Polling – What is it and do you do it?

You know when you hear something (or read something) and it hits you with such power, that you think to yourself – “that’s me, I do that”! Well, this happened to me a few weeks ago, when on a rare day I was driving solo listening to a podcast by one of my faves; Brene Brown and her sisters (It was the Summer Sister Series on The Gifts of Imperfection Ep.4 if you’re interested on her Unlocking Us Podcast – it’s both really funny and very thought provoking). On it they used the phrase “Polling” and talked about when they did, why they likely did it, and how it wasn’t honouring yourself.

Wow – that was me. It was such an interesting and powerful discussion to me, and one that has increased my self awareness since. I have been so much more conscious of it since, as I realised this red flag in my life was a sign (or rather an example of) how I seek for people’s approval in my life.

In an attempt to overcome this and to listen to (and trust) myself more, I found this revelation so interesting. I hope by sharing it, it may also help you in your journey to listen to and trusting yourself over the opinions of others.

What is Polling?

The word polling to me stirs thoughts of heading to the polling station to cast a vote during local or general elections, right? And in a general sense it absolutely is connected to seeking opinions and votes, however not for political reasons. On a personal level, polling means we are seeking a bunch of people’s opinions (who are often not relevant or important) to help us in the decision(s) we need to make.

And, in reality they aren’t about helping us in decision making at all – they are about not listening to ourselves and what we feel about it, but getting the opinion and approval of others. Consciously or not, we are figuring out how they might react or feel about a particular choice we are pondering on making (like moving house, changing up our hair, parenting choices etc) or we are looking at what they would do and should that be the choice we make too.

The truth is, it isn’t important what anyone else thinks, but what we (and our partners/spouses) feel about it.

When Brene talks about this, she isn’t referring at all to seeking solid opinions or advice – this actually can be super helpful and productive to our journey and growth (especially in times of difficulty). Rather she is referring to those times in our lives that we do not trust our own self or our “gut feeling” and we aren’t giving ourselves the time we need to ponder and listen to what we feel and want about a particular decision. Instead we Poll – we ask a bunch of people their thoughts and are desperately polling people whose opinions are often not relevant to the choice.

How can you overcome it?

If like me you tend to fall into this pattern of seeking the opinions of others to validate the choice you are trying to make, there are several ways you can overcome this pattern of behaviour and build yourself up to be able to trust yourself more.

Firstly, from Brene Brown – “It’s time to take a deep breath and re-evaluate. Normally, we just need quiet and stillness so we can hear our own voice. That’s way harder than polling.”

It can be hard (really hard) to be still in an ever moving society. It can be hard to listen to our gut and not second guess ourselves (sometimes ideas seem so crazy even though they are in fact the right thing). But, when you have decisions to make or you find you are polling, stop and find a moment to be still and quiet. Pray or meditate if it will help, make a pros and cons list and see which decision excites you, makes sense and brings peace – this is often the right one (however abstract crazy or even simple it may seem).

Next you need think about maybe why you are polling – are you afraid to commit to what you feel? Do you need others on your side because of something that has happened (instead of just accepting that thing was unfair or hurtful)? Does the choice scare you or require big changes? Are you second guessing yourself? Are you worried or afraid of what people might say to you when they become aware of your decisions?

There could be a number of reasons why, or maybe just one. But remember: if you feel it is right for you (and your family) then that is what counts. If you feel a certain way over something, then that is valid (irrelevant of what others think or feel about it). Change is hard and can be scary, hurt is real, life can be unfair and things don’t always make sense (even when they are right) and you know what? people will likely offer their thoughts on it all – none of these mean you are making the wrong choice or wrong in how you feel. And at the end of the day, if it turns out to be the wrong thing, then it is one of life’s lessons that we each have to pass through and will grow from (right?).

The core of it is, we usually poll because we don’t trust ourselves or are comparing.

Finally, remember it is totally fine to discuss ideas with others and your goals. It is also absolutely fine to seek solid advice from trusted sources. But, when it becomes polling and seeking for opinions of others, when you are trying to validate what your heart is telling you, then you need to check yourself and look at those first 2 steps! It can sometimes be hard to distinguish between polling and seeking genuine advice, but genuine advice on big decisions from people you respect and love, is valuable and helpful. Polling is usually unhelpful and more for validation and opinion.

Polling is quite a common thing and yet is something that also holds us back from empowering ourselves to be independent and confident in our life choices.

I understand that it can be hard (or maybe surface feelings of shame) at times to realise these things about ourselves. But don’t let that cripple you or stop you from progress in your life. This self discovery and the tools to overcome it isn’t a shameful or embarrassing thing at all, is an opportunity to learn about ourselves, work out why, and then work on trusting ourselves more. It helps us listen to ourselves and our needs, and implement boundaries (this podcast talks about those too!) and what a powerful thing to unlock in our self.

How wonderful when we can be free of needing the approval of others in our life choices, and how amazing when we can make them for no other reason than because we feel they are right and trust our gut! Shine bright and believe in yourself – I know I need to more.

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