We all struggle with a mindset that is based on trust in ourselves.

Some of us trust ourselves at work but struggle to trust ourselves in relationships.  Some of us trust our ability to interact with people, but struggle with knowing we can do our job well.

There are hundreds of quotes about how to push yourself to succeed, how to drive yourself forward, or how to push through pain just to spite the doubters.

They tell you to “prove the doubters wrong,” “show your boss he’s an idiot,” and “make them jealous.”  These motivations can drive you to momentary success, but they will ultimately fail you.

So what does trusting yourself look like?

Trust is a very complicated concept that our culture tends to simplify into a one-time event or definition. But the truth is trusting yourself involves many deep layers of self-evaluation and acceptance. To start that process you need to:

Know You Can Handle Any Outcome

A common understanding of self-trust is that you believe in yourself to succeed. This is definitely part of trusting yourself, but it becomes an issue when we do not succeed every time– which we will not.

I propose that trusting yourself requires acceptance of the fact that you will survive and thrive no matter what the outcome.  

Belief that you are capable of handling painful emotions, failure, and rejection is core to trusting yourself.

I can know in my heart that I am capable of accomplishing a task, but if I am afraid of what it says about me if I do not succeed the first time or if someone else doubts my ability, I will not even try in the first place.  This is a core reason for procrastination. If I know that I am capable of surviving difficulty and that I will find a way to move forward no matter what the loss or pain, then I truly trust that I am a capable human being.  But if my fear of someone else’s response, rejection or falling short of the goal will cause pain and result in emotional paralyzation, no amount of confidence in my ability will overcome the fear of the consequences.

Believe that you know more than you think you do

We each have within us the knowledge and strength to uncover the deepest mysteries of our subconscious.  When we make decisions that are self-defeating and we wonder why, the answer is within us.  We have all internalized negative messages over the course of our lives that are working to undermine us and we are not consciously aware of them.

The willingness to uncover these irrational self-messages and acknowledge the power they have over our ability to trust ourselves is imperative to an internal sense of trust. Believing that beyond basic skills you have all that you need within you to accomplish your goals, be they emotional or physical, is a key component to trusting yourself.

Own your decisions

This is crucial.  It is so easy to look back on our choices and assign blame to others or to circumstances.  It was that professor who did not like me or the friend who had it in for me.  But this practice of assigning blame to outside sources prevents us from believing in ourselves. On the surface, it seems helpful to give someone else responsibility for our challenges and perceived failures, but it is one of the most dangerous habits develop.

The message this sends is that we have less and less control over our lives.  The less control we have, the less power we have.  The less power we have, the less it matters what we chose to do.  If everything is in the hands of others, then I don’t have to try because it won’t make a difference.

Trusting yourself requires that you embrace your own power.

No, you cannot control the decisions of others, but you have absolute control over how you respond to any situation and how you respond is the most important part of the equation. One of the classic existential fears is that of our ultimate power over ourselves and our life.

When you believe that you have the power and ability to shape the course of your life, it is daunting and overwhelming, but it is a required element of trusting yourself.

Stop motivating yourself through punishment

If you do not think you are worthy of success, it is impossible to trust yourself.  How can you trust someone who is so horrible that they do not deserve to be treated with respect, even by their own standards? It is the person who can say to themselves, “I deserve a promotion and I am capable of working hard for it” who trusts in themselves, not the person who says, “maybe if I work hard enough, no one will notice that I am actually horrible.”

This internal dialog is not always conscious and rarely do we let others have a glimpse into it, but until we decide to acknowledge and change it, we will never be able to trust the person who we think so little of.

Telling yourself you’re so terrible you need to accomplish good things just doesn’t make sense. Our brains register when thinking like that doesn’t fit and it rebels.  If you really are that worthless, no amount of success will change it.

Value everything you have accomplished– even the things you didn’t like

We have all heard that we should see every failure as a learning experience. I will be honest enough to say that for me, this is the hardest part of trusting myself.  Some of my choices have moved me in a direction I thought was acceptable and some of my choices have kept me stuck for years, but I choose to view them all as accomplishments.

When you trust yourself, you know that even the things that went differently than you intended were guided by you, needed by you, and made you who you are today.

They are valuable, and not just in a surface, lip-service way.

Uncovering the hidden roots of self-doubt can be challenging and require the help of an outside source like a counselor or a spiritual advisor, but it can be the key to a more fulfilling life.


Featured image by Tyler Nix via Unsplash