February 1, 2012
Learn to Trust Yourself
While this article addresses the difficulty of learning to trust for adult survivors of child abuse, the ideas can be helpful for anyone who struggles in this area of life.
Many survivors struggle with trust. It is not surprising given that our fundamental trust in another person was shattered as a result of abuse. In fact, it is hard for some survivors to remember ever trusting anyone.
When I first thought about trusting others, I felt a huge knot in my stomach. I did not want to rely on the integrity or character of another person, which is part of what it means to trust. After all, I had relied on the character of someone, and he abused me. I also had a very hard time having “confident expectations” that people would not always leave, let me down, or harm me. I was in a terrible loop of being out to prove that no one could be trusted, and I was succeeding.
There are a couple of layers involved when we think about trust: Defining trust, trusting ourselves, trusting others and determining who is trustworthy, and, the biggie, embracing vulnerability (don’t worry, I’ll be writing about that in a few weeks!). For today, we’re just going to think about trusting ourselves.
As we think about trust, we often focus on determining if a person is trustworthy or not. To be sure, this is very important. However, trusting yourself is actually the first step and more critical than learning to trust others!
If you do not have the confidence that you can make good decisions, judge others with wisdom and clarity, and set the boundaries that are necessary when others violate your trust, then thinking about trusting others will prove to be an empty and meaningless endeavor.
To begin trusting ourselves, we need to figure out the answer to one very important question:
I do not trust myself because …
Once we identify the beliefs that are holding us back from trusting ourselves, we then need to do the work to challenge these beliefs.
As in all things, start small. Setting a goal that focuses on just one area where you want to begin learning to trust yourself is a good place to begin. I also encourage you to read more about challenging false beliefs directly using a few simple steps.
Too often we strive to be open to others, to trust, but find ourselves pulling way, making a mess of things, or being hurt by our choices. If you find yourself over and over again struggling to trust others, it’s possible that your focus needs to be shifted from outward interactions to inward reflection and growth.
Being grounded in who you are, confident in your ability to make good decisions and to set and keep boundaries is a critical path towards trusting others.
Next week, I’ll share with you some thoughts on defining trust in a new light and learning to trust others.
- On a scale of 1-10 (1 never; 10 too easily), how would you rate your ability to trust yourself?
- In what areas of life do you trust yourself to make good choices?
- In what areas of life do you doubt your ability to make good choices?
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