Dena Joan

How to Build Trust In Yourself

DenaAugust 31, 2020

Dena Joan

Have you ever found yourself unable to make an important decision? Paralyzed by confusion and an impossible ability to move forward because you can’t decide what to do?

Have you ever found yourself deep in a state of regret, overcome by desperation over your inability to simply “make the right decisions?”

Have you ever come to a point where you just throw your hands up and give up on yourself, resigning to the devastating thought that you just can’t get things right?

If you’ve ever felt this way, you may suffer from a lack of trust in yourself. I know these feelings well because I have spent most of my life feeling these same things over and over again. Sometimes I would make a little progress, develop a little trust in myself, but I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Inevitably eventually the bottom would drop out and I would be left standing in yet another pile of ashes and remorse over my poor decision making or my inability to make any decision at all.

Surely there are many reasons why certain people live in these cycles and develop this intense lack of trust in themselves. Perhaps the biggest contributing factor is low self-esteem. Low self-esteem leads us to believe that we are inherently not enough: not good enough, not worthy enough, not smart enough, and so on. With these low feelings of self-worth, it is natural to see why we would struggle to trust ourselves.

There are reasons for the development of low self-esteem, but I will save that for another day. Today, let’s focus on the topic of self trust, or in this case: the lack thereof. Most importantly, let’s focus on what we can do to switch positions, to turn the ship around, to learn — at last — how to trust ourselves.

Where do we start?

Surely there are many ways to start down this path. We can analyze the past, ask ourselves how we got here, feel regret and remorse, guilt, shame, and so on. And perhaps all of these things have a time and a place too, but today we are looking to the future, to the rebuilding. And in my experience there is a simple solution. It has worked so well for me and given me so much hope, such transformation, that I feel I simply must share it with as many people as possible and as quickly as possible.

The crux of it is this: you can build trust in yourself by keeping promises to yourself. It is as simple and as complicated as that.

If you can keep even one small promise to yourself every single day, that act plants a seed, a tiny seed of trust that which can grow into the mightiest tree.

There is so much magic and hope and potential in this act, my friend. No matter how broken down you are right now, no matter how much you do not trust yourself, no matter how awful things are for you, no matter how your heart is broken with shame and a shattered self-esteem, you can change it all with this small act, simply by keeping one promise to yourself each day.

Taking Inventory

Now, let’s back up for a moment. Let’s talk about why you find yourself here. Maybe your situation is just mildly uncomfortable. Maybe you have some big decisions ahead of you and you just want to have a little bit more faith in your ability to make the right decision.

On the other hand, maybe your situation has become entirely unmanageable. Maybe your life has fallen apart and you are in an unbearable state of suffering.

Whatever the case may be, the act of keeping one promise to yourself each day will transform your life dramatically. So how do we embark on this simple, yet powerful act?

First, take an inventory of your life. This does not have to be complicated. What are the major areas or priorities of your life? Make a list. Perhaps it will look something like this.

  • Family (children, extended family)
  • Spouse
  • Friends
  • Home
  • Hobbies
  • Work
  • Mental Health
  • Spirituality (meditation, church, prayer)
  • Physical Wellness (exercise, diet, drinking habits, recreational or subscription drug use)
  • Self-Care

Once you have outlined your life areas, take some time to reflect. Take an honest account of where you are doing well and where you are struggling.

If you are currently suffering as described above, then some areas may stick out right away as major points of struggle for you. It is from these areas that you will choose your promise.

Choosing Your Promise

Let’s say that you have chosen “Physical Wellness” as one of your major areas of struggle. Now you will choose a promise that you can make to yourself in this area. At this point, it’s very important that you don’t make this promise too big because you will set yourself up for failure. Make a small, easily attainable promise to yourself–something that you can do and something that you can measure.

Here is an example that I have been using for the past couple of weeks: Daily promise to myself — 15 minutes of yoga or a 1+ mile walk outdoors.

This is simple, achievable and measurable.

Other examples might include:

  • journaling for 20 minutes a day
  • attending one AA meeting per week
  • eating home-cooked meals 6 days out of each week
  • meditating for 20 minutes a day
  • scheduling a monthly date night with your spouse
  • reading your Bible for 20 minutes each day
  • listening to 1 personal development podcast each week
  • scheduling a weekly family-fun activity
  • attending church every Sunday

You have to decide for yourself, how to set this promise, whether you will choose a daily, weekly, or monthly habit to put in place. If you are in a very bad place, I suggest you set a smaller goal, then once you have been keeping that promise for awhile, you can expand. But it’s important not to think too far ahead, especially if you are suffering now. Just get started. Keep it simple and watch what happens as you keep this one small promise to yourself. Watch as your faith in yourself, and your confidence grows.

If you are further along in your journey, if you are already keeping small promises to yourself, then feel free to go bigger. For example, perhaps already have many good habits in place. Feel free to make larger goals. The important thing is to track them and monitor your progress. If you already have good habits, but you are still lacking trust in yourself, perhaps you are not self-aware enough. Perhaps you are not recognizing all of the good work that you are already doing. This is where tracking your habits will be extremely helpful. (Full post on the practice of habit tracking here.) Once you start tracking your habits, you will see that you are keeping promises to yourself, you are trustworthy, and from here your trust in yourself will grow.

If you are honest with yourself, you may also find that you are somewhere in the middle of these two places, somewhere between suffering and succeeding. Maybe you are excelling in most areas, but you are failing miserably in one particular area. Those suffering with addiction issues will be particularly familiar with this middle place where many areas of your life are going well, but when it comes to that one sticking point, it is a disaster. It may be alcohol, food, or some other vice that has devastating consequences for you. If this is your case, you will certainly want to define this area and then start with a promise there. It would be wise to seek the advice of a professional too. Maybe that will be your small promise. Seek help and commit to one meeting with a coach or therapist each week, or one AA meeting each week, etc.

Starting Somewhere & Practicing Grace

Perhaps the most important part of making promises to yourself is just the act of getting started. Whatever has come before this, it’s time to start fresh. Forgive yourself for the past and make a decision that today is a new beginning. Do not put this off until tomorrow. Make your promise today and make your plan around how to keep that promise to yourself immediately.

This process might not go perfectly. You may even find that you stumble and fail to keep this promise to yourself. Another key to your success will be giving yourself grace. The measure of your success will not be whether or not you stumble, it will be how quickly you get back on the horse in the event that you do fall off. You must offer yourself grace and forgiveness over and over again. The only requirement to succeed in this effort is that you do your best.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. Life may truly get in the way some days. But in the end, you’ll know whether or not you are truly giving it your all. And if you are, that’s what matters. You can build trust in yourself by always doing your best, just as well as you can build trust by keeping promises to yourself. If you do this correctly, it is a win-win for you.

I wish you light and joy as you move through this process, my friend. I believe in you. xo

For more on this topic, please check out my recent post about Habit Tracking.

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