When you don’t trust yourself, you are letting fear take the wheel. Suddenly you’re in the backseat with your hands pressed over your eyes as fear speeds down the road blundering over one bump at a time. Without self-trust, fear keeps driving, which means you’ll keep feeling stuck, heading in a direction you never intended.
Trust is a complicated topic for so many of us, myself included. And while we might understand how important trust is to our external relationships, trusting ourselves is something that’s often ignored.
I spent years of my life believing that trusting others was enough. I thought that trusting my partner more than I trusted myself was a sign of love. I thought that trusting other people’s opinions more than my own would help me find acceptance amongst my friends and peers. I thought that it was normal and okay to put down my own ideas after I expressed them.
Does any of that sound familiar? I bet it does!
What are the signs? How can you tell if you lack self-trust, and what can you do about it? This post is all about recognizing your own lack of self-trust so that you can make the kind of changes that will lead to a happy, confident, and trusting life.
What Does Self-Trust Feel Like?
Self-trust helps you develop self-confidence, which frees you from the anxiety of wondering what people are thinking about you. If you trust yourself, it means you know yourself, and if you know yourself, no one’s impression of you can make you doubt yourself.
Self-trust gives you strength, confidence, and peace of mind. It’s reassuring, serene, and peaceful—but powerful.
What is self-trust called? Self-trust is your personal power; how many people do you know personally who spend most of their time worrying about what other people think? I bet it’s quite a few (and you probably relate to this too!)
When you don’t trust yourself, you wrap your happiness into external factors—ones you have no control over. You look to others to make your decisions for you. Your happiness depends on other people’s approval and acceptance. You don’t trust yourself to know what’s right or wrong, what you enjoy or don’t, or who you really want to be spending time with.
But what does a lack of trust look like? What does it feel like? How do you know if you don’t trust yourself? Lack of self-trust is incredibly common, and there are some telltale signs you can watch out for. And I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but a lack of self-trust can lead to derailed relationships, poor judgment, self-doubt, and unhappiness in every area of your life.
What are the signs? Let’s find out!
Five Signs You Don’t Trust Yourself
1. You’re Terrified of Making a Mistake
What if the next step you take is the wrong choice? What if you make a mistake? What will people think of you?
If you’re constantly terrified of making a mistake, it’s a sign that you don’t trust yourself or who you are. You believe that the next mistake will cause your reputation and personal identity to unravel, no matter how many successes you’ve had or right choices you’ve made in the past. The next mistake you make will show everyone—including yourself—what you really are: a failure. Or even worse, you’ll be rejected and kicked out of the tribe.
This fear of failure cripples your self-confidence and self-trust. Instead of using mistakes as learning opportunities (which is what they are!), the possibility of making mistakes keeps you from trying anything. You don’t trust you’re every bit as beautiful and talented and wonderful as your friends, family members, and colleagues.
And fear of rejection harkens back to the number one human need written into our DNA: Our need to connect and belong. How often do you worry you’ll be ostracized if you say that or even think that? When was the last time you made a choice that you knew wasn’t based on your values? One that you felt like you HAD to make because you were anxious about going against the crowd or what people expect of you?
Are you the type of person who never chimes in when someone asks a question, even though you are 99% sure you know the answer? Does that one teeny tiny percent hold you back from speaking up? What if you are wrong? Everyone will see that you messed up and think of you as a failure. While that fear is very real, it doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation. If you are 99% sure you know the answer, TRUST YOURSELF.
Heck, if you want to trust yourself, you must practice speaking up as often as possible. It’s a skill that must be mastered if you want to build your confidence. So, be willing to give up “I don’t trust me” as an excuse for staying stuck—speak up instead!
The worst thing that can happen is getting the answer wrong (if there is a wrong), and that’s okay too. You will learn something new and be better for it. In fact, most answers have little to do with wrong or right. Answers to most questions are a synthesis of your personal philosophy, experience, and values. So go ahead, speak up. Let people get to know the real you.
Here’s a new way to think about it. If you stop yourself from applying for a promotion just because you might not get it and don’t want to be a failure, you’re guaranteeing you won’t get it. Going for it regardless of the results is trying; it’s moving forward, making an effort, and not letting fear win. That’s being brave. That’s believing in yourself. You’re going to fail in some capacity in all areas of your life—it’s all part of learning, growing, and pursuing the life your soul intended.™
If you hold yourself back from trying for fear that you might make a mistake, you are not trusting yourself.
