was experiencing in my relationship meant Nate wasn't The One.

I thought that because everyone always says "when you know you know" and I didn't know with 100% certainty, that I was going against what was right for me.

No wonder I was so scared to think about my intuition...

While I've since changed my beliefs on what my intuition is trying to communicate to me—I still have moments where I don't feel deeply connected to an "inner knowing", and moments where I let fear take the drivers seat in my life and confuse it with intuition.

Let me explain further.

My old definition of intuition looked a little something like this:

Every bodily reaction or response was a sign that my intuition was trying to tell me something. Ignoring one of these "signs" meant I was not trusting myself and doing something bad.

Now, my understanding of intuition has expanded.

I don't know if I even have a firm definition of what it is, as it still feels like this elusive concept to me, but the cool part is I'm not necessarily looking to nail a set 'definition' down anytime soon. I'm still learning and experimenting for myself, and that's okay.

One thing I do know for sure is I've shifted away from thinking my intuition is trying to communicate with me when my nervous system is feeling overwhelmed by fear*, and more into thinking that my intuition is trying to communicate with me when I am feeling still, grounded and clear-headed.

*please note; I'm not referring to times when we are physically in danger, or sense a threat (ie: sensing someone following us when we're walking alone at night, or sensing that someone is lying to us—I don't ever want to discourage from tuning into that type of intuitive guidance).

What this means is, instead of thinking every tight chest or lurched stomach is a sign to end my relationship, I've taken it as a sign that maybe there's something deeper going on that is causing some fear to bubble up within me in that moment.

More than likely, this fear is a result of a past experience or belief of mine that's conflicting with something happening in the present moment.

What fears, past experiences, or old beliefs are coming up aren't always obvious right away. Sometimes, they require further reflection or exploration. I do know the fears, past experiences, or old beliefs are usually much deeper than the surface level worries about Nate.

For example, some of these deeper fears are:

  • Fear of failing in my relationship, as I value relationships very highly.

  • Fear of losing my relationship, aka losing out on love in my life.

  • Fear of losing myself within my relationship; losing my sense of self.

  • Fear of not being fulfilled in my life.

  • Fear of the unknowns that come with love.

Some of the past experiences that bubble up are:

  • Past experiences of being a RomCom fanatic and believing "love is like the movies."

  • Past experiences of divorce being present in my family and extended family, which creates conflicting views: "love doesn't always last" paired with "love is like the movies" don't mix.

  • Past experiences in previous relationships where I didn't feel like my needs were being met (though, much of that was likely my failure to clearly communicate!).

Some of the old beliefs that show up are:

  • Old beliefs telling me that love should be perfect and effortless, which conflicts with some of my experiences (because perfection is an illusion...).

  • Old beliefs telling me that anxiety or doubts being present in a relationship are a sign you need to leave the relationship and find a partner that doesn't "cause anxiety" (oof. thankfully have unsubscribed from this.)

  • Old beliefs telling me that love means passion, lust, and feelings of infatuation 24/7 (chemically this is not the case...see my article on dopamine for more.)

These fears, past experiences, and old beliefs of mine are just a handful of examples of things that may cause one's nervous system to respond in fear when thinking about committing to a long-term partner.

And now I know that if my nervous system responds with fear, the tight chest or pit in my stomach are usually calling me to pay attention and explore what else in could be causing a reaction, instead of assuming it's related to Nate specifically.




Strengthening your intuition

Even though I have come a long way when it comes to opening my mind up to the idea of intuition, sometimes to this day even reading the word intuition still makes my stomach churn a little bit...

It's likely that I have body memories that have stored up all of the moments/days where I was convinced I had to leave my relationship, and was convinced it was my intuition trying to communicate with me.

Seeing the word brings some of those emotions rushing back in, and I often have to take a few (or, a handful...) of mindful breaths as I read through an article or watch a video where intuition is mentioned so I don't get sucked into old response patterns.

I encourage you to do the same if you need to as you read through this article.

In addition to feeling reactive to the topic of intuition as a whole, I also still struggle with knowing if I'd even be able to hear my own intuition clearly if it were trying to speak.

I often wonder: even if my intuition were guiding me from a calm and clear-headed place—would I hear it?

