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Trust Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

First, whatever it took to get you here today, in this moment reading this, thank you. I appreciate you and I appreciate that you are taking the time to click and read.

Second, give yourself a gold star for showing up for your life today. Go ahead right now and give yourself credit for anything (and I mean anything) you’ve already accomplished today. For me, I walked the dog, watered the front yard and wrote. These are small things, but they are huge in terms of providing routine and balance to my day. What can you give yourself credit for? Drinking a glass of water? Making your breakfast? Remembering to take your vitamins?

Thirdly, I took some of my own advice and it actually worked! Go figure.

Yesterday I found myself in a familiar place: on a Sunday, worrying about Monday. I heard this little voice saying, “If you work on this today, Monday will be easier.”

Ha! I caught it. That seemingly harmless sentence: "If I do X, life will be easier" signals my grindset is present. (A couple weeks ago I wrote about the difference between grit and what I call “grindset; that is, the set of thoughts we have that turn life into a grind.)

That sentence heralds a “grindset” because it’s not actually true. Life doesn’t get any easier when I push through. In fact, it often makes things more difficult. When I keep pushing forward and am tired, ugh, I make mistakes, things take longer because I’ve lost focus or my brain is just d-o-n-e.

I knew I needed a day off. My body told me so when emotions broke through the surface for no apparent reason Friday morning and on Saturday I took a two-hour nap. When I imagined working on Sunday, I felt weighed down with lead bricks. But when I thought about taking the day off, well, I got antsy and anxious, even though I had promised myself I would take Sunday off.

Yet there I was, about to break that promise to myself and give into the grindset. But if I can’t trust myself to keep promises I make to myself, why should anyone else trust me?

Let me tell you, it was hard to take the day off. Again and again that wheedling sentence would pop up and tell me that I should go ahead and push through. But I didn’t do it. I sat with the discomfort of not giving in. It was awkward. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I finally meditated, and then later I met a friend and we took a socially distant walk. I made a healthy dinner. And this morning, writing this article came pretty easily.

When I trust myself, I don’t wreck myself.

This month I’ve been researching what it means to trust oneself. Like, why does it even matter? Psychology Today defines “self-trust is the firm reliance on the integrity of yourself.” When we don’t have that, we have no foundation and no core. We can feel lost at sea.

The article continues to explain that avoiding or ignoring our inner critic undermines self-trust; that trying to distract ourselves from it actually empowers it. Hmmm….interesting.

“People who have not learned to relate to their inner critical voice in a productive way will argue with it or comply with its indictments. [emphasis mine] When we buy into the negative voice, we diminish our self-trust. Trying to escape the inner critic and ignoring it by drinking or drugging, or other distractions, will empower it. The way to build self-trust is to relate to the inner critic and show it that it is taking a seed of truth and blowing it out of proportion.”

I realized that’s exactly what I had been doing with my inner critic: arguing with it, complying with it, or trying to avoid it all together. But without any distractions to help me ignore it, I actually had to face it and sit with the discomfort. (Soooo awkward and uncomfortable.)

When I am spinning—arguing, rationalizing, complying or ignoring—I am not in a mental space where trust or access to wisdom is even possible. I might feel a lot of anxiety, but it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s imagined. When I quiet myself, however, trust and inner wisdom can emerge. When I listen to my body, it can often point me in the right direction.

When I don’t trust myself…?

It’s a colossal shit-show. I ask everyone and their mother for their opinion, creating even more brain static. It’s costly – in terms of all the resources that matter—time, money, health, self-esteem and confidence.

For example, a former client attended a prestigious school for her master’s degree, against that inner knowing. She didn’t enjoy school but stuck it out in part because she knew her parents were so proud. From that mental space of trying to please others, she then went on to accept a job working for a prestigious company far from home, where, after five years, she found herself really unhappy, needing a medical leave, and no closer to finding a role that was a good fit. The costs of not trusting herself were considerable.

It is really challenging to trust ourselves when the people around us think differently or are telling us we ought to do something different from what we want. We may believe that we have to get it right or be guaranteed success if we are going to trust ourselves and not follow what others say. But that’s not actually the definition of self-trust; self-trust is about an inner knowing, not about outer results. Trust is about maintaining integrity with ourselves. In this complex world we live in, it’s not always clear what path would maintain integrity with ourselves. So then the question is: Do you trust yourself to be able to figure it out?

If you aren’t in the practice of trusting yourself in small ways, e.g. taking a day off when you say you’re going to, you’ll have no foundation for trusting yourself when it comes to big decisions. So tune into today. What’s your body telling you it needs? What if you just did that?

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