As I grew older, it seemed risky to be myself at home and school—my whole self, including the bits that made errors, were rebellious and furious, wentofed off too loudly, or were uncomfortable and vulnerable.
Not physical hazards, as many have encountered, but risks of being punished in other ways, or of being rejected, ostracized, and embarrassed.
As children do, I put on a mask. Closed in, wary, and in control of the performance of “myself.” There was a valve in my throat: I was aware of my thoughts and feelings on the inside, but only a fraction of them made it out into the world.
From the outside, it seemed as if I lacked trust in others. Yes, I did had to exercise caution at times. However, I lacked confidence in myself.
Didn’t trust that the true me was good enough, beloved enough—or that I’d be okay if I did make a mistake. I lacked faith in my own depths, in my own core, that it already held kindness, knowledge, and love. Without strict top-down supervision, I lacked trust in the unfolding process of life. I doubted myself, my value, and my potential.
Thus, I lived crammed together, performing well at school and sometimes happy—but mostly swinging between numbness and misery.
Erik Erikson’s eight phases of human development begin with “fundamental trust.” He concentrated on trust and distrust of the external environment (particularly the people who inhabit it), which is critical. Yet often, what seems to be “the world is untrustworthy” is really “I lack confidence in my ability to cope with it.”
It’s been a lifetime process to build greater trust in myself, to loosen up, swing out, take risks, make errors, and then fix and learn from them, and to stop taking myself so seriously.
True, things do go wrong sometimes when you place a greater trust in yourself. However, things go horribly wrong and continue to go horribly wrong when you lose trust in yourself.
How Do You Fix Trust Issues in Yourself
Nobody is faultless. You do not have to be flawless to relax, express your true feelings, and make the most of your life. What matters most is the broader picture and the long perspective. Yes, strict top-down control and a well-crafted character may provide immediate advantages. However, the long-term consequences are far higher, including stress, suppressed realities, and psychological estrangement.
Consider yourself with tenderness and self-compassion. Is there self-doubt, withholding, fear of seeming foolish or failing? Is there an anticipation of rejection, misunderstanding, or a humiliating assault if you picture expressing your true self out loud?
Naturally, we are worried about what seems to be “wrong” or “weak” on the inside. However, call into question that categorization: Are those things really so awful, so frail? Perhaps they’re just rattled, desperate, or seeking love and happiness in unconventional or dangerous ways.
Perhaps you’ve absorbed others’ criticisms and have been grossly exaggerating what’s wrong with you.
And oblivious to so much that is already correct.
What is it like to relax and connect with your own center, to be in touch with your body and your experience as you express it? What are the reactions of others? What are your capabilities, at home or at work?
True, use caution in the external environment and realize when it is actually imprudent to let go, take chances, or speak up. And, like a caring father, govern your inner world, acknowledging that not every idea, sensation, or desire should be spoken or acted upon.
Meanwhile, if you are like me and every single person I have ever met who has chosen to trust their own inner self, you will discover that there is so much within: so much awareness of what is genuine and meaningful, so much life and heart, so many gifts ready to be shared, and so many strengths.
Be your whole self; it is in your whole self that you can place your trust. This day, this week, and this life—observe what occurs when you place a wager on yourself, when you support your own play. Witness what occurs when you allow yourself to fall into your own arms, believing that they will catch you.