By Leo Babauta
At the core of a lot of our difficulties is a lack of trust — especially trust in ourselves.
Think about these common difficulties that most of us face:
- What to focus on: We don’t trust our hearts to choose what we’d like to work on right now.
- Indecision: We get stuck on indecision because we don’t trust ourselves to choose what we really want, and we don’t trust ourselves to land on our feet if things turn out differently than we’d hoped.
- Procrastination / resistance: We feel resistance to a difficult (scary) task and then avoid it, resulting in procrastination … because we don’t trust ourselves to be with the discomfort, or trust ourselves to handle whatever comes after doing the task (handle criticism, judgment, or any other potential consequences).
- Fear or stress in uncertainty / chaos: When things are uncertain, we’ll often feel stress or fear. This is from (and understandable) lack of trust in ourselves to navigate that uncertainty and deal with whatever comes up.
- Finding focus: Often when we try to focus on something, we feel pulled away in a thousand directions by things we need to take care of … because we don’t trust ourselves to take care of those things later.
If you don’t face any of these problems — congratulations! You probably have a ton of trust. But most of us struggle with these on a daily basis. Which means there’s an incredible opportunity to practice trust.
In this guide, I’ll share why we don’t have trust in ourselves or others … and how we might practice.
Why We Don’t Have Trust
If we have a lack of trust, we might be tempted to blame ourselves or feel that there’s some wrongness to this lack. But what if we trusted that there are good reasons we don’t trust?
For example, what if we were often made wrong by others when we were growing up, and made to feel bad about it? It would make sense that we don’t trust ourselves, if other people taught us not to trust ourselves.
What if other people hurt us, betrayed us, teased us, when we were growing up? It would make sense that we don’t trust others.
What if we had experiences of failure and embarrassment that felt really intense, and we learned to try to avoid those feelings? It would make sense that we wouldn’t trust ourselves to be able to handle those feelings — it felt like we couldn’t, in the past.
Our lack of trust makes complete sense, if we could see all the reasons we were taught not to trust. We don’t have to analyze those reasons — just trust that we have good ones.
So what can we do about it?
Ways to Practice
Every difficulty is an opportunity to practice trust.
When you face any of the difficulties listed above — or any other struggle — these are amazing opportunities to practice trust.
At any moment, we can practice trust, or non-trust. We are constantly making this choice.
What is the practice of trust?
It’s trusting that our heart wants what it wants, and that it’s OK to listen to that.
It’s a practice of letting go of needing things to go a certain way. Of needing to be in safety or comfort.
It’s trusting that we can handle whatever comes up.
It’s trusting that we can be with whatever emotions come up for us.
It’s trusting that others can have their emotions, be how they be, and we can be with all of that as well.
So … how can we practice trust in the moment?
- When you notice an opportunity to practice (any of the difficulties listed above, for example), pause and think, “Trust.”
- Take a breath. Become present.
- Feel your heart — what does it want? Can you trust what it wants?
- Can you trust yourself to navigate whatever uncertainty that comes up?
- Can you trust yourself to be with your emotions? To be with the emotions of others?
You might answer “No” to some of these, which is perfectly OK! Allow yourself to be a No for now, if the No is very strong … but you might consider what it would be like if you did trust. What would you do if you trusted yourself? How would you view the situation differently? Could you give that a try?
This takes practice. You will gain trust if you take action despite a shaky trust, and learn that you’ll land on your feet, or deal with falling on your face. You’ll learn trust in yourself to be with whatever shows up, including difficult emotions in yourself or others. You’ll start to trust more, if you act with trust. That means a small leap of faith, to start with.
If you can start to trust, something powerful shifts. You start to make decisions more easily, and you can go through your day with more focus and feeling more relaxed. Things that happen aren’t such a big deal, not so stressful. You start to flow.
Could you trust yourself to practice trust?