2. You Put Yourself Down In Front of Other People
Have you ever suggested an idea to your friends, family, or coworkers only to take it back and say it will never work? You laugh it off and say, “It was a stupid idea anyway. Don’t listen to me.”
Your intuition and insightful inner voice inspired you to suggest something, but then your lack of trust in yourself clamped down and scared you into taking it back. This is tied to a deeper fear of looking foolish in front of other people; if you’re wrong, then people will think you’re a failure, and if people think you’re a failure, eventually, they’ll reject you.
This fear expresses itself when you put yourself down in front of others or make jokes at your own expense. This fear causes you to undermine yourself in front of others, which, in turn, does make it less likely for people to want to listen to your ideas. If you don’t even think your idea is good, why would somebody else?
Imagine making someone a sandwich. You put great care into the sandwich and make sure it’s got all the delicious fixin’s, but when you’re about to hand it to the other person, you say it’s no good. “I made this sandwich for you, but it’s probably pretty gross. I may have dropped it; I’m not sure. I think I forgot to add cheese. I don’t know how to make a sandwich. You probably don’t want to eat it.”
Putting yourself down in front of others creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, you believe no one will think your ideas are worthwhile, so you tell people your idea and add that it’s no good rather than simply suggesting the idea. Your idea might have great value, but when you put it down in front of other people, they won’t listen to your idea; they will hear that you think it’s no good, which, in fact, translates into the belief that you’re no good.
Even if you don’t actively put yourself down or undermine your own ideas verbally, you may say those things inside your head to yourself, which has the same disempowering and debilitating consequences. Constantly putting yourself down erodes trust with yourself, brings down your self-esteem, and prevents you from truly loving yourself.
If you put down yourself or your ideas in front of other people or inside your head, you’re not trusting yourself.
3. You Only Make Decisions If Others Around You Agree
Does this sound familiar? Have you ever been riding in the passenger seat of a car when a trusted friend or family member was driving? They’re in the driver’s seat, and you trust them to know where they are going. Even though you see them make a wrong turn, you don’t speak up because you believe they must know a different way than you. You believe that they’re better and more knowledgeable than you.
But then the other person realizes they’re lost, and when you say you noticed they took a wrong turn but thought they knew a different way, they ask you why you didn’t speak up.
You didn’t speak up because you didn’t believe you might know more than the driver. Just like whenever it comes time to make a decision, you keep quiet and go with the flow—other people’s flow. You ask for other people’s opinions because you just assume others know what’s best. You believe everyone else has the answers, and you don’t. You might tell yourself that you’re just “making sure” or “double-checking yourself.” That’s called crowdsourcing your life. If you have a crowd decide your life, it definitely is not your life.
This is a clear sign that you don’t trust yourself. If you can’t make a decision without having other people agree with it, it means you don’t trust your own judgment, which means your missing the self-confidence it takes to determine your own future.
Now, at times, I get that it’s valuable to listen to other people’s opinions, especially when they’re highly-trained experts in a particular field where you’re seeking an answer, but you always need to listen to yourself too. Believe me: you know what you want better than anybody else does. And I bet a part of you knows this too.
For example, my friend Charlotte knew she had cancer. She just “knew.” Her doctor disagreed. It took her a year to get the proper diagnosis. Charlotte trusted the “expert” more than she trusted herself for an entire year. So yes, experts are nice to ask and, at times, essential, but when you begin to trust yourself, that trust will become like a beacon pointing the way to the answers you seek. And, good news: Charlotte is doing well and listening to herself way more often.
If you only make decisions based on what other people think and whether or not others agree, you are not trusting yourself.
4. You Second Guess All of Your Decisions
What about when you finally make a decision? Do you find yourself wondering if it was the right one? How often do you second-guess your decisions, and do you frequently regret your decisions once they’ve been made?
If you don’t trust yourself, making a decision is agonizing enough. But when you constantly second-guess yourself, finally making the decision provides no sense of relief. This self-doubt means your mind is always spinning and running through possible outcomes. What if you had done it this way? Oh, this way would have been so much better! Why can’t you do anything right?
Dear friend, please take a deep breath!
When you overthink every one of your decisions and burden yourself with regret after regret, you keep yourself running in circles, never living in the present, only the past. The truth is you already made that decision. It’s done; either there’s nothing you can do to change it, or it’s not worth changing.
Now keep in mind I’m not talking about being stuck in a job or marriage you absolutely despise; I’m talking about all of the small to medium decisions you make every day that are weighing you down
What do I want to eat for dinner?
