Trust can be a precarious thing in life. I think it’s far easier to come up with a list of things and people we can’t trust than to think of those we can. Can I trust my partner or spouse with the information I’m about to disclose? Can I trust my boss to support me and “have my back” like he says he does? Can I trust my mom to not use vulnerable information about me against me?
Can I trust myself?
In my observation of humans, this is the hardest type of trust to practice. And it’s probably the most important. Because if you can’t trust yourself then you probably have difficulty trusting others or you trust others more than you should. So what happened that we lost that trust in ourselves?
We made mistakes. Probably some big ones. Mistakes in business decisions, career choices, relationships, friendships, purchases, etc. Some mistakes are hard to overcome; even harder to forgive. I should have known better. I am such an idiot! Sound familiar? I don’t think there’s a person on this planet who hasn’t regretted certain decisions or emotionally flogged themselves for them. We’ve all been there. There are those who learn from their mistakes and move on continuing to trust themselves to make good decisions. But the rest of us are more challenged with moving on.
So how can we get back to trusting ourselves again? A few steps to consider:
- Write down each mistake you made and ask yourself these questions….
- Question #1: Was this mistake 100% my responsibility? This isn’t about blaming others and re-telling a victim’s story, but sometimes the decisions we make are a little out of our control, like having to foreclose on your house because you were laid off from your job. Sometimes our environment (aka: the economy) can impact in ways that we cannot control or even foresee.
- Question #2: Do I need to apologize for my mistake? If the answer is yes, then do it. Write a letter, make a phone call. Just do it. A lot of relief can come when we genuinely apologize.
- Question #3: What is the lesson in this mistake? Even though getting laid off from a job is devastating, maybe it was the best thing to happen because you arrived at a better job or changed careers altogether. Maybe having to foreclose on your house helped you to release that huge burden, which was the key to the freedom you needed at the time.
- Question #4: Is there a theme to your mistakes? Do you keep picking romantic partners who are not emotionally available? If so, then you might want to dig a little deeper to understand why it keeps happening and undo those stuck beliefs & behaviors. Meeting with a professional counselor can help you with this and books like: The Five Things We Cannot Change & The Happiness We Find By Embracing Them (Richo) or Getting Past Your Past (Shapiro) can also enlighten the way for you.
Next to each mistake, write down the lessons learned and turn them into positive mantras….like…
- I will only date people who are emotionally available and willing to be vulnerable with me OR
- I will trust my gut instinct before I commit to an important decision OR
- I will start saying NO more often or ‘Let me think about it’ before committing to a plan.
Forgiveness: This is the hard part….learning to forgive yourself of your mistakes, and it’s probably the most crucial. This is when it’s best to access that (younger) part of you that feels ashamed, embarrassed, or not good enough. Remind her/him that mistakes are part of learning and growing. Promise that part of you that you will learn to accept the lessons from these mistakes and be more aware of potential/preventable mistakes in the future. Or that you will do whatever it is you need to do in order to increase your awareness, so that you don’t repeat the same mistake(s) again.
These steps represent a simple guideline to trusting yourself again. It may take practicing these steps a few times before it feels natural. If the steps feel too challenging to do on your own, I encourage you to reach out to a trustworthy friend, mentor or professional counselor. Because trusting yourself does give you the freedom to live more openly & spontaneously, knowing that no matter what happens, you’ll ultimately be O.K.