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Self-trust: why it matters and how to build it

Trust is the heartbeat of every significant relationship you have. That includes your relationship with yourself, which is in fact the foundation of all other relationships.

The person you first and foremost need to trust is yourself. No one else can be as supportive as you can learn to be. By being kind to yourself, you increase self-confidence and lessens your need for the approval of others. This will not only increase self-trust, it will also deepen your connection with people around you.

To live a life of high achievement, you must fully believe in yourself and your ability. You must stand up to your inner critic and deal with regrets.

Understanding what self-trust is

Self-trust is not about trusting yourself to know all the answers, nor about believing that you will always do the right thing. Rather, it’s about always being kind and respectful to yourself, no matter what the outcome of your efforts is.

The definition of self-trust is the firm belief in your own integrity.

Self-trust means that

· you can take care of your own needs and safety

· you trust yourself to survive good and bad situations or circumstances

· you practice kindness to yourself, instead of demanding perfection

· you refuse to give up on yourself

We all get into awkward or difficult situations. Self-trust won’t stop that happening, but it will mean you react differently.

It’s so easy to pass negative judgement on yourself at these times.

· I hope you’re satisfied, dummy.

· You’ve done it now.

· You are so stupid. You can never do anything right.

· You are a worthless piece of shit.

This negative, “survive” talk can lead to anxiety and depression. It prevents you dealing with the situation in a calm and logical manner.

On the other hand, positive, “thrive” talk can change a dysfunctional mental state into a healthier state of mind, allowing you to think clearly and creatively.

How self-trust changes your life

A life based on self-trust looks different. When we look at people who are self-trusting, we find that

· they have clarity and confidence in their choices

· They are interdependent – they have a healthy dependency on a network of people, they but are not overly dependent on any one person, nor are they hyper-independent

· They speak with authority, which comes from deep within – but they are not arrogant

· They are good observers

· They learn from their experiences, both successes and failures.

· They are willing to get up again and again when they fail or experience a setback

In all these ways, they move closer and closer to the life of their dreams.

Dealing with your inner critic

Do you punish or criticise yourself when you make mistakes? Many of us do, but this affects your ability to assess experiences correctly. Your primary goal becomes not learning, but protecting yourself from internal or external judgement.

With self-trust, you can examine your experience without fear of judgement and self-punishment. You can focus on learning and growing. To achieve this, you have to deal with your inner critic.

Everyone has an inner critic. Avoiding it is not a solution. Escaping into drink, drugs or other distractions will actually empower your inner critic. You’ll either get caught into a cycle of arguing with it, or you’ll accept its indictments and stop believing in yourself.

Instead, get to know your inner critic and relate to it in a productive way. Recognise that it is taking a seed of truth and blowing it out of proportion. Challenge the inner critic. Be curious about it and its nature.

· What is this ‘inner critic’?

· Where does it come from?

· What is its intention?

· What does it want from you?

· What is its agenda?

· What is its job?

· Can you educate it?

· Can you relate to it in a non-adversarial way?

Try listening to the inner critic, acknowledging its truth, recognising its exaggerations and educating it. In this way, you related to it, but also stand up to it. A positive shift in your relationship with your inner critic becomes very possible.

Managing regret

Regret undermines self-trust.

Many people live with a lot of regret. Some people have the misguided notion that you should not have regrets, which only gives them more regrets!

Remember, it is human to have regrets. Only a psychopath or someone incapable of learning anything new will have no regrets.

Regret itself is not the problem; the problem is what keeps us stuck there! When you don’t have the inner resources to handle the magnitude of your remorse, you resist it. It’s overwhelming.

Instead, realise that regret is an opportunity. You can learn from regrets and forgive yourself too. Just like being compassionate and forgiving to others who have harmed you, turn that attitude on yourself. When you realise that you have learned, that something positive came from the situation, regret evaporates. Self-forgiveness and self-trust occur naturally.

Living in the present

Being caught in the past or worrying about the future undermines self-trust.

When we live in a consciousness of regret, we live in the past. When we are fearful of the possibility of future suffering, we live in the future. While bouncing back and forth between the past and the future, we are missing the present.

If we are not present, we can’t learn. We keep recycling through the same mistakes. There are so many opportunities all around that we fail to see.

As soon as we stop focusing on the future, we feel anxious and vulnerable. That worry is an expression of an imagined defence to keep trouble away.

When we are in the present, we may feel unprotected. The challenge is to cultivate a courageous heart that can tolerate longer periods of presence. As we manage to stay longer in the unprotected state of the present, our self-trust grows stronger. We are no longer enslaved by fear.

It’s paradoxical. The vulnerability of being purely in the present is the ultimate sanctuary. It may feel dangerous to drop the protection that worrying about the future provides, but when we are fully present, there is no fear.

When you try this, your fearful survival mind usually kicks in. It will say things like: “There are all these things you should be looking out for, and while you’re not paying attention, all kinds of dangers are creeping up. You need to fix these problems. There are people out there waiting for you to take care of them. Stop indulging in this childish experiment and get on with real life. If people see that you’re not doing what you should, not planning for the future, they’ll have no use for you.

But when you learn to release the weight of regret and live in the present, this can crack you open. Your previous self-image and world-view are no longer sustainable.

Bringing everything together to build self-trust

Learning to manage your inner critic will free up the energy you need to develop self-trust.

Learning to stay present in the present, cultivating a healthy and positive relationship with your inner critic, will create a breakthrough.

In combination, these factors start to orient you towards a life where you welcome new insights. Once you are no longer fearful of being open and present in life, the anxiety which robbed you of self-trust will transform into eager anticipation of future learning. And this healthy self-trust becomes your constant companion.

Ready to try it for yourself?

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