Self trust can be summed up as the assured reliance on your own character, ability, strength, and truth. This sounds straightforward enough. The problem is, most of us have spent our lives listening to our parents, our government, our teachers and our bosses. We have been raised with the idea that we do not know what is best for ourselves. Instead, we are taught that other people who “know more than we do”; know what is best for us. Because of this, we choose what we think we are supposed to choose. We try to live according to what our society says is “right”. We allow ourselves to be who we are told that we are; and we are caught in an endless struggle of seeking approval and reaching for recognition. The result is that we loose trust in ourselves.
The cost of shaping ourselves to fit the desires, preferences, and expectations of others, is losing ourselves; and when we loose ourselves we become frozen without direction, unable to make our own choices. The two most painful states in this universe are self-hate and self-distrust. It just so happens that one comes from the other. Self hate comes from self distrust. Life is torture when you don’t trust yourself and without exception, people who suffer chronically, suffer because the root of the dysfunction in their lives is that they don’t trust themselves. They don’t trust themselves to be able to influence how they feel, they don’t trust themselves to not give into others they don’t trust themselves to create their reality, they don’t trust themselves to make the right choices. They don’t trust themselves to know. The list goes on and on.
So here are some tips for how to begin to trust yourself
- Build your self-confidence. Self-confidence and self-trust are a married couple. When we use the word confidence, what we mean is your ability to depend upon yourself. If you don't have self confidence, you won’t feel able to depend on yourself. When we understand that lack of self trust, goes hand in hand with lack of self confidence, we can easily see that not trusting ourselves is a self worth issue. It is an issue of devaluing and invalidating ourselves. If we don’t trust ourselves, we lack self esteem and we do not perceive our own value. One of the reasons that we do not trust ourselves, is that we do not accept our own abilities, talents, intentions, and value. Take time to acknowledge your abilities, talents, positive traits, and thus value.
- Allow yourself to do what you are good at and what comes easily to you. Everyone is good at something. We don’t often allow ourselves to do what we are good at however because we have all been raised in a society which values effort. Most of us think it is weak to do the things that come easy to us. But for us to learn how to trust ourselves, we need to allow ourselves to do what we are good at and what comes easily to us. If we always feel as if it is a struggle to do things, we will always feel behind the pack. So own up to the things which you excel at, and then focus on designing your life around those things. Give yourself permission to take pride in them and give yourself credit for your successes. These steps will give a hefty boost to your self confidence and subsequently, your self trust.
- Let go of the idea of “the” right answer and just look for “your” right answer. Those of us, who don’t feel as if we can trust ourselves, are preoccupied with the idea of right and wrong. It paralyzes us. We fear making the “wrong” choice so much, we procrastinate making any choice, and we trust everyone’s opinion except for our own. It is important for us to realize that when we are facing a problem or decision, there is no such thing as one right answer that we have to somehow find. Gain perspective by eliciting other people’s opinions, but do not “weigh them” in order to make your final decision. Instead, make your own decision. Use inquiry to question your current perspective and consciously choose a perspective, which serves your highest good. Every single person, experiences the world in their own way. So we make decisions about what is right based on our own individual assumptions, judgments, perceptions and past experiences. No two perspectives will be the same. And no one can see the situation from your perspective. You are also never going to have all of the information that you would like to have in order to make your decision. You can’t know everything and so sometimes you have to take a risk by making a choice anyway. You cannot find a “right” answer. All you can find is your right answer.
- Take risks, even if taking those risks results in making “mistakes”. We have to be willing to take risks and make mistakes in life. One day during my sports career, I was in a panic about racing as usual. At that point in my life, my self worth was completely tied up in performance. As a result, I had the habit of getting such bad performance anxiety that I did terribly in races and sometimes didn’t even show up for them. But on a chairlift on the way to the starting gate, I had an epiphany. The epiphany was this: I have lost 100% of the races that I didn’t run. This is the case when we don’t take risks. We like to think that if we don’t take risks, we don’t fail. But the truth is the exact opposite of that. If we don’t take the risk, we have already failed. While it can be scary for us to take risks in life, it is one of the best ways we can build our capacity for self trust. Taking risks takes courage, and courage makes us feel better about ourselves. It allows us to see what we are really capable of, which in turn helps us to trust ourselves. You wont know that you can trust yourself unless you take a risk and see that you can.
