How going against social expectation allowed me to follow my intuition

By Kali Pappas, Nutritionist and Blogger at Holistic Chick

What does that mean, you’re probably thinking? Well for me, the social expectation was probably the same for a lot of you — “go to school, get a secure job, get married, buy a house, have kids” and you’ll live happily ever after…Right!?

I eventually realized, it’s not right. It was society’s way of conditioning us, instilling the right vs wrong mindset, which by the way is a lot of stress and pressure on us human beings! Who put these ideas and expectations in place to begin with anyways?

Regardless of how it all started, I fell into the trap. When I was a child I didn’t understand what this all meant. I had no cares, no ego driving my decision making. I just did what I felt was true to me and it was all good and well. I knew what made me happy and I knew what didn’t. I listened to my gut, before it became hindered by the opinions and expectations of others.

I had to get back to that “adolescent” mindset in order to find my calling and become fulfilled.

What I mean by that is if I didn’t follow my intuition (the deep internal understanding of something without conscious reasoning) and my one true passion — which for me is in the field of health and wellness, I of course, wouldn’t be where I am today.

It may sound easy, however looking inside for answers and trusting your intuition takes a lot of patience, self-awareness and of course trust as you’ll learn through my journey.

Throughout my young adult life, I did a lot of things to please people. You could call me a people pleaser. I wanted to make others happy because I thought then I would fit in and be accepted, so I did just that. Little did I know by doing so I slowly stopped becoming who I was meant to be, and became what others expected or wanted me to be.

From a young age, probably around thirteen, I knew I was deeply passionate about maintaining my health and helping others in the process too. That’s when I decided I wanted a gym membership, I thought I looked “too skinny or sickly” — I wanted to look healthy and fit, like the models on the cover of magazines like In Shape and Women’s Health.

From here my passions and beliefs began to develop deeper as I started seeing the results I wanted, but I felt I hadn’t completed the puzzle just yet. I knew working out alone wasn’t the only answer to supporting a healthy body and mind. I felt an obvious connection to the food I was eating and the impact it had on my body, but lacked nutritional education, so I started doing some research.

Sidenote: this was during the early 2000’s where the Standard American Diet was in full effect. I’m talking doughnuts and venti Starbucks frappuccinos for breakfast, Kraft Dinner with hot dogs for lunch and white pasta with sugary canned tomato sauce for dinner — not a real vegetable in sight!

It seemed as though we were being conditioned to eat a certain way, and it didn’t feel right — to me anyways.

I thought to myself, either I am crazy, or everyone else is for not thinking about what they are putting into their bodies. Why was nobody questioning what they were eating? Why were cardiovascular and other common diseases skyrocketing? I had so many questions and concerns regarding what we were putting into our bodies and why. I truly felt I was the only person who thought twice about what I ate and its potential effects on me (good and bad).

For example, I would get into ongoing disagreements with my family over the meals we would consume at home. It was always hamburger helper, hot dogs, or some kind of meat dish with corn and white potatoes. I would offer to cook “healthier” for them and suggest my mom make cleaner dishes, or at least add some more vegetables into what we were eating, but nobody wanted to eat that way. I was the odd man out, so I rebelled and started making my own separate meals.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom, but this is how we were raised to eat! It’s not her fault though, nobody really knew or understood the full extent of how eating could harm or heal your body at the time. Nobody except myself (in my realm of people at least).

So here I am at the young age of thirteen researching healthy recipes and cooking them on my own — my family definitely thought I was crazy! But I felt it was right. I just wanted people to trust what I was saying and be excited about making healthy choices like I was because I knew deep down it was the right thing to do for my body.

However I wasn’t crazy, just very passionate about this subject. I would try to discuss the importance of nutrition with my other family members, friends and peers and newsflash they all would eat the way my immediate family did. Hence, I was either brushed off, laughed at or challenged with “where’s the evidence” when I brought these things up, often feeling misunderstood.

I vividly remember being excited telling people that “when I grow up I’m going to help people with nutrition!” — This at the time wasn’t as big of a trend as it is now. So of course I had the doubters, the non-believers and the constant reminders of “you can’t make any money doing that” I was once even called a “hippy.” 

That was just the motivation and support I needed.. Not! Now you can imagine how frustrated I felt, after trying to convince all the others around me about the importance of nutrition until I was blue in the face.

I felt different, like I couldn’t relate to anyone around me, and that’s when I stopped listening to myself. Instead, I went to college and studied business. As interesting and as useful of a degree as it was, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I got a job working in restaurants instead, waiting tables and bartending. It wasn’t fulfilling, but I made decent money, and got to use one of my best skills: socializing!

During my time in the restaurant business I was constantly being reminded of my old views: people eat like crap and that can’t be good for you!

I’m talking about crap the acronym, meaning:

  • Carbonated drinks
  • Refined sugars
  • Artificial foods
  • Processed foods

It deeply bothered me to see these customers and many regulars binge on fried foods, and drown in countless sugary or alcoholic drinks. I always had this desire to help people, but I definitely couldn’t comment on their eating habits because it would be outright offensive!