Because there is so. much. noise. out there in the world.

Sometimes it can be hard to know what it is that we want (our own intuition) vs. what it is that we think we want based on how we were raised, or what society says is "right."

Those lines can get really blurry without major self-reflection.

I feel like I'm consistently unlearning and relearning beliefs and information that I thought was "truth"—and looking for other possibilities that line up with what feels good to me.

My journey to deepen my intuition is far from over, and more than likely just getting started.

When I see other people talking about how they feel really connected to their intuition, I feel a twinge of envy, but also very inspired.

It can lead me to questioning if I'm “doing the intuition thing right" while also making me really want to get to the place where I don't have to even question it.

With time, I know that I will only continue to strengthen my intuition as I continue to mindfully work on it.

That's all we can really do...right?



Intuition comparison

The inspiration for this blog post hit me earlier this week.

After taking a two-day break from checking Instagram (which was lovely), one of the first posts I saw while coming back online was someone discussing how they made a huge change in their life, and one that they were guided to make by following their intuition.

Sometimes I'm in a better headspace to receive someone's story of following their intuition and other times…I'm not.

This day, not so much. I definitely had a reaction to it.

While the post was very vague, her caption made it sound like the intuition she tapped into led to a relationship ending (though I'm not sure if it was romantic, or a boundary set with a friendship/family member), or major career shift.

Whatever it was, it triggered an old spark of relationship anxiety that said:

"What if my intuition has been trying to tell me this relationship isn't right for a long time and I have been shoving it down?"

Whew—when that thought comes up, it's not so easy to shake off.

I definitely got swept up in some thoughts and anxious feelings after reading the post. I'm human, I still get triggered—often.

But, I quickly decided that I didn't need to compare this person's story to mine. Instead, I decided to channel all the thoughts swirling up in my head into a long (and getting longer by the minute...ha!) reflection about intuition.

And voilà! The draft for this blog post was formed.

As I reflected on what the heck intuition means to me, what feels empowering to me about humans' intuitive abilities, how to cultivate more intuition, and how to articulate this to help others feel less alone in their experiences—the words came pouring out.

So here I am, trying to get this brain dump into a format that resonates with you, dear reader, because I wish someone would have told me these things earlier on in my journey…

I hope you find this helpful, because I know just how convincing the intrusive thought of "what if my intuition is telling me something" and how strong the feelings that come with it are, especially when it comes to questioning your choice in partner.

My chest feels a little tight now as I write this, because it's just so dang convincing.

And that's why this article was even MORE important for me to write—to get these thoughts I am feeling out into the universe and out of my mind.

I never feel calm if I let myself follow the "what if" rabbit hole that these feelings of discomfort are my intuition, anyways.

Going down a "what if" rabbit hole and rumination spiral never given me the answers I seek—only sends me into a state of overwhelm.

So instead of "what if-ing" what my intuition is really trying to tell me, I decided to seek out other experiences of what intuition means to people I look up to.

Because I always say there isn't a "one-size-fits-all" approach to relationships, so why would intuition be any different?

I don't believe there is one single definition of intuition that applies to every person on the planet.

I do, however, believe some people's intuitive experiences may resonate more with me (and hopefully you) than others, so I seek out other opinions to expand my understanding.

And while I was in my quest for expanding my definition and understanding intuition earlier this week, I kept coming back to one person's definition that really (and I mean really) resonates with me.

This incredible definition comes from Brené Brown.

Buckle up, this is good stuff...



Intuition definition

Brené's definition of intuition from her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, goes a little something like this:

“Intuition is not a single way of knowing - it's our ability to hold space for uncertainty and our willingness to trust the many ways we've developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith, and reason.”

Brené also says that…

"Intuition is not independent of reasoning process…it’s not a voice that is limited to one message. Sometimes is it the voice that says follow your instincts and sometimes your intuition is the voice that says we don’t have all the information to make a decision, we need to know more."

Lastly, she says that "The problem is to understand and hear our intuition, we have to hear our voice over the noise. And some of the noise is other people’s, but sometimes the noise is our own fear, shame, or voices saying we’re not good enough…we have to learn to hear what we’re saying."

