Like many women, I grew up following rigid rules about who and how to be. I was taught to never talk back, and that stepping outside the box would doom me to failure. Asking questions equated to defiance. For decades I tiptoed inside the lines, believing this old paradigm of lies. 

That belief system crumbled during a session with my business coach, a woman whom I’d hired explicitly due to her mission of redefining success. 

Now, her advice was to “look the part” by creating an Insta-perfect facade. Exasperated, I had sobbed to her that, at age 44, I’d finally started to love myself AS I AM – flaws and all. I wasn’t willing to compromise my growth and integrity this way. 

Her response? 

“You’re in resistance. This is the obstacle to achieving your goals. If you’re committed to succeeding, do what I say.” 

Her modus operandi was now “You need me to fix you,” the opposite of what I desired to emulate in my client relationships. Suddenly, I realized the truth. My mission wasn’t to overcome resistance to her guidance, it was to end the internal battle this created: follow the whispers of my judgment or force myself to adhere to her misaligned advice. I stopped working with her shortly after.

The experience was a valuable life lesson in honouring my inner voice. Since then, through studying the neuroscience of self-leadership, I’ve discovered the power of creating success with integrity and intuition. Here are some steps to get started:

Trust your gut

Often we’re kept busy by a mentor, organization, or society in general, following a set of tasks prescribed to drive us toward achievement. These external sources of ‘noise’ actually divert us away from our inner knowing. 

‘Gut feelings’ go beyond conscious reasoning. The brain controls the CNS (central nervous system). Our gut is known as our second brain, our ENS (enteric nervous system). Our brain and gut engage in deep communication with each other. This so-called ‘sixth sense isn’t exclusive to psychics or seers. We all have it. It’s important to pay attention if we want to maximize achievement and fulfilment in this life 

Some signs of gut intuitive awareness include queasy/uneasy feeling, fluttery sensation in the stomach, body tension or tightness, goosebumps, or an unexplainable sense of something being ‘off’ even if we can’t logically explain it. 

Find your custom fit

One-size-fits-all is a myth. Trying to cram ourselves into boxes that aren’t meant for us damages our mental and emotional wellbeing. It fosters self-criticism, diminishing our confidence and sabotaging our growth. The situation with my mentor, also created cognitive dissonance – I feared that failure to conform to her expertise would hinder my success; at the same time, I knew that she was pushing me to ignore the virtues I valued in defining it.   

Be discerning when seeking out mentorship. Accept that some advice is good for others but not right for you. Cultivating self-awareness will help you decipher the difference. Recognize when someone values their agenda over your welfare. If you feel their structure is too constricting, unsupportive, scattered — or like you’re abandoning your integrity — let it go to make space for what feels comfortable (but not complacent). 

Resist the status quo

Integrity is an umbrella term that’s partially defined as having strong moral principles. Generations before us have instilled a belief that this equates to “following the rules” and “doing what we’re told.” It was this standard from my upbringing which caused so much turmoil when confronted with my mentor’s ill-advised instruction.

A more holistic and modern definition suggests doing what’s right, even in the face of overwhelming adversity. That means refusing to compromise your moral compass to please or pacify others. There is value in receiving guidance from others’ experiences. But don’t let anyone’s process override what you feel in your heart, gut, and soul. 

Whatever our ultimate goal is, we must trust our body, our tools, and our skills to take us there, while shutting out any distraction. This requires turning back into ourselves by shaking off the hustle mentality, societal expectations, and others’ advice. 

No matter their level of expertise, integrity in business relies on trusting that YOU are the only expert on YOU.