What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “Trust”? More often than not, the image of someone’s face pops up in your head. Perhaps it’s that of your partner or a family member, maybe a friend, a neighbor, or even a lover. And all of this is great. By all means, count your blessings. But how many of you counted themselves among those they can trust?
Here’s the thing: we tend to focus so much on trusting others, on the idea that trust is an interpersonal phenomenon, that we often forget the importance of trusting ourselves. Picture this. Sarah dates a guy, he cheats on her. She moves on and starts dating again, yet worries that her new partner might cheat on her. She contemplates the concept of relationships, and how we, as complex beings, are expected to meet complete strangers and fully trust them and their intentions. But what Sarah is not aware of is that every relationship is composed of two people: the stranger in front of her, but also the familiar face looking back at her from inside the mirror.
This applies to your relationships too. There is the partner in front of you, and there is also you. Yes, you. Trust starts from within, it’s an internal feeling of safety and security, it’s your ability to trust yourself well enough to be willing to let go of control. It’s your ability to believe in your own potential, in your own capacity to fully love and give your partner the benefit of the doubt. But also, your ability to put in the effort and overcome the difficulties you might face in your relationship.
Let’s not blame Sarah for overlooking this crucial aspect just yet. She, like you and me, is immersed in a hyperconnected age that has reshaped our beliefs and transformed our priorities in more than one way. Today, the more the followers, the greater the success and popularity. Reposts equal recognition and Tinder matches indicate worthiness. We have been wired to look for happiness, love and trust externally, leaving melodies of self-compassion and self-trust unsung.
According to renowned psychologist John Bowlby’s evolutionary theory of attachment, every person has an attachment style that is formed during childhood. This attachment style not only dictates the way we behave and perceive others, but also affects the way we see and represent ourselves. For instance, people with a secure attachment style have more ease to form healthy and balanced relationships, as they believe they are worthy of being loved. This means they are able to trust others and in turn seek closeness with them. On the other hand, people who have an insecure attachment tend to feel less worthy and look for their self-worth in others. This translates as a constant worry about losing the other as they seek reassurance from them (whether a friend, a partner or social media) to assess their self-worth. This groundbreaking notion shows us that attachment goes hand in hand with self-trust. So yes, there is definitely an us in trust, but there wouldn’t be an us without an I to begin with. Hence the importance of cultivating a sense of self-trust before seeking it outwards – in other people.
Do you lack the inspiration to embark on a self-trust journey of your own? Here are a few steps that will help you get started.
1- Get to know yourself.
You cannot trust yourself if you do not know yourself in the first place. Explore the genuine version of you, rather than a projected idealized self. This will allow you to present yourself in the same manner when meeting others. In other words, ask yourself what are the experiences that have helped you evaluate your self-worth and confidence in yourself; are they based on your accomplishments or someone else’s perception of you?
2- Take a break and listen to yourself.
Remember that you are in a relationship with yourself first. Let go of draining habits and focus on doing things that instill a sense of passion in you. Only then will you have the courage to let go of emotionally draining people. Think of who/what helps you have a positive outlook and pushes you to grow.
3- Acknowledge yourself.
Respect your own wants and needs. Understand what triggers you and preserve the boundaries you set with yourself, and eventually with others. It is ok to feel that your needs might be different than those of others. Communicate, share, find compromises and learn to accept to explore yourself and the other.
4- Learn to appreciate yourself.
Embrace the good, the bad, and the ugly. What you might perceive as ugly might be what others appreciate about you and vice versa.
These simple steps are far from being magical tips that will transform your life overnight. Actually, self-trust is a lengthy process, one that, just like any relationship, could involve fear, doubt and deception, but also flexibility, hope, and growth.
To all the Sarahs out there, I say trust yourself first before going into the wild.