Building Your Self-Trust


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It’s so helpful to be working with someone else on this. I’ll let myself down all day long, but I don’t want to disappoint someone else.

When I realized what I’d said, it stopped me in my tracks. I don’t want to be someone who is willing to let myself down. I certainly don’t want to be someone who lets myself down as a consistent way of being.

I like to think of myself as a dependable person…and I am. It’s important to me to remember dates and appointments, to be where I say I’ll be, and to support others where I can. (Sometimes I’ve even taken that dependability too far and gone out of my way to have others depend on me so I’d know I’d have a place in their lives.)

The problem was, I tended not to show up for myself in the same way I tried to show up for others. I wasted time and then felt stressed when something important didn’t get done. I filled my to-do list so full that it felt more like a list of things I failed to do. I thought of things I wanted to do that would be restful, fun, or nourishing…and then sacrificed my plans if anyone else wanted something from me or I failed to earn them by completing my impossible to-do list.

No wonder it was hard to trust myself.

I was showing myself that I couldn’t be trusted to follow through on what I said I was going to do—at least not for myself. I was showing myself that I was willing to sacrifice what I wanted and needed in order to keep others happy.

I say that building our self-trust is key to shifting out of people-pleasing. Trust can’t be forced and we won’t continue to trust someone who consistently lets us down…especially if that someone is us.

It was hard to realize how much I was acting in an untrustworthy way toward myself, but once I was aware of what was happening I could choose to do something about it.

Take a look at your daily life. What are some places that you undermine your self-trust?

Is it in the impossibly long to-do list that you can’t complete? Is it in not prioritizing the things that matter to you? Is it saying yes to someone else when you want to say no ? Is it giving up as soon as you run into an obstacle? Is it neglecting the practical actions that you know help you feel good ?

Small, consistent actions can be more effective than a one-off grand gesture. What is one thing you can do to show yourself you can be trusted?

I’ll give an example from my life. One thing I started doing is being very selective about what goes on my to-do list each day. I limit it to just a few things that are important and that I can reasonably expect to accomplish.

When I was piling my to-do list impossibly full, I mostly ignored it. It wasn’t helpful. It didn’t show me what was most important or what I was committing to do. It felt icky to look at because it reinforced the belief that I didn’t follow through on the things I needed to do.

When I made a thoughtful, reasonable list and prioritized what was on it, however, I started to see myself as someone who does what she says she will do. I was also more aware of what I was accomplishing.

Now, of course, the to-do list is just one example. What you choose might be something entirely different. As an experiment, what is one small thing you want to try doing daily for the next week?

  • taking a really deep breath
  • drinking a glass of water
  • stretching or going for a walk
  • reading for fun
  • putting away your phone after dinner

There are so many options. Start with one thing and work your way up. Start small. This isn’t about being perfect. It’s about building a habit of showing up for yourself and reinforcing the belief that you can be trusted.

Now it’s not going to be the most helpful thing to demand that we suddenly become perfectly trustworthy in every way. Patterns of behavior take time and intention to shift. Demanding perfection is another way of trying to measure up.

We’re human. We’re going to disappoint ourselves sometimes.

In the process of building our trust that we’re someone we can count on, we need to treat ourselves with compassion and show ourselves that we will stay present, clean up the mess, and try again when we let ourselves down.

There are still occasionally times when I don’t check off all the items on my short to-do list. Instead of being a source of shame and evidence that I can’t be trusted, I can treat myself with kindness and use those times as an invitation to be curious.

  • Why didn’t I follow through?
  • Did something unexpected come up?
  • Did I put too much on my to-do list?
  • Did something else take longer than anticipated?
  • Am I missing something I need? If so, how can I get it?
  • Am I avoiding doing this thing? If so, why?
  • How am I feeling—mentally, physically, emotionally?
  • What did I do instead?

How will you respond if there is ever a time when you let yourself down?

A big part of trusting ourselves is keeping the promises we make to ourselves. Every time we do what we say we will do, we build trust that we will continue to do so. When we show ourselves we can be trusted in the small things, it’s easier to trust ourselves in the big things.

Trust isn’t about believing we’ll never mess up. That’s perfectionism. Trust is built when we give ourselves compassion, stick around to clean up the mess, make adjustments, and keep trying.

It is one thing to think about changing the way we show up for ourselves, it’s another to take steps to make those changes. I’d love to know…

  • Where are you undermining your self-trust?
  • What will you commit to doing daily for the next week?
  • How will you respond if you let yourself down?