Her definition of intuition makes me feel a sense of relief for many reasons, three of which I will outline below in the hopes they help you feel relief, too.

#1 - Her definition of intuition feels expansive and inclusive, not restrictive and "one-size-fits-all."

Firstly, her definition of intuition feels all-encompassing and expansive, unlike most of the ways I've heard intuition being communicated about.

I've always felt like people talk about intuition as a single way of knowing (which is: following your instinct above all else) and that feels restrictive and high-stakes to me, like "you just know or you don't." (which has usually not been my experience).

My interpretation of her definition of intuition is that we should be holding space for our intuition to pull from our developed knowledge and insights, too, not just going based off of our feelings.

Within her examples of different ways humans develop knowledge and insight, two things in particular struck me: faith and reason.


Faith, Brené says, is a place of mystery where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.

For me, faith looks like trusting that despite my fear of what potential problems could lie ahead in my relationship (ex: a loveless marriage, a divorce, etc.), I find the courage to believe in the opposite—a relationship where the love continues to grow over time.

It looks like trusting that even if right now I still get a little churn-y when I think about my relationship on some days, that's coming from a place of fear not an "intuitive place."

It also looks like trusting that I can continue to grow my intuition over time with practice and intention, and trusting that if there was something very wrong I'd know and make the best decision for me at the time.


Reason, on the other hand, is something I'd say I'm much "better" at naturally, maybe you can relate if you're a fellow over-analyzer.

I thought that when I used to "reason with myself," I was coming from a logical place.

Now I realize my "logic" wasn't based on truth, but subjective reality.

I had a lot to learn about what love and relationships mean, and with new information I could reason with myself much differently.

  • Back in the day, I reasoned with myself that if I really loved Nate, I “wouldn't have any anxiety” about our future together.

  • I also reasoned with myself that "roughly 50% of marriages end in divorce, love wasn't safe".

  • I even reasoned with myself that I wasn't capable of being in a happy, healthy relationship because my parents were no longer together teaching me how to be in relationship with another person (talk about playing the victim...thankfully I have since changed that belief system).

Now, since learning more about love and resetting my expectations of a relationship, I find myself bringing in a much more empowering type of reasoning:

  • I now reason with myself that no relationship is perfect, so why was I aiming for that in the first place?

  • I now reason with myself that having doubts in a relationship often has nothing to do with your partner and everything to do with internal fears or outdated beliefs (assumes non-abusive relationship).

  • I now reason with myself that it's not Nate's job to fulfill me and bring my happiness, and expecting a partner to do that is going to always have me feeling miserable.

Brené's definition of intuition including instinct, experience, faith, and reason feels like something I can really get on board with because when I combine the wisdom from my instinct, experience, faith and reason all together—I choose my relationship every. time.

#2 - She encourages people to learn more before making decisions.

"Sometimes your intuition is the voice that says we don’t have all the information to make a decision, we need to know more."

This has to be one of my favorite nuances of intuition that I've heard because I think it's so counterintuitive to what we hear in the societal narrative:

  • "If you're not happy, leave!"

  • "If you have doubts, they're not the one"

  • "If it's not a f*ck yes, it's a no"

All of these pieces of advice feel like they're rushing people to make a decision (not to mention, a decision that has a big impact) vs. exploring other alternatives and possibilities, or as Brené says getting more information.

Before I had information about relationship anxiety and ROCD, I thought I had to leave my relationship because of the doubts.

With more information, I came to realize that there are countless reasons why doubts can happen within a relationship that have little to do with the partner you're with.

This information reassured me that the reasons I ultimately stayed in my relationship made sense...that even though the doubts (fears) tried to convince me to leave, something else deeper was telling me to stay.

And now, when I reflect back, it truly feels like it really has been my intuition pulling me forward within my relationship with Nate—urging me to stay despite the doubts.

Because despite the doubts, I've always wanted this relationship to work.

Despite the doubts, I never ended things because I envisioned a long, happy relationship with Nate (even when I was afraid that wouldn't happen). [if you have ever ended a relationship before due to anxiety then gotten back together, this doesn't mean that it can't work out]

Despite the doubts, I chose to show up and learn how to better manage my anxiety, for myself and for the relationship, even on the days where anxiety felt like it was overbearing.




