“If we fall, we don’t need self-recrimination or blame or anger – we need a reawakening of our intention and a willingness to re-commit, to be whole-hearted once again.” – Sharon Salzberg
Self-doubt is a mental preoccupation involving indecision, uncertainty, and lack of confidence. It can cause us to hesitate and become stuck reviewing past mistakes and worrying about repeating past failures. It can cause us to question our emotions, doubt our abilities, and even lose sight of who we are and what we value. Ultimately, self-doubt can lead us away from our goals and prevent us from coming to trust in our deepest experience.
In contrast, self-trust is the experience and knowledge that we can take care of our needs and survive setbacks. It means that we can trust our feelings and listen to ourselves as we navigate a world of contradictory opinions and pressures to succeed. Self-trust grows stronger as we connect with our inherent worth and develop the knowledge that we will be kind to ourselves no matter what setbacks we face.
One way to promote self-trust is to work on developing greater self-compassion as this allows for us to look more openly at our experience without fear of self-criticism. Noticing your inner critic and working to change this voice is a useful place to start. We can recognize the ways we speak to ourselves and notice any thoughts that involve criticism or judgement. As we become more aware of this critical voice, we can begin to reshape it into a voice of self-compassion.
A second step involves practice living in the present. If we are constantly shifting to past mistakes or regrets, we will never be fully present to allow for self-trust to grow stronger. Likewise, if we are fearful of future suffering due to mistakes, we will likely be distracted from the present as we cycle through dreaded outcomes or uncertainties. We must remain present to connect with our feelings and listen more deeply to ourselves just as we would be present and listen to a best friend.
Reference points for developing self-trust
Be aware of your thoughts and feelings and express them to others.
Practice being understanding toward yourself when you make a mistake.
Follow your personal standards and ethics.
Keep the commitments you make to yourself.
Make decisions and behave in ways that align with your personal values.
Be aware and acknowledge when you need to care for yourself.
Trust that you can survive mistakes.
Surround yourself with people who support you rather than cause you to doubt yourself or question your abilities.
Become increasingly clear on what you want and pursue your goals.
Stand up for yourself and your views.
Take time to do things just for yourself.
Trusting ourselves and our experiences does not mean that we will be certain, or that we will be right, or even that we will not fail. At its core, trusting ourselves involves knowing that we will not give up on ourselves and that we are worthy of love despite our imperfections or past failures. When we can begin to listen more deeply to ourselves and act as our own trusted friend, we can resume our journey on a path that is uniquely our own with renewed confidence in ourselves and our actions.
Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.
Visit us at lindquistpsych.com
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