By this point in my life, I was with my on and off again partner, he knew about my passions for health and helping others, I had even mentioned to him that I briefly looked into a few nutrition schools (with no intention of actually applying to). He kept suggesting I apply to school so I can finally become a Nutritionist like I always wanted. He told me he could feel how passionate I was every time I talked about the subject. It was definitely the push and the reminder I needed, but I felt scared. I also felt it wasn’t a “secure” enough career like people had told me.

I doubted myself every time I shed light on the idea because of what I had gone through as a teenager. I thought I wasn’t good enough and I definitely wasn’t smart enough to succeed. I thought, how can I help others? I was stuck in this continuous, egotistic cycle of self-doubt, although I knew deep down it was my true passion and happiness.

After months of being unhappy with my life, my job and myself, my partner called me and said: “you should set up an interview with that Holistic Nutrition school you always talk about.”

And that’s where my life forever changed. I had come to a point where I wasn’t happy with anything and I knew I needed to make a drastic change. It finally felt right, although I did need a little push along the way! I was with someone who saw my desire and passion, and actually pushed me to help achieve them.

It was then I knew I was finally going to study Nutrition. It took a lot of confidence for me to muster up the courage to contact the nutrition school, but after a few weeks I finally scheduled a meeting.

Everything this program offered had aligned with my beliefs and goals, I finally felt understood, like I was in the right place — for once! I knew it was going to take a lot of work but I was ready, I had prepared for this my whole life and in some ways didn’t even know it.

I applied and was accepted — this is where things finally started falling into place! I was excited and nervous all at the same time. I knew I had to push through my fears in order to grow, I had to throw out the idea of what was comfortable so I could get to where I needed to be.

The first day of class I couldn’t help but feel nervous and insecure, I wasn’t sure who I would meet and if I would be accepted or liked by my fellow classmates. As I walked into class, I immediately bumped into a girl, she introduced herself with so much liveliness. I loved her energy and felt an instant connection like never before to this person. It was like we had known each other our whole lives. I knew I was meant to meet this person, but it wasn’t until I followed what I knew to be right on the inside that these moments happened in my life.

Fast forward to the present day, she remains one of my dearest friends, who has helped improve my life in all aspects — who would’ve thought? She helped me through school and showed me the right way to study, she got me a job where I was able to learn so much more about health and nutrition, she even introduced me to important people that had a significant impact on my life. But again, it wasn’t until I turned my passion into a reality, through following my gut that I would meet and continue to meet the right people.

For once I had felt like I was actually doing the right thing and was finally in the right place. I felt comfortable in my own skin and was accepted by all the people I surrounded myself with — it’s amazing to think how much can change in such a short period of time when you’re on the right path.

Everything made sense once I finally let go of my ego. The experiences that came out of following my intuition and passion only began when I looked inside for answers, not to others.

Here I am years later, as a certified Nutritionist and now Chartered Herbalist. I have helped many clients from achieving minor goals like losing weight, to more serious cases of assisting cancer patients in successfully fighting for their lives.

All because of me. Little old me? It’s crazy to believe I have helped so many people (that’s my ego talking), but I did and I continue to do it everyday.

Isn’t it ironic to think that many of my adolescent, intuitive thoughts and beliefs regarding the importance of nutrition on health have become the new reality. Definitely a major “I told you so” moment to the people who didn’t believe in me, but I am not the type to say that out loud.

And this is what I mean by “it may sound easy, however looking inside for answers and trusting your intuition takes a lot of patience, self-awareness and of course trust.”

I finally woke up. This took me over 14 years to find, understand and achieve! 

Many of these family, friends and peers I once tried to consult with about nutrition now rely on me for advice and guidance to maintain their health.

For me, personally. I don’t take anything to heart, everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and beliefs. I’m just happy to be of help to others. However, I am also a believer in the saying “truth and time will tell all” — meaning with patience, the truth will expose itself, it just might take some time. And the truth is, nutrition does play an important role in maintaining your mental and physical well-being, and by making healthy choices each day you can lower your risk of developing many common diseases.

I now understand why I was brought here on earth, but I had to let go of my ego to do so. Letting go can be extremely difficult, and can sometimes take constant reminders, but it is possible and I am a living proof of that.

The moral of my journey is, don’t trust anyone but yourself, follow your true passion(s) and listen to what YOU want — not what others expect of you, or what society has conditioned you to believe. You know that little thing inside of you, nudging you with that “when you know, you know” feeling, without any logical rationale. That thing. TRUST that! It’s your intuition reminding and guiding you of what you should be doing and where you need to be.. if you listen closely.

You have to start by cutting off social expectations and shut down the ego and self-doubt you developed over your lifetime. The “me?” — the “I’m not good enough” — the “I couldn’t do that” bullshit.

Only then, when you enforce trust and positivity within yourself, you will be able to see clearly enough to feel those intuitive nudges. This will eventually expose your passion, or guide you to you where you are meant to be. Things will finally start making sense and fall into place if you sit and listen.

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