- Own the responsibility for your own decisions and their consequences, both the positive consequences and negative consequences. Owning the responsibility for the decisions we make, is crucial when we are developing trust in ourselves. We need to experience both the process of making a decision and the process of directly experiencing the results of that decision so that we can learn. If we fall into the trap of denying our part in the decision or blame others for the decision we made, we end up depriving ourselves of the opportunity to learn. Likewise, if we try to escape from the consequences of our decisions, we miss the opportunity for getting the feedback we need so that we can make better decisions in the future. This is the same thing as robbing ourselves of an improved life in the future. Also, we cannot blame someone else without simultaneously acknowledging our own powerlessness to them. Thinking of yourself as powerless, does the opposite of encourage self trust. It makes you feel like you can’t rely on yourself.
- Live your life according to your own personal sense of integrity. Those of us who don’t trust ourselves often struggle with our own sense of integrity. If you are not living with integrity, your goals become hard to reach, you attract people who are also not living with integrity, your self concept disintegrates and you lose your trust in yourself. Lack of integrity can reflect out into the world in big ways such as intentionally sabotaging someone else or stealing from them. It can also reflect out into the world in small ways, such as telling little white lies, gossiping or not standing up for yourself. Any lack of integrity erodes your self-concept. Identify what it means to you personally to have integrity. No one can decide this for you, because no two people have the same values, morals and ethics. Identify the areas of your life in which you are not living with integrity. Then pick three changes you can make right now to restore your integrity. For example, your answer may be to write an apology letter, or to “come out of the closet” to your family by telling them that you are gay, answer may be to stop gossiping or to re pay money that you stole.
- Compile a list of all the ways that you do trust yourself. Our level of trust is often different relative to different things. For example, we may trust our instincts relative to some things, like driving our car; while we doubt ourselves relative to other things, like making a good impression in an interview. Take some time to compile a list of all the ways that you currently know you can trust yourself. Compile this list by filling in the blank as many times as you can. “I trust myself to________”. For example, “I trust myself to be loyal to the person I have committed to”. Or “I trust myself to be loyal to my own happiness regardless of whether or not that means breaking a commitment that I have made to someone”. Some other examples might be, “I trust myself to care for my pets”. Or “I trust myself to do exactly what I say I’m going to do”. Or “I trust myself to make a breakfast which tastes good”. Nothing is too small or too large to include in this list. Any kind of trust, no matter what it is in, is important because it is trust. We have the tendency to ignore the ways that we actually do trust ourselves, when we become aware of the ways that we don’t trust ourselves. This corrodes our self-concept. It disables us by making us feel bad about ourselves, instead of simply allowing us to incrementally build trust in the things we don’t currently have trust in.
- Listen to your feelings. They always have important messages to share. If we want to trust ourselves, we need to learn to trust our own feelings. Feelings are the truth of who we are. Most people who are alive today have forgotten their most acute and accurate sense of all—their emotions and sensations. The average person views feelings as a menace; something to fight, something he or she is powerless to, a drawback, and even something to distrust. The average person does not know what purpose they serve. The result is, many of us are living in a tug of war between being a slave to them and flipping around to wage war with them. We have a multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry set up to make a profit from chemically aiding people to suppress their feelings and change them. This is especially sad considering that your feelings are the compass guiding you through this venture called life. They are all the guidance you will ever need. That is why intuition speaks to you via the route your feelings. It is only when we ignore our feelings (the compass) that we become convinced that our feelings have ever failed us and are ever negative in nature. In effect, we ignore our internal compass while it is screaming at us louder and louder, and then we blame the compass itself for the reason that we are upset, because it feels so unnatural and miserable to us to be going in the wrong direction.
Now we come to the last and most important tip it comes to self trust… The reason that you don’t trust yourself is because you abandon yourself. You do this by not listening to and honoring your feelings (we call this violating your boundaries) and you run from your negative emotion. The holy grail of self trust is learning to STAY, which is an acronym for STop Abandoning Yourself.
The first way we learn to STAY is to Stop running from our negative emotions. Can you count on yourself to be there for you? For most people on earth the answer is no. The reason is, they keep trying to feel better. When you start to feel negative emotion, part of you feels really worried and afraid because it knows that the other part of you is going to try to run away from you if you feel that way. You keep trying to get yourself to feel differently so you will want to be with yourself.
Most of us only want to be with ourselves if we feel good. We do anything we can do to feel differently so we will want to be present with ourselves and our lives again. Sometimes we even engage in destructive addictions to escape the way we feel and therefore ourselves. This does further damage. It reinforces the idea that if you feel bad, there is not only a consequence of losing yourself, but also of being hurt by yourself intentionally as punishment. Every time you try to feel better, you try to escape yourself and in doing so, you abandon yourself. Can you trust someone who abandons you? No. In order to trust ourselves we need to prove to ourselves that we will not try to escape ourselves when we feel negative emotion. We will sit with the emotion and be with ourselves exactly as we are unconditionally. I teach a way to do this in my video titled “healing the emotional body. If you begin to stop abandoning yourself when you are experiencing negative emotion, you will come to trust that you will always be there for yourself. You will feel a deep sense of inner peace arise within you.
