Remember the cobra, Kaa, in The Jungle Book (1967) movie and his borderline creepy song Trust in Me? His weird blue and yellow eyes hypnotized Mowgli into doing whatever he said.
How many times have you found yourself trusting other people more than you trust yourself? A lot? Me, too, until I realized I could trust myself.
Recently I’ve had several conversations around this topic with both clients and friends. I’m working with several women who have struggled to keep their businesses afloat. They literally ran out of money and they’re finally seeing their situations turn around.
I dare you to say it
In all our conversations around this nightmare scenario, we talk about trusting that things will work out – trusting the work, trusting the universe, trusting god (God). I don’t have a problem with talking about trusting in these things because the women are doing the right things. And, even when they don’t feel like they are doing the right things, they do something. They’re moving forward (ok, creeping, but it’s still forward motion).
In the middle of a conversation I realized that not one of these women talked about trusting themselves. Never. And, when I brought it up, they shied away from saying the words “I trust myself.”
I think we become accustomed to shying away from saying I trust myself because we spend a lot of time searching for a way to escape the pain we’re feeling. Maybe we’re broke, maybe we’re frustrated, maybe we’re sad, or maybe we’re angry.
Searching for the answer
We’re in the grasp of excruciating pain and we start looking for ways to fix it. We look up this expert on Facebook; we talk to our friends; we listen to an expert on YouTube; we read a book about how to heal the painful situation. But everything we’re looking at and consulting is outside ourselves. It’s like polling for approval – or looking for the one absolute answer.
We find ourselves searching our pasts, thinking about if we’ve messed up like this before. We go round and round that deadly should spiral, thinking of all the things we should have done. And every time we look outside ourselves for an answer, every time we get stuck in the shoulds, we move further away from trusting ourselves.
From the time we’re little girls, we’re conditioned to think like this. We learn early to compare ourselves to others, to judge ourselves by externalities like how we look instead of how who we are.
Tell the truth
How many times have you walked past the magazine rack at the grocery store, seen some woman on the cover of a magazine and thought to yourself, even for a fleeting second, I should look like that? These thoughts feed the festering feeling that nags at us: I should do better.
They feed our fears that we’re not good enough, that we don’t know enough. From there, it’s a short jump to not trusting ourselves – because we think if we could trust ourselves, we would be where we should be.
Incorrect. Just no. Sisters, I’m here to tell you that you can trust yourself. How do I know this? You’re still standing. You’re still breathing. You’ve done whatever it takes to keep going. You haven’t given up – and, if you’re reading this, I’ll bet you will not give up.
I know this
As we move through our lives, we make decisions about how to live our lives, the people who surround us, and the work we do. We bring our gifts, our skills, and our knowledge to bear as we build the lives we want. Sometimes we get sidetracked. Sometimes we mess up. Sometimes we want to give up.
It’s in those moments of wanting to give up that we reach out and grab onto the idea that we can trust ourselves. Can you picture it? Maybe a big sale fell through, perhaps your marriage isn’t working out the way you wanted, maybe you just got laid off from your job, or you just can’t get up and report to that classroom one more time.
But you did anyway. Right? You found another prospect, you left that marriage that wasn’t working, you started looking for another job, or you showed up in that classroom again. And, what did you tell yourself to make that happen?
I can do this. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. I won’t let this stop me. I’m better than this. I’ve handled worse than this.
I trust me
Go ahead. Read those phrases again. What do they have in common? Every single statement says I trust myself to get through this.
So, let’s go back and switch them up a bit.
I trust myself. I trust myself because I’ve done this before. I trust myself because I set up this support system that keeps me going. I trust myself because I know to ask for help. I trust myself because I have been here before and I got through it.
It’s okay. I know this is hard. But I promise you, it is liberating. It is empowering because at the moment we realize we can trust ourselves, we destroy a huge barrier to fully claiming our lives and our power.
Here’s how I finally realized I could trust myself. Right now, I’m 4½ years into my coaching career. About a year ago, I realized I was getting impatient with all the experts I’d been reading. I unsubscribed from a bunch of email lists. I was restless, even squirmy when I read these experts. Then I realized why I was so agitated. I knew what to do. I knew that when I did the things on my list (whether or not they were the “right” things), amazing things happened.
So, why on earth was I polling all these experts for what I should do? For Pete’s sake, I’d worked for tech startups and even owned a software company before some of those experts were born!
I am done with this
And then a realization washed over me – because I didn’t trust my work or myself, I had played a part in losing that software company.
And in that moment, I was done. I was absolutely finished with refusing to trust myself. I created a life, a marriage, a family, and several careers on my own terms. And when my life could have fallen apart after my husband died, I didn’t let it.
Instead, I trusted the support network I had created and maintained. I trusted the life I had built. In the end, it came down to trusting myself.
I remember a conversation I had with my sister after Bo died as I was deciding to leave teaching and become a coach. I don’t remember the whole conversation, but I do remember this. We were talking about safety nets and Suzy said, “You are your own safety net.”
It’s true for all of us. Sure, we get by with a little help from our friends. But we really get through the mess that can be our lives because we’ve created our own nets. And we can trust those nets. They’ve proven themselves because they’ve saved us before, and they will save us again.
You are trustworthy
Skeptical that this applies to you? Try this. Make a list of several times you’ve been at the end of your rope. Think about how you moved through those moments. Jot down some notes. I’ll bet you notice a pattern. Bet you see that in those moments you trusted yourself enough to do something – anything – to get through. And you did it – you trusted yourself.
In trusting ourselves, we’re showing respect for the talents and gifts that we’ve been given. Think about it. Those talents and gifts (including grit, resilience, and a sense of humor) are the foundations that we build our lives on. When we trust ourselves, we honor them.
It boils down to this. When we trust ourselves, we can stop searching everywhere else for answers. And when we stop searching we find we had the answers all along.