In an era of uncertainty, global upheaval and disrupted work and family life, it’s becoming more and more difficult to remain vulnerable, trusting and open. When everyday stresses intrude upon our protected space or an unexpected relationship problem disturbs our calm, it often spurs feelings of insecurity and doubt: who can we trust and what do we do? And without realizing it, we react to these doubts by pulling away, closing off and shutting down – not just from those we feel exposed and vulnerable to, but also to those closest to us.
As trust rests on shaky foundations, we begin to walk on eggshells around our friends, our family and our significant other, living a sort-of half-life, one that promises to protect us from the hurt, but also closes us off to deep feelings of love, connection and belonging.
Undeniable truth: We all have reasons not to trust.
We’ve all felt the hurt when we’ve been lied to. We’ve all felt disappointment when someone else has let us down. We’ve all felt the rejection from the person we thought was by our side. And those events have given us reasons not to trust.
We tell ourselves we’ll hold off on trusting until the relationship is “safe”, so that we can protect our heart from the pain of rejection. We tell ourselves that when the other person “earns our trust”, we’ll let them back in. We use trust as a mechanism of protection and the problem with this is if we’re constantly in defense mode, protecting our heart, we can’t actually ever get to trust-ING.
Trust requires openness and if the door is shut and bolted down, nothing – not the bad or the good – gets through.
I recently came across an Instagram post by Mel Robbins, CNN commentator and motivational speaker, where she talked about the difficulty of trusting, especially if you’ve been burnt in the past:
“You can’t love unless you trust. The kicker is, if you’ve been burnt in the past, it makes it very difficult to start trusting again.
Trust is given, it’s not earned. People don’t earn it from you. And here’s why I think it’s really important for you to think about that definition of trust.
If you walk into every relationship, whether it’s a relationship with a new person that you’re dating or relationship with your boss or a relationship with someone that you have hired, and you have one of these arms crossed I’m gonna try this relationship with you but you’re going to have to earn my trust, first of all, your whole energy and posture is communicating that you don’t trust the person and so the person that you’re in a relationship with is gonna behave differently because they don’t feel like they are truly loved.
They’ll behave differently because they will feel like they’re being tested, not loved.
I realize this a very difficult thing to wrap your head around if you’ve been hurt in the past, but if you don’t give trust, people aren’t going to give it back to you.”
Disappointment, rejection, fear and hurt are all part of the deal in any relationship in your life. We feel these feelings regardless of who we are with and regardless of the nature of that relationship. Not because we are with inherently untrustworthy people, but because we are humans.
And when those intense feelings of hurt arise, we begin to treat trust like an “if-this-then-that” situation: If you behave a certain way, then I’ll trust you. But that’s like saying, “If I lose the last 5 lbs. then I’ll be happy”.
How many of us have lost the weight, got the promotion and didn’t end up feeling the way we wanted to feel because we were already on to the next goal or thing? If-this-then-that situations are self-perpetuating cycles that get us nowhere.
If my work with intenSati and my life coaching over the last 7 years has taught me nothing else, it’s taught me this: only when we choose the feeling, do we get the result.
Only when we choose the feeling, do we get the result.
Only when we choose to feel happy, does the weight come off.
Only when we choose to feel confident, do the opportunities effortlessly fall into our lap.
Only when we trust, do we find that same trust.
Trust is a decision you make knowing that there aren’t any guarantees. And the biggest work we do in this arena is realizing trust isn’t about finding the perfect, trustworthy person (re: every person you meet is human). Trust is about signing up to do the work when the hurt arises.
Over the last year I’ve experienced the hurt, disappointment and rejection that comes from trusting. In virtually every area of my life, I have had reasons to not trust people and situations. I’ve been burnt and, in some situations, I’ve been burnt so bad that I’ve virtually resolved myself to never opening up again. 2018 has been a very trying year and with each instance of trust being broken, I began to further close the door. Everything inside me craved openness, connection, vulnerability and authenticity – the values that are the core of who I am – but the heaviness of the hurt at some point outweighed how I wanted to show up. And so, I shut down.
When we’re scared, we make mistakes. We don’t act in our highest integrity and we end up hurting others. Fear makes us do some crazy ass shit. I’m way more guilty of this then I’d prefer to admit. We all are if we’re really being honest with ourselves.
But if we can take a step back from the feelings of hurt and realize we all do crazy ass shit when we’re afraid – if we can take a moment to collectively realize this and to approach others with compassion when they are not showing up as their best self, rather than shunning and condemning them – the world would be a much different place and I’d argue, our relationships would be filled with a lot more trust.
But the key to taking a step back so we can hold that space for others comes from recognizing that real trust starts with ourselves.
Real trust starts with yourself.
If we can trust ourselves, it allows us to deal with the mistakes of others with more grace and ease, because if know that no matter what – no matter what our partner, our boss or anyone else does – no matter what challenges arise – that we’re going to be OK, then trusting becomes an easier thing to do and give. And when we trust ourselves and know that we’re just gonna be OK, we show up differently too.
Trust begets trust.
It isn’t about keeping scorecards or tally’s on what the other person did. It’s not about them earning a way back into your life. You can’t demand trust or empirically prove it. Trust is simply a choice you make.
What you are saying when you choose to trust someone is, “I know that deep down you’re a good person with good intentions. I acknowledge that you are going to get scared from time to time and you will lose your shit and do some crazy ass shit. And I will try to support you by acting with love and compassion in those moments. Ultimately, I know, my well-being is entirely up to me, not what you do or don’t do, and I choose to trust.”
It’s a big statement. A major commitment. But the only way to get trust, is to fully give it.