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The Importance of Trusting Yourself and Others

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Trust in yourself develops much the same way as trust in others. They are both built over time through sharing, respect, honesty, integrity, and reliance we will get from others and give ourselves the support we need.

Trusting Yourself

When you have trouble trusting yourself, you are constantly second-guessing and hiding your true feelings and thoughts, skyrocketing stress as you struggle to cover every possible contingency and maintain that false front. You have difficulty coping because you fail to recognize when you have reached your limits, need help, or have misread a situation.

Your family, team, and friends have difficulty communicating with you because they don’t know you, and they are leery about how you will react. Other people may describe their need to “walk on eggshells” around you, which builds stress in everyone.

Your trust in yourself will deepen with every increase in your:

  • Self-Sharing: You spend time with yourself, take care of your well-being, and make sure you have moments of pleasure, gratitude, and celebration in your life.
  • Self-Respect: You understand that you are flawed, like all human beings, but still worthy of kindness and respect—from yourself and others.
  • Honesty: You check in with your feelings, identify them, and figure out healthy ways to deal with them. You recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and when you have over-estimated your resources and abilities. You are willing to acknowledge when you are wrong or at fault.
  • Integrity: You have established values for yourself and know when you or others step over the line. You stand up for those values, and you stand behind your decisions.
  • Self-Reliance: You believe that you can handle setbacks and bounce back—you have resilience and self-efficacy—but you know that part of taking care of yourself is asking for and accepting help when you need it.

If you have trouble trusting yourself right now, you may need to work with a coach, mentor, or counselor. But there are several steps you can take on your own to foster your trust in yourself:

  • Give yourself opportunities to succeed. Break a complicated goal into smaller goals that you know you can reach.
  • Write down what you are feeling and thinking. If you have trouble giving the feeling a name, concentrate on describing it. If you are conflicted about a decision or how to solve a problem, engage the SMaRT tools for creative problem solving and decision making.
  • Move—take a walk, exercise, take a swim. Give those endorphins a chance to work and give yourself a chance to recover from whatever you are struggling with.
  • Truly listen to what other people say about themselves and note how they handle their failures as well as their successes. Trusting yourself is easier when you fit into the “just human” category. Listen when people explain how your lack of trust affects them.
  • Look before you leap. Find out what resources you need to succeed—skills, attitude, finances, etc.—and set intermediate goals to acquire them before you try something you are not equipped for. Check out your intended actions with someone who has made the same attempt.
  • Change a small habit. If, for example, you have a habit of negative thinking (“I’m such a failure”), try for one week to squelch that thought and substitute a positive thought (“I am better prepared to succeed now”). After one week, you should see a difference in your attitude, and you will have actually achieved success in thinking positively for a week.
  • Organize. How can you trust yourself when you can’t find what you are looking for, lose everything you’re entrusted with, and constantly miss appointments? Once you organize your workspace, mind, and schedule, your self-confidence rises, and with it, your trust in yourself.

TIP: Make decisions and take on commitments cautiously; you want to be able to trust your ability to follow through, and you want to establish in the minds of other people that you are trustworthy.


Trusting Others

When you have trouble trusting others, you are always alone. In trusting others, you are also trusting yourself to be the type of partner, friend, family, and team member, leader, or mentor that other people can rely upon.

  • Sharing: You spend time with family, friends, and your team. You share moments of pleasure, gratitude, and celebration. You share your ideas and feelings and listen to others with kindness and respect.
  • Respect: You understand that everyone is flawed but still worthy of respect—from yourself and others. You follow the dictionary definition: due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, and traditions of others. In addition, you do not have to ask or be asked multiple times for the same thing; you each respect the other person’s needs.
  • Honesty: You share your thoughts and feelings with others—not necessarily with everyone but with someone. You accept that other people have the right to disagree with you, but you seek points of agreement. You are honest about your own needs and expect others to be honest about theirs.
  • Integrity: You have established values for yourself and know when you or others step over the line. You understand that other people may have other standards and values, and you decide calmly what you can and cannot accept. You take responsibility for your decisions and actions; you expect others to be accountable for theirs.
  • Reliance: You have people in your life that you can depend upon—and if you don’t, you find them. Other people can rely on you. You know that everyone has lapsed on occasion, and you support them in their efforts to get back on track. In a conflict of loyalties, you put your significant other first, and they put you first.

If you have trouble finding or keeping trustworthy relationships, you may need to work with a coach, mentor, or counselor. But there are several steps you can take on your own to foster your trust in other people and their trust in you:

  • Build your communication skills. Trust depends on clearly and respectfully communicating about each other’s wants, needs, feelings, and thoughts. No one completely trusts a stranger. Listen to each other. One of the problems of communication is that the other person may not hear what you are saying (and you may not hear what they are saying) in the way it was intended. Give each other the benefit of the doubt until the meaning is clear.
  • Face conflicts. Trusting others means being able to say and accept a simple “no.” Resolve conflicts as soon as possible; when you allow resentments to simmer or try to avoid conflict altogether by hiding your true feelings, thoughts, and needs, you undermine trust. Be open to compromise, rather than worrying about winning or losing.
  • Do what you say you will do to the best of your ability. If you make a commitment to others, stick to the commitment; they need to know if there is a problem immediately. Don’t lead with excuses. Apologize and accept apologies. When you follow through with others, they will be more likely to follow through with you.
  • Take the time to build trust. Trust comes from experience. It weathers conflict and moments of disappointment in both parties. The act of trusting others involves sharing successes and failures, being grateful, taking pleasure in the moment, and taking the time to help and reciprocate. You cannot force trust or expect it to never come into question.
  • Risk small acts of trust when you aren’t sure. A social psychologist wrote in Harvard Business Review that trust is the “default” human response to other people. Therefore, we tend to trust people too soon and, once trusted, never question again. He suggests small acts of trust, not as a test, but as a way for people to get comfortable with each other’s notions and expectations of trust. For example, if you have a fear of gossip, trust a new friend with minor confidence, one that won’t bother you if it circulates. Be sure the person knows that you expect confidence—don’t set them up to fail you.

TIP: Once someone reveals themselves as not trustworthy, you should believe the evidence and stop trusting them, at least in that area of life (for example, chronic procrastinators cannot be trusted to deliver or show up on time). Trust can be rebuilt, but it takes work.

Key Takeaways

Trust is basic to human interactions. We can never completely know each other, so trust takes up the slack. You increase your trust in yourself and in others by taking small steps—each time you come through a commitment to yourself or to someone else, you are building trust and your capacity to trust.

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