woman looking out of window
Mental Health

How a week-long ‘feedback fast’ can help you trust your own instincts

Learning to trust yourself is an ongoing process, but Lucy Sheridan, the world’s first ever comparison coach, says that a technique called a feedback fast, where you forgo asking for advice for a week, is the perfect place to start. Here, she explains how to do it and one writer puts it to the test.

Welcome to The Curiosity Academy, Stylist’s new learning hub where you can access workshops, how-to guides, new research and learn the most up-to-date skills from the UK’s most in-the-know people.

How many times do you ask someone else for advice each day? Not just crucial, life-changing advice that often requires the help of your loved ones, but small things, like which dress you should wear to a party or how you should phrase an email to your boss. The reality is that we’re probably all asking other people for advice way more than we realise.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Research shows that the ‘wisdom of crowds’ can benefit decision-making. But asking other people for advice all the time can impact your ability to make your own choices, which could affect your self-confidence. “Our wants are completely unique to us and listening to our whole intelligence and paying attention to the nudges we feel is so important,” says Lucy Sheridan, the first ever comparison coach. “We often override our instincts by asking for advice.”

You may also like

How to use the PIP technique to overcome toxic comparison culture

This doesn’t mean you should never ask for advice again. Instead, Lucy recommends a practice called a feedback fast, where you don’t ask any advice of anyone for a week. “Don’t put your outfit choice in a WhatsApp group, don’t ask your friends for their opinion on someone you’re dating, don’t run ideas past your boss if you don’t need to,” Lucy says, explaining how the feedback fast works.

“Acting based on your own autonomy is actually really radical and independent, confident people will be shocked at how much reassurance they might seek,” Lucy adds. 

Personally, I see myself as a fairly self-assured person, which is something my flat mate confirms when I tell her I’m going to try the feedback fast and she says that I don’t really ask for much advice anyway. However, I think the feedback fast will be good for me because I am in constant conversations via texts and voice notes with my best friend and my mum, discussing trivial matters, such as what I should eat for lunch and the route I should take on my evening walk

These are decisions that I should be (and probably am) able to make for myself, so I think the feedback fast will be a good opportunity for me to practise that.

Whether you feel terrified by the idea of making decisions on your own or you simply want to save some time by preventing conversations about which shade of white you should buy a top in (guilty), here are Lucy’s tips for doing your own feedback fast, along with my experience trying it out for myself.

How to make decisions for yourself during your feedback fast 

Just because you have stopped asking people for advice, it doesn’t mean you’re immediately going to feel confident in your own decisions. If you are feeling unsure, Lucy recommends using a journal to write down your thoughts and ideas on a subject until you feel more confident in the decision you are making.

“You can also plan a daily self-care check-in, maybe after you brush your teeth, and look at the ways you advocated for yourself that day and use the information you learned to understand how you can become a better decision-maker,” Lucy says. 

What to take away from a feedback fast 

Lucy explains that the feedback fast should act as a reset, so you can figure out how much you trust yourself and what you can do to improve that. Some of the things you should take into account are:

  • Which areas of your life you don’t trust yourself in. For example, are you always asking people what to do at work, even though you’re fully capable of doing your job to a high standard?
  • Who you are asking for advice from. Lucy explains: “Just because people have strong opinions, it doesn’t mean they’re always well-placed.” Asking your mum about dating, for example, even if she has been married for 30 years and is bewildered by dating apps, might be frustrating and unproductive.

When you’ve identified the areas and the people you’re struggling with, you can make a plan on how to improve them. Figure out how you can learn to have more confidence in specific areas of your life and who the best people are to turn to if you do need help with something specific.

How to start asking for advice again after your feedback fast 

After your feedback fast is over, you can begin to ask advice of others again. But be conscious about how often you are doing so and the ways in which you are asking people for help.

“Rather than laying out of all of the information to people and asking for permission, figure out where you stand on the subject first and present that viewpoint to them,” Lucy suggests. “Share updates with people instead of requesting opinions.”

This will probably mean that you wait longer before you share something with someone, which will help you become clearer and more decisive in your decisions. “It isn’t about keeping secrets from your friends,” Lucy says. “It’s just repositioning how you share what’s going on in your life – it means your friends can be your friends again rather than a panel of experts!” 

My first day attempting the feedback fast

I find myself wanting to ask for advice, from my flat mate, almost minutes into my first day doing the feedback fast. It’s about something I’m writing at work but I make the decision myself, which saves me time and helps me feel more confident in the choice I made, as I haven’t considered its potential negative elements.

The thing I struggle with the most (as expected) is stopping myself from asking my mum and my long-distance best friend about trivial matters via text, like whether I should do an evening or a morning gym class and whether I should stay in on Friday or Saturday night (inevitably, the answer is always neither).

I realise that even though I constantly ask these two women for advice, I almost always know what answer I want them to give me – I am simply looking for my decision to be validated. The feedback fast allowed me to validate my own decisions, which stopped me from feeling embarrassed about them, from skipping the gym to deciding who to match with on dating apps.

I do ask my flat mate for one piece of advice about what to buy a mutual friend for her birthday. I feel a little bit guilty about breaking the feedback fast but Lucy says that it’s not a huge problem, as the fast should focus on personal issues. “The main things to avoid asking advice on are things that are significant for you as an individual and you need to have ownership of,” she says.

“For example, if someone asks five people if they should apply for a promotion at work, they might get three strong, conflicting views which can cause confusion,” Lucy explains. “However, if you ask five people for birthday present ideas then you’ll end up with five great suggestions to choose from!”

The feedback fast was a great exercise to help me become more self-assured and I think it’s something I’ll try to do regularly to make sure I’m not doubting my decisions, or testing my mum’s patience with endless voice notes. 

  • Lucy Sheridan, comparison coach

    Lucy Sheridan comparison coach
    Lucy is the first ever comparison coach.

    Lucy is the world’s first and only comparison coach. She helps her audience deal with comparison issues via individual sessions, social media and her book, The Comparison Cure.    

Images: Getty and Lucy Sheridan