A note on clarity

As a quick side-note—I've always told myself that if I had extreme clarity that I really, truly wanted to end this relationship, I would find the strength to do so.

I believe the same is true for everyone.

I did that in my last relationship.

It wasn't easy, but there were moments and days where I clearly knew I didn't want to be in my past relationship any longer; I couldn't see any potential future options with this person anymore, I couldn't imagine us growing together (only growing further apart), and I didn't feel respected and appreciated in the relationship enough to keep fighting for it.

So even on the days in the beginning of my relationship anxiety journey where I didn't have clear answers or information YET, I still kept going, and ultimately that led me to discovering more about relationship anxiety and realizing that there was hope to get past it.

When it comes to your relationship with a partner, if you feel like you have spent the time gaining as many answers as possible about your compatibility, vision for the future, life values, emotional connection (or willingness to deepen it)—and after you've done so, you come to the conclusion that your relationship isn't a good fit, I'm not here to tell you to push through that.

If you are seeing red flags, experiencing boundaries being broken, are not getting your needs met after asking for them, and you've been trying to make things work with no progress—you have some valuable information in front of you to make a decision.

However, if you sense that there is still information you don't know—such as ways to successfully move through relationship anxiety, how to better communicate with your partner, or deeper reasons for the anxiety bubbling up within—maybe, just maybe, you keep going until you feel like you have more insight and resources to support you in your journey.

#3 - Brené speaks to a classic pillar of relationship anxiety: many times, the "noise" we hear (and mistake for our intuition) is either someone else's voice, or our own fear/shame.

One of the parts I find so difficult in accessing my intuition is just as Brené shares:

"The problem is to understand and hear our intuition, we have to hear our voice over the noise. And some of the noise is others, but sometimes the noise is our own fear, shame, or voices saying we’re not good enough…we have to learn to hear what we’re saying."

Noise from others and noise of fear/shame are both tough to quiet down.

Let's start with noise from others:

We've been hammered with societal narratives of perfect, effortless, passionate, sexy, dreamy love in the movies, in magazines, and on social media.

We've also learned that divorce rates are up to 50%, which can cause a lot of dissonance within our mind and pressure to ensure the partner we pick is not going to have us ending up as another statistic.

Subconsciously, we may think:

"…wait a second, so love is supposed to be amazing and last forever, but it clearly doesn't work out 50% of the time—so I guess that means those people just "didn't choose the right person"—I need to make sure my partner is THE ONE!"

Even typing this out, it makes so much sense to me why people have a hard time trusting their intuition...

  • On one hand, there's noise saying you'll "just know" when you've found your perfect match.

  • On the other, there's noise saying "be careful who you choose to be with, because love doesn't always last."


This noise from society, family and friends can be really hard to quiet down—and takes intention.

It takes intentionally asking "what do I want?" instead of looking to Google or others for advice.

It takes intentionally reflecting on experiences that have made you feel good or not so good and looking for the patterns so you can adjust moving forward.

It takes intentionally making choices and decisions and learning from them (whether it was the "right" decision, or the "wrong" decision (and a lesson was learned), you'll have valuable insights).

Start small. Start with decisions about the new outfit you want to buy that you'd normally ask your friend's opinion on, or a choice of what you want to order at the restaurant in 30 seconds or less.

Just start to make choices that come from YOU, not others.

Moving on to noise of fear/shame from within:

When we've deeply internalized messages from family, friends, society and worry about what others think, or worry about potential negative outcomes—fear and shame can take the drivers seat.

I'd argue fear and shame (paired with lack of faith and compassion) are the key reasons relationship anxiety exists—the fear and shame disconnect us from being present and loving and instead keep us up in our head.

As I shared earlier, often times when I thought my intuition was trying to tell me something, fear was leading the charge:

  • Fears of failing in my relationship.

  • Fears of losing my relationship.

  • Fears of losing myself within my relationship.

  • Fears of not being fulfilled in my life.

  • Fears of the unknowns that come with love.

