Sometimes self-trust can be confused with thinking you need to have all the right answers or that you will always make the best decisions. However, self-trust is the solid reliance on your own integrity. It’s believing in and being kind to yourself regardless of outcomes.
This isn’t always easy. If you feel challenged to trust yourself, know you’re not alone. It’s estimated that more than 85% of the population struggles with self-esteem, which is an individual's subjective evaluation of their own worth and can impact self-trust. Sometimes people struggle with or lose self-trust after they make a mistake or someone criticizes them. Shame or embarrassment may lead to feeling reluctant to try again or, worse, giving up completely.
When you trust yourself and have self-compassion, you naturally start to strengthen your resilience or capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. You begin to challenge limited thinking and beliefs about yourself that may hold you back. Building and strengthening self-trust is a practice. Here’s how to get started.
Get to Know Your Inner Critic
The inner critic triggers your internal threat system, which tells the brain you’re under attack. The brain responds by releasing cortisol, the hormone that triggers the fight-or-flight response. It’s useful if you need to run from a predator, but not so helpful in terms of the inner critic because, although it could feel tempting at times, you can’t run from yourself. You can, however, give yourself some grace and get to know yourself better.
The inner critic doesn’t have to be a foe. Befriend it. Learn where it comes from and what its intentions are. It holds vital information that will help you understand why you may not trust yourself. Did you grow up with a critical parent? Did something traumatic happen that you’re struggling to move past?
Working with a licensed therapist can help you get better acquainted with your inner critic so you can identify patterns, work through questions, and heal past traumas.
Identify What Really Matters to You
Today things happen fast and change even quicker. Have you sat down recently and thought about what’s really important to you? Who are you with and what are you doing in the moments when you feel balanced and content? What do you want to devote the majority of your time to? What helps you feel like you’re living your purpose, which researchers have found is the key to happiness and longevity?
Once you know what’s on your no-exceptions list and you commit to aligning your life accordingly, it becomes easier to trust yourself and, in turn, trust the journey and outcome.
Celebrate Your Mistakes
Regret doesn’t keep us stuck; the resistance to processing and learning from it does. You don’t have to keep punishing yourself for something you perceived to be a mistake.
Leo Babauta, Zen master and author of the Zen Habits blog, invites you to not punish yourself at all. He writes: “Without mistakes, we could not learn or grow. If you think about it that way, mistakes should be cherished and celebrated for being one of the most amazing things in the world: they make learning possible, they make growth and improvement possible.”
Use Techniques to Stay Present
When you worry about a future event and picture a negative outcome, you are, in essence, trying to predict the future, which is pretty difficult, if not impossible to do.
Research proves that most of what people worry about will never happen. More specifically, in one research study of people with generalized anxiety disorder, researchers found that around 91% of worry predictions didn’t happen. Therefore, worry itself usually doesn’t achieve much.
Staying present, on the other hand, helps you develop action plans to effectively solve problems, which strengthens self-trust and increases resiliency. Some steps that can be taken to stay present include meditation, breathwork, and practicing non-judgmental witnessing awareness, which helps release evaluations of what may or may not happen.
Remind Yourself That You Will Get Through Difficult Times
Although most of what you worry about will likely never happen, you can count on life throwing you challenges. When you’re in the thick of a tough situation, it may be difficult to imagine a day when whatever you’re dealing with no longer exists or, at the very least, it doesn’t feel so intense.
In those moments, it can be helpful to remind yourself of past challenges and the strength you exhibited to overcome them. While you’re at it, picture yourself on the other side of the challenge. Visualization, which has been widely used in sports and other performance activities, can be a powerful means to reaching a desired outcome.
Listen to Yourself and Enforce Your Boundaries
Everyone has built-in intuition or a gut instinct. Intuition is an incredible source of knowing and guidance. It’s part of the authentic you.
Yet, if you grew up in a shaming or critical environment, you may have ignored your intuition or self-abandoned to try and cope. Sometimes this coping technique carries into adulthood and can make it feel tough to enforce personal boundaries. However, boundaries provide self-protection and trust while setting the stage for positive relationships.
Perfection is an impossible standard. The reality is that most things in life are not perfect and never will be. The desire to improve can be a stellar motivator so long as you keep in perspective that personal development generally comes with uncomfortable tension. Discomfort, uncertainty, and difficult circumstances are simply part of being human.
Learning to have self-compassion and embrace imperfection will help you better trust yourself and stay in forward motion.