The other day a friend and I walked our dogs together. On our walk, we shared new things that had been going on for each of us. We meandered through various topics. Eventually, the conversation found it’s way to the subject of relationships, what is important to us in relationship, and where we feel we struggle in relationship.
We both agreed that we felt good about the work we put into our relationships. And we both agreed that our relationships had taken a lot of work.
The two of us talked about ups and downs we’ve faced in certain relationships, length of time spent in these relationships, and relationships as they related to developmental periods in our lives. We found many constants that were present through our relationships, but the shared constant we found was how much we trusted ourselves and how that impacted our relationships. The less we trusted ourselves, the less we knew and understood ourselves, the less effective we were at managing challenging aspects of our relationships.
For days afterward, I thought about our conversation and wondered how many other people had similar thoughts to themselves or conversations with others. In my office, I talk with people every day who want to improve their relationships, decrease certain behaviors, and increase others. Much of what we talk about has a common thread about trust as it relates to self and others.
I started thinking about how the different ways in which we benefit from trusting ourselves. When we trust ourselves we feel less anxious and more confident, we feel more comfortable with confrontation and conflict, it’s easier for us to legitimize our feelings, and we experience less dependence on external validation. We are much more resilient and connected to our courage when we trust ourselves.
That was a helpful realization. But then I realized that I thought I trusted myself for years. I wasn’t always aware that I often mistook my defensiveness and criticism of others for self-trust. Part of that was developmental. Part of it was fear. Essentially, I found it hard to trust myself because… I didn’t trust myself.
So, how can you increase your self-trust (especially, when you find it hard to trust yourself!)? Start by being curious. You’ll probably find that as you access curiosity about yourself and your experience, you will feel some amount of judgment. That’s ok. Be curious about the judgment or criticism, too. It doesn’t usually disappear right away; instead of getting lost in the judgments or trying to avoid them, be curious about them. You have them for a reason so, let’s see what you can learn from them.
Be especially curious about times you feel defensive, critical (of yourself or others), contemptuous, empathic, and patient. What’s happening for you that you feel_______? What do you want to do or say? What do you actually do or say? What’s it like to respond or not respond in this particular way? What stops you from doing or saying what you want to do or say?
When it’s difficult for us to trust ourselves, we don’t always do or say or act the way we want. As we learn to trust ourselves, we live in a more authentic way, which helps to deepen our connection to ourselves and our loved ones.
Love and Be Loved,