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Do you trust yourself?

Trust - the expectation of other people's behaviour. That's one definition.

It's a well studied phenomenon in the world of research and psychology but there isn't actually a universal definition of trust. It's quite an abstract and subjective concept when you start to think about it.


In any relationship trust is a fundamental aspect. It's a key element of coaching for sure, but have you ever stopped to think about how and if you trust yourself?


Alex and me sat and discussed trust (and the truth) on our podcast this week and I think one of the main things that came out of it is that trust is a choice. We make (hopefully) informed decisions about people and whether we can invest in someone and I'm certainly someone who follows their instincts when it comes to trust. What about self-trust? In my true inquisitive style, I dug a bit and here's my two penneth on trusting yourself...

I read loads of articles and blogs before I wrote this, but what stuck out was a really interesting research paper on trust which tested an established theory and concluded that if someone comes across as competent and that we perceive to have good levels of self control, we trust them. I thought about how this could apply to the way we trust ourselves.


Here are six elements to reflect on:


1. Trust relies on interdependence - one of my own little mantras is "Life takes Teamwork". Even if you really believe yourself to be alone, you're not. Someone designed, made and sold those shoes your wearing so you can walk places, someone put that sandwich together that you bought from Pret so you could nourish yourself. We can't achieve much without reliance on someone else (even if we're not too conscious of it) and so trust begins with an interdependence between ourselves and A. N. Other. In psychology, the interdependent self is a way of defining you based on relationship with others. So can you have internal dependency and how does that play out? You can, but this gets very complex and deep so I'll leave you with a question on this one...how are you dependable to yourself?


2. Trust is risky - In any relationship there's an element of risk. We risk getting hurt, we risk not getting what we want, we risk a loss or a gain of some kind. In terms of trusting yourself, what do you risk if you don't act favourably towards you? How good are you at risk assessing about yourself?


3. Trust is a choice - When interacting with others, we can choose whether to make ourselves vulnerable to the actions of others. We can choose whether to rely, or not, on them to do or sort out the things we can't manage or don't want to do on our own. That means, however, that we'll have to find another way of getting help, finding alternatives, maybe just having to do it ourselves. What happens if that means a rubbish outcome, not quite the one we envisaged? If trusting yourself is a choice, how willing are you to make yourself vulnerable to you? Are you open to experimenting? Open to it not being quite perfect? Open to having to persevere to "up-skill"? Would you choose you?


4. Trust relies on ability - We tend to put our trust in people to do things we can't or don't want to because we know they're more competent than us. We trust that the doctor has the relevant skills and competencies to help us get better. We put our trust in that mechanic because they have the expertise we don't. What trust do you have in your own abilities? I haven't had a coaching client yet that hasn't needed a guide to remind themselves just how capable they are. You are the expert in your own life and trust me when I say, even if you're unsure, you absolutely have the ability to find out the answers.


5. Trust is benevolent - We invest trust, particularly in someone we consider to be competent at something because we truly believe in their good intentions. You trust a friend to look after your children (or dog) because you have an existing relationship that has provided evidence for their commitment to you. Trusting yourself ought to be the same. How kind are you to yourself because you believe in your own good intentions? Where's your evidence for that trust? What's your commitment to you like?


6. Trust has integrity - When someone "does the right thing" and adheres to the same basic principles and values that we uphold, we're very likely to trust them. I'm sure you can think of a person, maybe even someone you don't really know, that you've said "yup, I'd trust them", because they reflect back to you, a bit of you. How does that show up for yourself? How do you play out "doing the right thing" for yourself so that you trust yourself? What values do you uphold to keep building evidence that you can trust yourself?


(Righetti & Finkenauer 2011)

Trusting yourself and others takes effort. These kind of pro-relationship behaviours often require a sacrifice and absolutely some self control. Self control to behave in a way that benefits the relationship. This means you alter emotions, change your thoughts, become adaptable and flexible to suit, more often than not, the other person or the situation. You have to do all these things to trust yourself too.


It's proven to be exhausting. Literally. Self control is hard!


So what to do? My advice for what it's worth is to get a coach (obvs!). Let them help you explore perspectives, challenge your status quo and get clear on how you can trust yourself. When coaching isn't an option, my next advice is to protect your habits. Build evidence that you have some self control and can therefore trust yourself.


Don't go all in with habits. I don't care who you are, we can't and don't sustain these activities - we're emotional beings not robots!! Release the guilt from that all or nothing approach. What are you trying to prove? I used to not bother with that work out if I knew I couldn't give 100% or didn't have a whole hour to spare. I wouldn't bother with that mindfulness meditation app because I knew I couldn't get through 15 mins of the next session. I'd give up with journaling because I was too tired to sit and write pages on a totally exhausting and triggering topic. If self trust is about mastering your abilities, then little and often is more than ok.


If I don't have a whole hour to spare for the gym, I'll do 15 mins of mobility, do a few reps with some free weights or stick on a 5 mins yoga flow.


I no longer stress about getting that next full mindfulness session in. I do 1 min, maybe 2 as I stop for a coffee.


When I don't feel I have the energy or inclination to journal for ages, I'll write down a sentence to summarise my day or write a quick intention in the morning.


My point? I haven't ditched the whole work out, I've shown up to do one set. I haven't binned my mindfulness practice, I've shown up to do one minute. I haven't sacked off journaling, I've kept writing every day. Protect the habits that work for you, demonstrate some self control because after that comes trust. I trust myself to do these things that matter to me, that support my mental and physical health.


Trust is built around adhering to the relationship standards you have with yourself. I totally get it, it can clash with what's going on around you, we constantly compare ourselves to others. We're all looking for social acceptance and being selfish can feel like it's leads to being rejected.


But if this, in turn, leads to you not being able to trust yourself, where will you end up?





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