​Learning to Trust Yourself Matters More than You Think

Posted by Lauren Presutti in Life After Paralysis on December 06, 2021 # Lifestyle

Woman using a wheelchair exiting a van on a ramp. She is wearing a red sweater.Trust is a concept we often only think about in relation to other people. You probably understand the importance of trusting others in committed relationships. You may have had to learn how to rebuild trust with someone who previously broke your trust. Or you may have experienced a time when you had to slowly allow yourself to trust someone new in your life. This last example may be especially true for individuals recovering from a spinal cord injury because you may have had to trust a variety of new professionals on their health care team. It’s easy to understand what trust means in relation to others, but it’s more complex to understand the meaning of self-trust. What does it mean to trust yourself? Does this come easy to you, or is it a challenge? And why is self-trust so important?

Trusting ourselves is not about expecting ourselves to be perfect. It’s not about making the right choice all the time. It’s not about having all the answers. Instead, when we maintain trust in ourselves, it means that we can count on ourselves in any situation to make the best choices we can with the circumstances and information we have been given. It means that we can commit to our growth and development, believe in our capabilities, and know that we will be able to survive whatever cards we are dealt. This topic is especially important for those in the spinal cord injury community because living with paralysis is often a journey of adjustment, adaptation, and problem-solving. For both individuals living with paralysis and family members or caregivers, it’s critical to learn how to trust yourself. Trusting yourself will help you feel more in control of your circumstances and can help enhance your confidence for managing whatever comes your way.

We are allowed to trust ourselves and simultaneously experience great confusion, sadness, anger, emotional pain, and any other manifestation of distress. We are also allowed to trust ourselves and simultaneously experience so much joy that we feel overwhelmed with euphoria and racing thoughts. My point is that trusting ourselves doesn’t mean that we must present as perfectly composed. Rather, we may still embrace our authentic emotions – whatever they may be – and yet, at the same time, trust that we will cope, survive, persevere, process, and take care of ourselves in the best way we can manage.

Self-trust is the foundation of your relationship with yourself. That may sound abstract to some extent, but consider the idea that you have a relationship with yourself. The way you talk to yourself internally, the way you think about yourself in relation to the rest of the world, your beliefs about yourself, and your style of self-expression… these all help to define your relationship with yourself. Is your relationship with yourself positive or negative? If you find yourself hesitant to believe in yourself, struggling to make your own decisions, constantly doubting your choices, or feeling afraid of not being able to handle future challenges, you might benefit from working on self-trust.

To learn to trust yourself more, the following strategies can be helpful.

1. Take Back Your Power

Trusting ourselves starts with remembering that we are not small nor insignificant. We must recognize the power that we so often give to others – those we envy, those who judge us negatively, those who make us feel inadequate – and reclaim this power by recognizing that we do not have to prove ourselves to others. We all have our own personal power to lead our lives however we choose. We are not any less worthy of power than anyone else. Try to think about the ways in which you may have diminished your own power. When did you begin feeling powerless? What experiences contributed to that feeling? Where does your self-doubt come from? Is it possible to un-learn some of the false narratives that may have been imposed upon you? How might you reverse some of the experiences from your life that have made you feel insignificant? Learning to take back your power can be transformative in itself.

2. Be Authentic
It can feel impossible to trust ourselves when we fear how others will think of us. The world is much too diverse and beautifully complex for everyone to agree with us. There will always be people with who we simply don’t vibe with. That’s okay. But to live our lives in the most meaningful and fulfilled ways – we must strive to be our true, genuine selves – accepting that other people may not always appreciate us the way we deserve. When this occurs, it can feel like we are “wrong” for showing our authenticity – but we are not wrong. There is no right or wrong. We are each unique, beautiful, and whole. However, we choose to exist in the world. Expressing yourself in the world as you truly are and not being afraid of consequences will help you foster a deeper sense of self-trust because it means that you can count on yourself to honor your authentic identity.

3. Be Kind to Yourself
Start by keeping a close eye on your inner voice. Is it gentle or aggressive? Is it accepting or critical? When we feel vulnerable and begin to talk negatively to ourselves, we lose trust in ourselves. To reverse this, consider kinder self-statements. For example, rather than, “I am failing because I made a mistake in my work,” try to say to yourself, “It’s okay to make a mistake, I am learning and doing my best, I know I can figure this out.” Self-compassion is a key component of trust in ourselves because being kind to ourselves usually means giving ourselves room to pause, reflect, refocus, and try again. It means that we are giving ourselves a second chance. This can greatly help us in our journey toward greater self-trust, especially as we become more skilled in these habits. Avoid pressuring yourself to reach perfection on these habits, but rather try to integrate them into your day-to-day life as much as you can.

Above all, learning to trust yourself can enhance your self-esteem and lead to more positive experiences, relationships, and opportunities. It can guard against anxiety and depression and help you manage your emotions better. So next time you are feeling unsure about your capabilities, struggling to make a decision, or are generally feeling uneasy, remember to practice trusting yourself. YOU are the most important person in your life. Most of the time, you’ll be surprised by how many inner skills and capabilities you have. Give yourself permission to trust that you can handle anything that comes your way, whether related to paralysis or any other stressful part of life.

To learn about River Oaks Psychology, visit www.riveroakspsychology.com and follow River Oaks Psychology on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.