Many people lack self-trust, having instead a deep-seated dislike and mistrust of themselves. Those who have experienced complex trauma especially have difficulty accepting themselves and their flaws and have a measured lack of self-esteem.
This article will explore the importance of self-trust and how not having it damages your ability to function.
Self-trust is the conviction to be kind to yourself and respectful no matter the outcome of your efforts. Self-trust means you have felt secure in the fact that you can rely on your integrity.
It is critical to have self-trust, be grounded, have confidence in your choices, have clarity in your life, and experience healthy dependency on others. These qualities are not arrogance but speaking from a place of authority, confidence in what you believe and say, and bending and adjusting to new information.
If you experience a healthy self-trust, you are not hard on yourself when you make mistakes, but you allow room for your errors and learn from them.
However, if you lack self-trust, your life will be much different.
How is Self-Trust Affected by Childhood Trauma
So many things in life are affected by experiencing childhood trauma. The brains of children who live through abuse or neglect have structural changes, and many mental health issues also find their beginnings there.
It is no surprise, then, that self-trust is affected as well.
Research conducted by Downey & Crummy in 2022 states:
“Childhood trauma victims exhibit low self-esteem and experience depression and anxiety. Some deny their trauma history, while others create a false self-image and engage in alcohol and drug misuse in an attempt to prevent their traumatic experiences from impacting their life.”
In layperson’s terms, childhood trauma causes low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety, plus forces the victim later in life to seek out substances to aid themselves in keeping the childhood trauma from impacting their life.
Low self-esteem is a big part of having low self-trust, as it is challenging to trust in yourself when you feel bad about who you are and are using substances to hide your feelings of inadequacy.
Chronic self-distrust affects how you view yourself, and with all you come into contact in your life. You may find you are afraid to reach out to others because you don’t trust yourself to choose the right person as a friend or partner. You may hide from the world, not trusting or believing that you can function well enough to get ahead.
Some Signs of Damaged Self-Trust
Trust issues, whether with oneself or others, cause considerable disruptions in your life. Trust issues affect many aspects of your life, including mental and emotional health. Lacking trust in oneself leads to loneliness, isolation, stress, and perfectionism that keep you bound in dread.
Lack of trust in oneself can also lead to developing control issues that negatively affect:
- Your mental health
- Romantic relationships
- Work productivity
- Relationships with your spouse and children
According to an article written by Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, the following are also signs that you do not trust yourself.
- You ask opinions from others when you need to make a critical decision.
- You seek reassurance from others instead of listening to your own counsel.
- You are prone to procrastination as you are afraid you’ll make the wrong decision.
- You avoid listening to yourself and instead choose to disconnect.
- You experience tremendous guilt after deciding and fear you have made the wrong choice.
- You ruminate on what might have been if you had walked a different path.
- You compare your decision to the decisions of others.
- You are quick to believe any negative opinion of yourself.
- You underestimate the power of your making choices.
While these signs may describe you perfectly now, they need not run your life in the future.
Ways to Improve Your Self-Trust
Trusting yourself makes it easier to make decisions and reduces your stress levels to moderate levels that you can stand. Even if you have not trusted yourself for decades, you can learn to do so over time.
Below we shall discuss five valuable methods to improve your self-trust.
Try to be yourself. You may find it challenging to be yourself around others because you fear how they will look at you and judge you. Unfortunately, other people will sense your discomfort and distrust.
To mitigate your discomfort and fear, start reminding yourself that it is alright to be you. Practice being yourself in the presence of people you trust first, noting the times you feel uncomfortable and not running away from that feeling but embracing it.
Practice being kind to yourself. Perhaps you know the term “unconditional love,” but did you know you can do so for yourself? What does love for yourself unconditionally look like? You rid yourself of negative thoughts and self-criticism after making an error.
Listen closely to your inner voice to see if it is critical or accepting after you make a mistake. Does your inner critic speak kindly, or is it a mean, vindictive voice?
After you have mastered listening to and correcting your inner critic, you will learn to trust yourself unconditionally, which builds enormous self-confidence.
Make time for yourself. Because you lack trust in yourself, you might feel uncomfortable spending time alone. Perhaps you fill your time by keeping busy by continually being involved in projects with other people. It is critical to end the habit of looking away from yourself for approval and patiently looking inside yourself for it.
One trick you can do is to look inward using meditation. Sit with yourself in a quiet room for 5 minutes each day paying attention to your breath and body. If you experience negative thoughts or criticisms of yourself, acknowledge them and let them go. This crucial one-on-one exercise is critical to building yourself up and filling you with self-trust.
Recognize and build on your strengths. Inevitably, you will be better at some things than others and have a good idea of which things you excel at and which you do not.
Trusting yourself means the ability to do all kinds of things without harsh judgment. It makes sense to do more of the things you excel at and fewer of the ones you do not. Spend lots of time doing the things you are good at to build your trust in yourself because it will help you to understand that you are not a mess, but instead, you are someone who can and will do well at the things where you have strengths. It will also reinforce that, like everyone else, you have weaknesses, which is okay.
Learn to be decisive. When you lack trust in yourself, you question your actions and decisions or who you are, which can be painful. Build trust in yourself by stopping your questioning every decision you make. Instead, make a choice and own it, even if it turns out to be wrong. Learn there is no good can come from beating yourself up over wrong decisions.
The best choices are made after having learned from a mistake. In learning from your mistakes, you will believe you will make better choices next time and move on quickly.
Mental Health Awareness Month
May is a good month to work on trusting yourself as we celebrate mental health awareness month. First celebrated in 1949, it was started by the Mental Health America organization that was then called the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, then later the National Mental Health Association. This month is an excellent opportunity to spread the word that mental health is physical health, as it all concerns how the brain functions. Doing so will help end the stigma associated with having a mental illness and bring it out of the darkness into the light of day.
It is vital to remember that having a mental health condition is not a death sentence. You can and will overcome problems with your mental health if you reach out for and receive the help you need.
There are many numbers you can call or text to receive immediate help if you find yourself in a mental health crisis. However, if you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, you cannot wait. Please call 911 immediately or get to the nearest emergency room.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, help is available by calling 988, where you will be able to speak to a trained crisis counselor 24/7. The service is free, and no police will be called unless your particular situation warrants it.
The SAMHSA helpline is available 24/7 and is also free and confidential. Through this helpline, you can receive a treatment referral and information about mental health and substance abuse disorders, prevention, and recovery in both English and Spanish. The numbers to call or text are listed below.
Ending Our Time Together
When considering self-trust, you must think about how you treat yourself. Do you talk verbally about yourself in a negative fashion? Do you treat yourself the way you treat other people?
To improve your mental health status, it is first vital to consider loving and trusting yourself unconditionally. While that may sound frightening, you must remember that you are just as capable as anyone else and that your thoughts and decisions are valid.
“What the mind can conceive and believe, and the heart desire, you can achieve.”
― Norman Vincent Peale
“Self-trust is the essence of heroism.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Downey, C., & Crummy, A. (2022). The impact of childhood trauma on children’s well-being and adult behavior. European Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 6(1), 100237.
Please consider visiting my blog about dissociative identity disorder and complex trauma. Thank you.