Sometimes we don’t know what the fuck is happening.
If, like me, you’ve ever gone through a hard transition in your life, or are currently, you know that it can be really difficult to know what to do exactly. There are WTF moments in your relationships. There are moments of existential crises in your career. There are moments when things are so up in the air, you wonder if you will ever feel secure and comfortable ever again.
These are the moments when learning to trust yourself–even when things are super uncertain–is of vital importance.
You might not know what’s going to happen. But you can trust yourself to handle whatever the fallout.
If you’d asked me in 2012 if I’d be able to handle it if I found out my husband was having a long-term affair, I’d have said no. If you’d asked me if I’d be okay on my own, I’d have said hell no. If you’d asked me if I could see myself single in my mid-30s trying to figure out how to date again, I’d have cried on the spot.
Too much. Too hard. Too uncertain. Too … devastating.
Even the thought of all that was devastating precisely because I didn’t know what I was capable of yet. I hadn’t been tested yet. I didn’t have the experiences and show of evidence YET that I’d be okay.
Simply, I didn’t trust myself yet.
Self-trust matters because It provides a sense of certainty even in the most uncertain times. When life and people and relationships are happening around you, you’re not at the mercy of all that. You trust that you can handle outcome arises.
But, building self-trust is a catch-22.
Because it takes accumulating experiences that are tough/trying, and then seeing yourself survive them. It’s putting all your likes, dislikes, preferences, wants, needs, desires on display and saying, “Hey world, this is me!” or “Hey friend, this is me!” or “Hey spouse, this is me!” and then … letting the response from the world, your friend, your spouse …be what it will be … without you changing or adjusting or lying or placating to manage their response.
Self-trust is the ultimate in control, because as a result of all your experience, so little can penetrate your strength. You become your strongest, more resilient self. And THAT is pretty fucking cool.
So, how do you build it?
4 Ways to Boost Your Self-Trust
1) Manufacture “Vulnerability Plays”
The catch-22 when it comes to building self-trust is that the thing that fortifies it is also the thing we spend all our time trying to avoid: hard times.
A Vulnerability Play is something you do to expose yourself a little, doing something that’s out of your comfort zone, or that creates uncertainty, on purpose. And the process of seeing yourself survive something vulnerable or hard or uncomfortable is precisely what helps solidify your ability to trust yourself: See, you didn’t die. Maybe you can do more?
When I was obsessed with food and exercise, one of my Vulnerability Plays was not prepping my food for the week. I was terrified that if I didn’t have everything prepped and ready that surely I would end up at the McDonalds drive-thru every meal! And you know what happened? Nothing. I didn’t eat perfectly, but I also didn’t hit up McDicks. My clothes still fit. I didn’t binge. I did my normal workouts. I pieced together meals that were decent, but not perfect. NOTHING WENT WRONG. And I saw that dipping my toes into the exact thing I was scared to do was the start of my food obsession recovery. Maybe I could dine out without gorging? Maybe I could trust myself at a friend’s house for dinner? Maybe I could travel without bringing 100 Tuperwares. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
These small exposures help us see that we really are able to trust ourselves.
Maybe you don’t need to manufacture them. Maybe, life has dished them up for you, in a form of divorce, loss, career upheaval, infidelity, betrayal, death, etc. And you were blindsided, left to pick up the pieces. What decisions did you make? How did you endure? Are you still in the middle of it? Seeing yourself–literally, your brain is always watching your actions and using your actions to decide who you are and what you are capable of–put one foot in front of the other, is you fortifying yourself. Building confidence and self-trust with every day you get out of bed, do something, endure, survive.
Sit in discomfort.
Sit in uncertainty.
Trust that you don’t need to take fast action out of a need for control.
Watch yourself and as a result, build self-awareness.
And as a result, over time, you rack up a show of evidence that you can figure shit out. You can handle something hard. You can do it.
My friend Jillian says, “It’s easy to be ‘all good’ when everything’s all good.” Truth. But can you figure out a way to hold it down when things aren’t going well? THAT’S what creates self-trust.