Let's pair those with some of the shame that come with relationship anxiety

  • Shame of having doubts within your relationship

  • Shame of feeling like you're "not doing love right"

  • Shame of having anxiety and the stress that places on the relationship

  • Shame of feeling like you're the only one with relationship anxiety

  • Shame that comes from imagining a failed relationship, or losing the relationship

As you can guess, or maybe have experienced for yourself, these fear and shame-based thoughts prevent us from trusting in our relationship, and prevent us from having compassion towards ourself or our experience.

I now believe that when we're trying to tap into our intuition—while we definitely need to find a way to quiet out the noise of others, we especially need to find a way to quiet or see past the noises that come from fear and shame.

If shame of having doubts in your relationship is leading you to question things and want to end the relationship, but you really want it to work out and you're just afraid—that isn't listening to your intuition, that's listening to shame and fear.

When you're living your life (or making choices about your relationship) that are based on a reaction to someone else's beliefs or actions, not yours, it's reallllly hard to tap into intuition.

Another example would be if you see a couple you know break up, and your intuitive feelings ( we know it’s more like your fearful feelings) say "oh no, does this mean me and my partner need to breakup, too?"—you're following fear/shame, not what you really want to do.

Living a life solely based on fear and shame will be a very bumpy ride, indeed.

We can't break up every time we see another couple break up.

I mean, we technically CAN, but is that actually what we want?! Or are we just listening to a fear-based body responses that are afraid of that same thing happening to us in the future, and then trying to protect ourselves now by ending things before they get even more serious?

Starting to ask ourselves what we want/what would make us happy first is no easy work, but it's important.



Trusting yourself

Even as I finish writing this post, I struggle with knowing what type of advice about intuition is "right."

I'm sure there have been many people who have listened to an intuitive feeling and felt like it was the right move. I've seen many of those stories.

I'm sure there have also been many people who have listened to an "intuitive feeling" which really turned out to be a fear-based response, and felt like it was the wrong move.

Of course, those people have learned from that, and hopefully will take that lesson with them moving forward.

But as I reflect, what feels best for me in this part of my life right now is to choose to trust that I will follow my intuition when it feels like it's a calm and clear-headed guidance, and when I feel like I've collected all the information I needed.

I'm also choosing to trust that I know enough about how it feels like when I'm in a place of fear to slow down, regulate my nervous system, and collect more information before I choose to move forward from that place. Making life-altering decisions from a place of fear does not feel good for me, and so I choose not to do so.

Lastly, I'm choosing to trust that with a combination of instinct, experience, faith, and reason—I will find the answers I seek at the times I need them. No sooner and no later. Even if some things take time for me to learn and understand, that was the time I needed.

All of this is why I keep showing up and choosing my relationship day after day.

I don't make decisions that could jeopardize my relationship's future from a place of fear.

I wait until the fear has passed, and usually by that time—the choice to stay, love Nate, and grow in our relationship together easily floats back to me.



Final thoughts

If you made it this far, thank you.

I think this may be one of my favorite blog posts I've ever written. Maybe it's not the most organized, but it feels like it's straight from the heart.

I hope this helps you feel a sense of comfort around the elusive concept of intuition.

And I hope that, like myself, you choose to trust that with a combination of instinct, experience, faith, and reason—you will find the answers you seek at the times you need sooner, and no later.

Sending so much love, and thank you for being here!



This post explored the question, "Is it anxiety or intuition?".


 If you liked this post about the question "Is it anxiety or intuition?", you may also like:


Moving Forward With Doubts

When You Know You... Know?

Am I Forcing It

When It Feels Like Your Mind Is Split


Additional support with this question:

While I tried to be as detailed as possible in this blog post, I know there can be questions that come up and further exploration to do to answer the question “Is it anxiety or intuition?”

Here are some ways I can support you in exploring that question further:

1 - “is it anxiety or intuition?” webinar - I explore this question in much more detail and help you build up more trust in your own inner wisdom. Purchase the replay for $27.

2 - my recent webinar replay: “is it anxiety or incompatibility?” - Helps you answer this question with more clarity and ease so you can stop questioning if your relationship is incompatible. Purchase the replay for $27.

3 - Check out my self-study course Deconstruct the Doubts, which is perfect for someone who wants to confidently choose their partner and relationship and have access to the information TODAY!

4 - Learn more about Private Coaching.