How to trust yourself

Trust: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Trust can be a pretty big issue for a lot of people. You might easily be able to bring someone to mind right now that you just can't trust. Perhaps someone said they would do something one too many times, but didn't follow through. Or perhaps you grew up with abuse, and this created a base of distrust in your life. 

Regardless of your reasons for not trusting, it's important to know that trust isn't created by an outside entity for you. It's not the job of someone else to create trust for you. Trust is created by you, in your mind. You decide what thresholds to set to consider someone trustworthy. You decide whether people have your trust right off the bat, or if they have to earn it. You're in charge of the trust you create for others.

This also applies to you yourself. You may have grown up with abuse in your childhood, and this led to an early belief system that other people are not to be trusted. This was a protective mechanism of your brain, setting up perceived boundaries to create protection. But as any adult with trust issues will tell you, later in life they can get in the way of connection, success, and satisfaction. In a nutshell, mistrust just doesn't feel good. It keeps us suspicious and worried. And if you have a constant mistrust of yourself, that means day in and day out, you're living with a sense of fear, watching for all the ways that you will prove to yourself that you can't be trusted.

Frances Frei, a professor of technology and operations management at Harvard Business School has a diagram that she applies to businesses when they loose trust, but I think it's applicable to personal trust too. (Here's her Ted Talk.)

We can apply her 3 component parts of trust to ourselves to start to increase our levels of self trust:

1. Logic: create an environment for success.

I think one very common way that we can sabotage trust in ourselves is to create too much to do, or set our goals too high without creating a doable road map of how to get there. When we can't get our to do list done, or we've not reached the goal we set, this can easily lead to this thought:

"See, I can't trust myself to get things done."

Here, we can apply logic to create a different environment that will allow us to succeed in getting things done. Instead of making a mile long to do list, constrain yourself to choosing just one or two things that you will feel good about getting done in the day. When you achieve them, recognize the fact that you accomplished what you wanted to. Practice the thought that you can trust yourself to get things done. And when your brain starts looking for all the ways you can't trust yourself, gently guide it back to the fact that you did accomplish what you wanted to, and you can be trusted to get things done. As the diagram says, be rigorous in your thinking. If you want to counter thoughts you want to change, you have to be willing to think. Eventually, as trust builds, you can add more goals.

2. Empathy: assess how you feel about trust.

What are your thoughts about trust, when it comes to other people, but more importantly when it comes to yourself?

Taking the time to take an honest look at what you actually think and feel about trusting, trusting others, and trusting yourself can be enlightening. If you want to get to a point of deeper (or just any) self trust, you have to bring your current way of thinking about trust into the light. 

Once you have a grasp on how you feel about trust, ask yourself this question: Am I in this for me? In other words, do you have your own back? If you fail, if you don't meet an expectation you've set for yourself, can you have compassion for yourself, and trust that you can try again? If not, why not? Extending trust to yourself is so powerful, but it takes powerful belief to do it. If after review you realize you have a belief about trust that doesn't support a healthy, fulfilling life for yourself, it's time to get to work changing that belief. But first, you must practice empathy for the person that you were, that built up your current belief system. It happened for a reason. It's how you learned to be, and it's wondrous that your brain was even able to do it. Have gratitude for the miracle, then start to build your new belief system. Step one is a good way to do that.

3. Authenticity: just be yourself. 

Why is this so hard for so many of us? Connecting with other human beings can feel like a dance. I step here, you step there, we're coordinated and then... shoot! I stepped on your foot. So I hide. I become small. I try and change myself to please you. I read reactions and shift my shape so I can fit into the hole you're telling me you'd like me fit into. 

That's what it can feel like, and when we loose our authenticity, of course we loose trust in ourselves. We're no longer being true. We're lying. And nothing can create mistrust faster than a lie found out. 

Fixing this issue takes honesty, and again empathy for oneself. It's normal to try and fit in. There are deep, biological reasons this happens. But when we loose our true selves in the trying to fit in, our self-created boundaries get blurred, and it becomes harder to know what to trust about the inauthentic persona we're creating. 

So as often as you can, truly just be yourself. Practice the thought that you are good enough, just as you are. You may have people tell you that's not true, but guess what? That's on them. That's their brain thinking that thought. That's their inability to assess all that you are. And trust me, even though telling someone else they aren't good enough might create a feeling of smugness, that's not a good feeling.

So let them judge and feel the bad feeling. 

You just trust, and feel the good feeling.