2) Stop asking people their opinion, and make a big decision on your own.
Sure, consult your spouse or partner. Or call up your mentor. But the longer you deliberate on a decision, the faster it dissipates. You don’t have to force things, but I do believe that the more you take your own advice, do the thing you feel in your gut, minimize time second-guessing and then just OWN the fuck out of that decision–including any fallout, good, bad or ugly–the more powerful you become.
There’s something fortifying about going with your gut, and then having the full experience, with no one else to consult with (or blame if things don’t go well!). Just you. It’s a signal to your higher self that you know (and you do!). You just haven’t given yourself a chance to trust yourself yet.
Next time you want to ask 1000 people their opinion, ask the one that matters most: your own.
3) Engage in more tough conversations
Tim Ferriss says, “One’s success in life is directly related to how many uncomfortable conversations they’re willing to have.”
And I agree. I’m not a contrarian, but I like honesty. I like authenticity. I like people saying to my face the things they’re upset about, and I like offering the same courtesy back. To me, that’s where real communication starts, and what leads to real, deep connection. It’s not bad or wrong to disagree or bring things up, it’s a conversation. And as adults, we should be able to stay in the discomfort of a tough convo without getting defensive, deflecting, ignoring or bouncing.
BUT, with all that said, engaging in uncomfortable conversations is a practice.
I only got comfy with them because my ex-husband and I forced them on each other when we were going through our divorce and separation. And as hard and painful as those convos were at times, the better I got at a) being able to identify clearly what I was actually feeling, and b) being able to articulate that to another person without a bunch of emotion and confusion. These things are practices.
And part of fortifying trust in yourself is showing up to conversations with those in your life with everything on full display: your preferences, needs, wants, desires, fears and vulnerabilities. And then SAYING THE THING you don’t want to say. And then … letting the chips fall. Letting them have their response. Holding space for them to process, even if y’all don’t agree (that’s ok!).
The goal is not to agree on everything, or constant harmony all the time. The goal is engaging in the scary thing and again, seeing yourself survive it. It may begin a series of tough convos that won’t be the most fun, but over time, it gets better. YOU get better. Clearer. Stronger. More confident.
When you bring up the thing you don’t want to bring up, your brain watches, and says, “Damn, you are in your integrity!” And seeing yourself in that messy, yet congruent place is one of the most powerful experiences and will continue to fuel more honesty, growth and depth in your relationships.
4) Become more discerning as a result of experiences
In Mark Manson’s book, ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’ he shares that for many people, they give a fuck about everything. Someone cuts them off in traffic, they’re pissed for hours. Something doesn’t go perfectly at work, they catastrophize. They have a misunderstanding with their partner, it ruins their week.
In short, when you get super upset over every little tiny thing in your life … I’m sorry but, you’re soft. When I do it, I’m soft. That’s not a bad thing, but it is a thing. And while honoring your feelings is always valid, the key is deciding what things to feel a lot about.
Ask someone who’s in remission after enduring cancer, chemo and radiation, they probably don’t think too many things are huge deals anymore. They have perspective as a result of going through something hard.
When you haven’t endured many hard things in your life, even the smallest thing can feel catastrophic. And this, my friend, is the opposite of self-trust. It’s crumbling at the slightest inconvenience. It’s losing it over the tiniest misunderstanding.
And the choice to constantly interact at that level of minutia, takes away your power.
When you have experienced more and have exposed yourself more, you have more perspective. A better filtering system. You’re more equipped to handle what others might flip over. You can see things from other people’s perspectives, so you don’t take things as personally. You know everyone is just doing their best. You understand most of us are operating from insecurity all the time, so we don’t have to take it all so personally.
In other words, you hold it down. You see and TRUST that you’ve got this.
I recommend starting with Mark’s book, and also reading ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz. Both books help build perspective.
What do you think?
Self-trust is magical, if you are only brave enough to dip your toes into the hard stuff.