Learning to Trust Yourself
You are the expert on your life. You are your best healer. You are the one who knows what is best for you and your body.
When we realize we are capable of knowing who we are and listening to the cues of our internal worlds, it becomes apparent that we also have to learn how to trust our insight. We live in a world inundated with outside knowledge telling us who we are (to sell products, to shape policy, etc, etc). When we flip the script and create a world where our inner sight informs who we are and how we live, it is revolutionary. And learning to trust your inner knowledge first, sometimes even at odds, with outside input, is a process.
A big part of “doing the work” for me has been learning to trust myself, and in the process also learning who I am and how to be myself; it has been critical for living an authentic life. Brené Brown’s work on trust has been such a useful framework for me; she defines trust using the acronym BRAVING.
Brené starts with Boundaries, being clear about what is okay and what is not okay. With other people, setting and respecting boundaries is a crucial step for authentic connection and belonging. The same is true within yourself. In order to show up and be seen with yourself, you have to recognize what patterns of behavior do and do not serve you. You have to set boundaries with yourself and then hold them with loving discipline. This process is part of Dr. Nicole LePera’s Reparenting framework. You have to learn when you are betraying yourself; I betray myself when I allow myself to say really mean and critical (and often untrue) things about myself or to other people. I betray myself when I know what I need and I do not do it. Learning to trust yourself is a skill set, it isn’t something we either have or don’t have, it is something we cultivate. In order to trust yourself and your knowing, you have to set boundaries with yourself and hold them with love and kindness. You have to get clear on what you need, do your best to meet those needs, and be willing to circle back when you screw it up.
The second element of BRAVING is Reliability. Reliability is doing what you say you will do. It means knowing your competencies and your limitations. This element of trust is following through on the promises you make, both to yourself and to other people. Once you get clear about what you need, what is okay and what isn’t, you can start to show up for yourself. This is where grounded self-care comes into play; when you know you need to take care of your body every time you go on that walk, eat well, sleep well, play well, you are taking care and showing up for yourself. This is reliability, and it shows you that you can trust yourself. Brené talks about The Marble Jar of Trust. This is the idea that trust is earned in the smallest of moments, and every time you do what you said you would, another marble goes into the jar and you learn to trust yourself a little more. Learning to trust yourself is a process of collecting more marbles from being true to you.
“Do what is right for you. Do it over and over again. Lean into the light. Keep going even when it is hard. Trust the process even when your mood is low. Let growth be your mission. Let healing be your reward. Let freedom be your goal.” Yung Pueblo
The third element of trust for Brené is Accountability. Accountability is owning your mistakes, apologizing, and making amends. Learning to trust yourself means being accountable to yourself when you mess up – you acknowledge that your actions caused some damage or lost some trust and you do what you need to do next to make it right. Calling yourself on your own BS can be hard, it requires you to witness yourself honestly. It requires having hard conversations with yourself, and also holding yourself with kindness when you do fail. Because you will mess up. And you will have to make amends and apologize. And you can do so in a way that builds more trust with yourself.
The next element is what Brené calls Vault; you do not share information or experiences that are not yours to share. In learning to trust yourself, this means protecting your stories; you do not share your vulnerability and stories with people who have not earned the right to know them. You recognize that just because someone shares with you, that doesn’t mean you have to share with them. Honoring the vault for yourself means respecting and protecting yourself in your relationships with other people and external forces.
The ‘I’ in BRAVING is for Integrity. Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; you choose what is right over what is fun, easy, or fast. Additionally, integrity is practicing your values instead of just professing them, you walk the walk. In trusting yourself, you choose to do what you need even when it is hard or unpleasant. Showing integrity to yourself means choosing you first. It is choosing to have the hard conversations around boundaries, trauma, and relationships. It is doing what is right for you, again and again. It is building a life of meaning where you live out what matters most.
Next is Nonjudgement, being able to ask for what you need and to talk about it without judgement. In building trust with yourself, this means cultivating the ability to be honest with yourself, and to do so without the negative self-talk or evaluation. This element is not asking you to suspend judgment forever, rather it is about making space for things to be as they are without added layers of what it means, where it comes from, or why. There will be time for these extras, but trusting ourselves requires being able to be in the experience itself without all the extra stories and commentary. Nonjudgement allows things to be as they are, inviting more presence and authenticity to your understanding of yourself and others.
Extending the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions to yourself and others is the heart of generosity. When we trust ourselves, we assume that we are doing the best we can with what we have. We understand that we are not meant to be perfect, that sometimes we will react from past wounds instead of present capability, and that is okay. When we are generous, we have faith in the process and the support of the trend. We don’t get stuck in the weeds of the moment. In learning generosity, we are moving our ecosystem away from the negativity bias, away from assuming the worst. We are learning to live from a place of sufficiency instead of scarcity.
Process of Love
Trusting yourself is a process, and it is foundational in doing the work. When you trust yourself, you live from a place of internal validation and lead a life aligned with your values. You are doing the work when you trust yourself; ultimately you are the expert on your life, and when you trust yourself, you can lean into your own guidance and build a meaningful life. You are able to meet yourself deeply and understand who you really are. You are able to trust other people more authentically and meet them where they are. You are able to recognize your mistakes and learn from them. You are able to show up for yourself and others.