The alarm goes off, it’s 4am, you told yourself you would get up and start your new meditation routine this morning, but you’re tired, so you hit the snooze button. You’ll just start up tomorrow.
You head to the kitchen and mechanically pick up the bagels but then you remember you told yourself you were going to eat a bowl of fruit this morning instead…You continue with your bagel motion and tell yourself you will just start tomorrow morning because you already took it out of the bag.
It’s 1pm. You told yourself you were going to go to the gym at lunch, but you are busy with work and still pretty tired from your lack of sleep last night so you will just go after work instead.
It’s 5pm. You’re off of work and don’t feel like going to the gym because it was a long day. You tell yourself you’ll just start tomorrow…
We make commitments and promises to ourselves all of the time and most often, we make these promises because they are good for our wellbeing. Every single day, multiple times a day, we are plotting, planning, and making promises to ourselves about things we would like to do and to have done to enhance our well being in some capacity.
Some are more sizable commitments, such as I am going to create and sustain personal boundaries and some are more simple, such as I am going to talk a 5 minute walk every morning. Once we’ve made these promises, we will either do them or not. We will either go on the 5 minute walk or not. We will either create and sustain personal boundaries, or neglect and ignore our personal needs.
Okay so I didn’t go on a walk today, I’ll just go tomorrow. No big deal.
It is a big deal Howie. Regardless of perceived magnitude, if you make a firm commitment, a promise, to yourself and you don’t follow through with it, you are sending yourself a message. You are communicating your worth.
You are saying, Hey I know I committed to do this thing, but you are unworthy of my trust. I don’t value you enough to stick to my word. You don’t mean enough to me, to do the thing I said I would do. The problem with breaking the “little” promises, such as waking up at 7am or taking a 5 minute walk on your lunch break, is that it is seemingly negligible. You tell yourself it’s okay to break those promises because [insert excuse prompted by guilt here ie: “I didn’t really mean it. I didn’t really care that much. I didn’t mean today, I meant next week. I simply couldn’t have done it today, I was swamped”]. The problem with breaking those little promises is the compound effect.
You start to view commitments as options.
When you consistently break your promises to yourself, you are establishing a relationship with yourself based on unreliability. You can’t really trust that you will do what you said you would, because history says otherwise. You can’t really count on yourself to follow through because you haven’t in the past.
If you had a best friend that made promises to you and continually broke those promises, how would you feel about them? Would you trust them when they said they were going to do something? Would you rely on them? Would you feel that they respected and valued you and your time?
Reason indicates that you wouldn’t. Now what if that friend was you?
Can You Trust Yourself?
When you say you are going to do something, do you do it? When you commit to a new morning routine of waking up at 7am, do you do it? When you say you are going to write an article a day, do you do it? When you promise to finish that art piece before Wednesday, do you do it?
When it comes to self-trust there is no leeway. You either trust yourself or you don’t. You will either get up at 7am or you won’t. Not 7:05, not 7:03, but 7:00am. You will either write an article a day, or not. You will either finish the art piece before Wednesday, or not.
The topic of self-trust is a multifaceted, complex topic that bleeds into so many facets of our lives and can be expanded in a number of different directions. It plays into our self-esteem, our worth, our identity, our interpersonal relationships, and so on and so forth. For the sake of being concise, I won’t delve into those facets in this article (but perhaps a different article at another time).
However, I do want to start you off on your journey to being able to trust yourself. Therefore, I’ve outlined the first step(s) you can take to rebuilding your self-trust below.
How to Trust Yourself
Hold Yourself Accountable For Very Small Things
The idea here is to grow to learn how to trust yourself. The way you begin to do this is by holding yourself accountable to deliver on very small promises, and then repeat. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew because if you fail to deliver on those promises, you will start to build momentum in the opposite direction. You want to establish a solid record of following through with your promises, a solid record of personal wins, so you can incrementally develop the motions and feelings associated with trusting yourself. You want to create a habit of being trustworthy.
How Do I Hold Myself Accountable?
Be clear and definitive about what you’re asking yourself to do.
There will be many things in the general maybe category, but there should only be a few, if not only one thing, in the specific commitment category. I might do this and I might do that but I commit to do this one thing.
How much or how little you ask yourself to do will depend on how much or how little you trust yourself. If you aren’t sure if you can trust yourself at all, you should start out by only asking yourself to only do one thing. I am going to wake up tomorrow at 7am. Once you have established over time that you can trust yourself to do that one thing. Then you expand and add additional commitments. I am going to wake up at 7am each day this week and go for a 5 minute walk at lunch. And so on and so forth.
The idea here is to gradually build not only trust but the empowering feelings associated with it. Once you have established a group of commitments (or even simply one), then you must follow through with them. Never let yourself off of the hook for things you’ve asked yourself to do.
A common mistake with building trust is to pile on a number of substantial commitments before we are sure we can trust ourselves to deliver. The reason this is such a grave mistake is because when you don’t follow through on those promises, you are training yourself to distrust yourself. Moreover, when we don’t follow through with what we’ve asked ourselves to do, we create excuses as to why we didn’t do it, why we just couldn’t do it. I
t’s a way we protect ourselves from the harsh truth that we did not deliver on our promise. It’s a let down to not deliver on your promises to yourself so you look for a way out. I didn’t do the thing because I was too tired… I was too busy… I didn’t have everything I needed… This is simply not the case. The simple fact is: you aren’t too tired, too busy, or whatever other string of excuses you use to create a narrative to explain why you didn’t do what you told yourself you would do. You just didn’t do it and instead of taking accountability, it feels better to create an excuse to let yourself off of the hook.
There’s a holding back of progress that often occurs when we start to build trust and we don’t know why this happens. But it does. For some unidentified reason, we thwart ourselves from our forward progress. Instead of taking accountability and saying I don’t know why I didn’t do it, we search for an excuse to fill that unknown. We search for some type of reason why we didn’t do what we said we were going to do that allows us to be off of the hook. So we say, I didn’t do that thing because I was too tired. When really, you just didn’t do the thing and something inside of you is prompting you to search for an excuse to support your claim in a misleading attempt to make yourself feel better about not following through.
Just do the thing.
When we do the thing, it creates an upward trajectory. If you start to realize that you are building trust on a conscious level, it creates a stream of positive energy. You become energized by your own ability to trust yourself. You create a sense of security within yourself that stems from being able to rely on yourself that will carry into most aspects of your life.
Make it simple and determined enough to succeed and then just do the thing you said you would.