What Netflix show do I want to watch?
Should I buy one or two jars of pasta sauce?
Does my boss want a coffee today?
What do I get my mother for Christmas?
What car model do I want to buy?
What colors do I want to paint my house?
For many, many decisions in life, there is no right answer. Simply making a choice, any choice, is what’s most important. AND once you’ve made a decision, go with it. Decisions are tough enough without adding on layers of regret to each one you make.
And here’s something else. Every time you re-decide a decision, you’re using up your most valuable resource—your energy—for the same thing twice! Every single decision takes energy, leaving you with a lower energy tank than before. So trusting yourself to make a decision increases your self-confidence and energy, allowing you to feel more present and alive rather than drained and defeated.
If you second guess or regret most of the decisions you make, you are not trusting yourself.
5. You Don’t Have Clear Boundaries Set
I’ll never pass up an opportunity to talk about boundaries! Boundaries are so so SO important; they play a huge role in making sure your needs are met, and that you feel safe inside and out.
Boundaries ensure you stay safe physically, mentally, and emotionally. Not sure what your own boundaries are? You’re not alone. So many of us are TERRIBLE at setting boundaries because that’s what we were taught. Our parents and role models didn’t set good boundaries, and they taught us we didn’t need to either. In fact, if you’re like me, you were taught that putting up a boundary means you’re being selfish.
Because who said trust yourself?
People, mothers especially, often believe they are doing a good job if they put everyone else’s needs before their own. Boundaries? What boundaries? My people need me!
It takes self-awareness to determine your own boundaries and self-trust to stand up for yourself and be your own advocate when you feel your boundaries are being crossed. No one knows better than you what your own boundaries are, and no one can defend them as strongly as you. You are your own champion, and if you can’t trust yourself, how will you know how to truly trust anyone else?
I encourage you to learn more about understanding your own boundaries and the consequences of having them crossed. Read my article: Why Personal Boundaries Are Important and How to Develop Them.
Don’t shrug this off. Without personal boundaries, you’ll burn out, develop simmering anger and resentment, and keep yourself from developing a personal identity that exists outside your family or your work. You’re not just ‘mom’ or ‘manager’ or ‘wife;’ you are uniquely YOU—someone who has their own personal needs and boundaries.
If you don’t understand your own needs and haven’t set clear boundaries, you’re not trusting yourself.
How Do You Build Trust in Yourself?
Did you relate to any of those signs? I know I did. I lived most of my life not trusting myself. So many of us lack self-trust, but the good news is building self-trust is something you can work on, and taking the first step is simple.
As you’re practicing trusting yourself, be sure to lead with self-compassion. Just like you would show compassion towards your kids, spouse, parents, siblings, friends, and employees when they are learning something new, show compassion toward yourself. This is the first step in supporting yourself to build self-trust.
Now, if you’re the type of person who’s saying “Rhonda—yuck! Self-compassion sounds weak, and it’s something I don’t have time for,” consider using different language. Instead of self-compassion, think of it as going easy on yourself or being kind to yourself. Give yourself a break as you work towards developing trust. It’s not an easy road, and there will be plenty of obstacles to navigate along the way.
To build self-trust, you will also be practicing believing you are enough. And by the way, that’s the absolute 100% truth. You are enough.
Try saying it with me:
“I am enough exactly as I am.”
“I am enough exactly as I am.”
“I am enough exactly as I am.”
Understanding this and treating yourself with compassion will get easier the more you practice. Continue putting in the work because your relationship with yourself is not one you can push aside.
For my full list of self-trust strategies, read my article: How to Trust Yourself and Build True Self-Confidence. I share five critical strategies that will help you develop a strong and understanding relationship with yourself—the only self you’ve got.
Trust Takes Time and Effort
Trust is difficult for so many of us, which is why it’s something we need to work at vigilantly. Because without trust, our relationships fail, including the one we have with ourselves (AKA: the most important one!)
Building trust will take time, but with that trust, you will be able to live a confident, centered, happy, and healthy life. And isn’t that the life your soul intended™?
Let’s build up your trust one need, one boundary, one gratitude, one compassionate moment at a time. My 10-week Fearless Living Training Program is based on decades of learning how to crack the secret code to fear, including all of the fears that keep us from trusting ourselves. With Fearless Living, you’ll learn how to trust yourself through self-compassion, personal needs, clear boundaries, and so much more.
Take that first important step for yourself. Prioritizing yourself for a change is something you won’t regret. Let’s get started!