The next part of the equation of STAY (stop abandoning yourself), is to develop healthy boundaries. The holy grail of self-trust is boundaries. Having a sense of self vs. other is part of participating in this physical dimension. The individual perspective and experience is what is currently serving the expansion of this universe. And so, we perceive a difference between ourselves and the rest of the world. This individual perspective is a kind of boundary that defines us from everything else. We have heard again and again from self-help experts and psychologists that it is crucial to our wellbeing to develop healthy boundaries. But what are boundaries really? Boundaries are guidelines for how someone relates the self to the rest of the world. They are rules of conduct built out of a mix of beliefs, opinions, attitudes, past experiences and social learning. Personal boundaries operate in two directions, affecting both the incoming and outgoing interactions between people. Personal boundaries help to define an individual by outlining likes and dislikes and what is right for them personally or wrong for them personally. Defining these things helps us to know how we will and wont allow ourselves to be treated by others.
Here are some signs that you have unhealthy boundaries
- Saying no when you mean yes or yes when you mean no.
- Feeling guilty when you do say no.
- Acting against your integrity or values in order to please.
- Not speaking up when you have something to say.
- Adopting another person’s beliefs or ideas so you are accepted.
- Not calling out someone who mistreats you.
- Accepting physical touch or sex when you don’t want it.
- Allowing yourself to be interrupted or distracted to accommodate another person’s immediate wants or needs.
- Giving too much just to be perceived as useful.
- Becoming overly involved in someone’s problems or difficulties.
- Allowing people to say things to you or in front of you that make you uncomfortable.
- Not defining and communicating your emotional needs in your relationships.
The biggest issue related to boundaries isn’t that other people violate our boundaries, it’s that we violate our own boundaries. By letting someone violate our boundaries, we violate our own boundaries. This is self-betrayal. If you go against your personal boundaries, you violate yourself, you abandon yourself and you allow self-hate to rule the day.
I’m going to simplify the concept of boundaries and make them very easy for you to understand. Your boundaries are defined by your feelings. Your feelings will always tell you whether a boundary of yours has been violated, no matter what kind of boundary it is. For example, if someone said something that hurt you, it means they crossed an emotional boundary and you will feel hurt, which is your indication that your boundaries need to be re assessed. Another example could be, someone asks you to a party and you feel as if you don’t want to go, but you go anyway, you feel bad, which is your indication that you have violated your own boundary. This is why it is so crucial to be in touch with how you feel all day every day.
We can think of a boundary as an imaginary line that uniquely defines and separates your personal happiness, your personal integrity, your personal desires, your personal needs and therefore most importantly, your personal truth from the rest of the universe. He, who does not listen to and respect what he himself feels, violates his own boundaries. He, who does not listen to and respect what others feel, violates other people’s boundaries. It is as simple as that. So practice really listening to and feeling how things feel. Listen to what your feelings are telling you. They are speaking to your personal truth. It is crucial that we not only know who we really are and what we really want but also that we know that we are known for who we are and what we really want by others. When we are ashamed of who we are and what we want, we have poor boundaries and we are shamed for whom we are by others all the time. The person who has no self-trust, was the person whose feelings were invalidated as a child.
Here is a common scenario: A child begins to feel angry because their parent is always working and never has time to be with them. The child expresses that anger and is invalidated, the parent says “I spend more time with you than any other parent that I know spends with their child” and the child is shamed for being ungrateful. The child learns that the way they feel is not true and that they should be ashamed for feeling the way they feel. Anger is not acceptable. So the child creates a false self that is cannot express anger and who says “thank you” all the time. Over time, he or she believes that who they really are is happy and grateful. They have never really admitted to the fact that deep down, they truly feel angry. So how do you know if you have set up a false self? You fear other people thinking negatively of you. Ask yourself these questions: Do I know what I really want? Do I let other people tell me what to think or believe and how to feel? Do I do things I don’t really want to do and say yes when I really want to say no or say no when I really want to say yes? Am I afraid to let people know how I really feel? Am I afraid of people thinking negatively of me?
Beginning to care how you feel, pay attention to how you feel and honor how you feel, is like Pandora’s box. You will not only begin to trust yourself, but your life can never be the same once you do. Trusting yourself is a process. So let it be a process. Trusting yourself is not something that you can suddenly wake up and decide to do. It is the inevitable byproduct of gradually making changes to the way you think and the way that you live your life.