As children we trust ourselves implicitly. When you watch children playing, they don’t spend time wondering if building in the sandbox is the best use of their time or if they should be on the swing—they just follow the path that brings them the most joy in each moment.
As we begin our formal education, we are taught to sit at desks even when we want to move around. We are taught to “hold it” rather than use the toilet when our body suggests. We are even taught that when we inhale our stomach should suck in rather than fill and expand as we fill with air. Our natural rhythms and instincts are shushed until we can hardly hear them anymore.
As teens, we listen to our peers and their suggestions of what is cool and what we should like or dislike. We rely on the voices of our culture, our religious leaders, our friends, and our family to help us identify what is right and wrong, who we should vote for, what we should eat, and how we should live. Soon we are so caught up in behaving the way our ego believes we should that we have trouble separating our opinions from the opinions that surround us.
As adults, we are told to trust our gut or to follow our instinct. But when we have spent our formative years turning down the volume of our inner voice, how can we begin to trust ourselves again?
“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” - Golda Meir, former Prime Minister of Israel
12 Ways to Increase Your Self-Trust
- Bring awareness to what you are thinking and feeling and not just to what you are doing.
- Take time to listen to signals your physical body is sending. Naming them will help.
- If you doubt your instinct, take time to process what you are feeling—slow down and move toward emotions or sensations.
- Remind yourself that one poor choice doesn’t mean you don’t know what’s best for you. Just because you made one mistake doesn’t mean every choice you make will be a mistake.
- Respect your opinion as much as you respect the opinion of others.
- Listen to others with an open mind.
- Reassure yourself that you are your own best expert.
- Think like a witness rather than a participant. What would you advise someone else to do in your situation?
- Gather evidence to support your belief that you do make good choices for yourself. Start by spending time being grateful when you do trust yourself with successful outcomes.
- Make a list of things you like about yourself. It’s challenging to trust someone you don’t love.
- Make a list of things other people tell you you’re good at. Celebrate these aspects of yourself.
- Allow yourself the empathy you’d extend to another.
3 Practices to Strengthen Your Connection to Self
- Meditation. Time spent meditating strengthens your connection to yourself. Focusing inward allows you to know more about who you are and what you want.
- Gratitude. When practicing gratitude, put a “me” spin on it. Try being grateful for a part of your personality. “I am thankful that I see the best in people” or “I am thankful that I enjoy spending time alone.”
- Connection. Spend time with people who are reinforcing. Choose people who applaud effort and model resilience. You become more and more like those who you spend the most time with so cultivate positive friendships.
What if I Can’t Hear My Inner Voice?
If I am ever really stuck, I like to tap into my quick logic. That’s the part of the brain that immediately computes what you want the outcome to be based on past experience. It works so quickly that before you have even had a chance to think about the options, quick logic has already picked one.
I will actually flip a coin saying, “Heads we move to a new house, tails we stay here.” As I toss the coin, I will hope for either heads or tails, allowing me to uncover an answer I didn’t acknowledge on the slow logic level.
Trusting yourself is like building a muscle. You don’t just go to the gym and immediately become fit; there is a process to it that involves coming back again and again until you eventually reach your goal. Every time you flex your trust muscle, it strengthens.