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Trust is one of those words that we all know but could find hard to define and bring into life in a tangible way.
I know it used to frustrate me so much when it was suggested to me to “trust myself,” and it would immediately be met with an angry internal “but how?!”
This is often the case with these kind of abstract concepts, because like self-love, it takes time to build up self-trust. Brené Brown uses an analogy of a jar of marbles to teach about trust in relationships and it works the same as trust with ourselves.
Every time we show ourselves support, kindness, honour, commitment, reliability—we add a marble to the jar. When we break promises to ourselves, minimise, betray, doubt, or put ourselves down—a marble is removed. Trust is built the more marbles we add. It’s gradual and the choices we make for ourselves compound over time.
I think of self-trust as an inner knowing that we will follow through, having a felt-sense of faith in our capabilities and a belief that we will act in accordance with our own needs and highest good.
Charles Feltman describes trust as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions,” and distrust as, “what is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation (or any situation).”
Let’s apply these to self-trust: “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to your own actions,” and “what is important to me is not safe with me in this situation (or any situation).”
Let these sink in for a moment. When we find it hard to trust, we’re living in a place of fear not love—fear of vulnerability, fear of disappointment, fear of not being able to handle it, fear of not being good enough.
And many of us don’t trust ourselves. We don’t feel like we can rely on ourselves, we don’t hold ourselves accountable, we are used to letting ourselves down. That’s why we don’t take risks or embrace vulnerability or uncertainty, because there’s an underlying story of “I can’t handle this.” Whether that’s the potential emotion, the action, the discomfort—we fear we won’t be okay or safe and so doubt arises to soothe us back into fear’s protective arms.
So what do those marbles look like in real-life scenarios?
1. Keep one daily promise to yourself.
Trust is built when we show up. The promises we make to ourselves are no less significant than commitments we make to others, yet how often do we treat them as such? Choose one thing you can easily commit to daily and stick to it for 30 days. People have gotten incredible results by doing this, by simply committing to having a glass of water in the morning each day. When we show ourselves that our promises matter, we build up trust.
2. Set boundaries.
When we have flimsy boundaries, we are disrespecting ourselves. Having and using the wisdom of when to say “yes” and when to say “no,” demonstrates that we are worthy of acting in alignment with our own needs, limitations, preferences, and energy. Again this adds marbles because we show ourselves that our actions can support our needs.
3. Respond to doubts with reassurance.
Doubt holds hands with fear and like a lot of fears, it’s usually just deficient in reassurance. When we’re telling ourselves we “can’t” or “wouldn’t be able” or whatever it is, reassurance tunes us back into love and love is where trust lives. So hear your doubts, notice what they’re saying to you, and respond as if you already fully trusted yourself; respond with the love and awareness of your own immense capability.
4. Listen to and meet your needs.
Similar to boundaries, we’re not likely to trust someone if they never listen to our needs. If a friend always ignored us, told us that what we want doesn’t matter, or tried to silence us, we’d hardly hang on to them as a valued confidante, right? The relationship with ourselves is the same. Hear what you need and meet it, if you want to build trust.
5. Practice expressing yourself with integrity.
It’s hard to trust people who say one thing and do another. When we act out of integrity with our truest, most authentic selves, we feel it. It may not be conscious, but we are chipping away at our self-trust. Practice voicing your opinion, making decisions, and expressing yourself—even if it’s with yourself to begin with, through journaling or looking in the mirror and speaking.
Get used to owning your unique voice. The more you do, the more you build up your confidence to know that you can trust yourself to be there for yourself and to be all of yourself. These are absolute gifts and will fill that marble jar up beautifully.
There are many ways to show up for ourselves and I hope these suggestions help you get started on your journey to self-trust. It’s not something many of us were taught growing up, often shirking our own voice or power to an authoritative figure, forgetting how powerful and capable we truly are.
Maybe when we made different choices or spoke alternative truths, we were deemed “wrong,” or invalid and this would have diminished our trust within. Maybe we weren’t modelled boundaries or meeting needs and so we took on self-betrayal as a way of life. Maybe we haven’t given ourselves the time to tune in and hear ourselves above all the noise of the external world, and so we’ve no idea what we want, need, or who we even are.
Whatever the case, we can always choose change in each new moment.
We can always find our way back home to ourselves.