Healing Difficult Emotions, Overcoming Self-loathing and Anxiety, Practices for Cultivating Love, Self-compassion, Self-Love and Self-Directed Kindness, Spirituality and Love, Uncategorized

Why You Can Trust Yourself (And if There Are Any Times You Can’t)

It is hard to learn to trust ourselves.

When we are younger, we are taught to listen to various authority figures—parents, teachers, politicians, priests and pastors, etc.—and to trust their opinions about what we should think and how we should behave.

Trusting Ourselves Can Be Hard

And it is understandable that we are taught this. We know so little about the world when we are young, and our intellect and emotions are still underdeveloped. We certainly need external guidance.

However, as we get older, it is important that we learn to trust our own judgment and listen to our own internal guidance.

And yet, this is hard for many of us to do.

Sometimes we struggle with trusting ourselves because we are afraid of making mistakes.

Sometimes we struggle because the external authorities in our life do not want to relinquish their control over us, and so they try to enforce dependence on them long after it is appropriate.

Sometimes we struggle because people around us are unkind, cruel, and domineering and regularly demean us, making us feel like they always know better than us and that we are stupid and cannot trust our own reason, emotions, and decision-making process.

Nevertheless, it is important that we learn to trust ourselves, and we absolutely have the right to do so.

As we get older, we increasingly become the expert on our own lives because we are the closest person to our own thoughts and feelings. We also know more than anyone else about our own life experiences.

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Therefore, we are in a far better position than anyone else to know the best way for us to live our lives. In fact, if we keep trusting other people’s advice about how to live our lives, rather than trusting ourselves, it is very likely that we will live an increasingly ineffective, frustrating, and unfulfilling life.

This is because we will be taking directions about how to live our life from people who don’t really know what they are talking about. No one but us can see into our hearts and minds and know our experiences intimately and first-hand. So we increasingly need to listen to ourselves more than we listen to other people in regards to the best way to live our lives.

The good news is that all of us have the potential for wise, creative, loving and compassionate decision-making. This capacity of ours is our Wise Self. [1] 

Our Wise Self is that potential in us that we can always develop that allows us to become wise, thoughtful, moral, ethical, and skilled decision-makers. Recognizing that we can always connect to our Wise Self gives us more confidence that we can trust ourselves.

How Do We Connect With Our Wise Self and Learn to Trust Ourselves?

Everyone has the power to connect with their Wise Self, and it is something we develop through practice. Here are some of the best ways to develop our Wise Self:

One:  Set the intention to act in a way that treats yourself and everyone else with dignity. Treating people with dignity does not mean being “nice”, and it does not mean that you avoid saying difficult or hard things.

Treating yourself and everyone else with dignity just means acting in such a way that you honor and encourage the Wise Self in you and everyone else. You can read more about this here and here.

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The more you set this intention and act on it, the more you will find yourself connecting with and nurturing your Wise Self. The Wise Self is actually the place of dignity within you, and it is also present in everyone else.

Two: Read wise books or (if you feel comfortable) sacred scriptures (see suggestions at the end of the post) that help you to connect with Divine and human wisdom.[2]

If you don’t like to read, listen to podcasts that help you tap into the wise, creative, and loving and compassionate part of you.

Three: Spend a little bit of time in silence every day in which you practice stillness and breathing. This helps you create space for wisdom, love, and compassion to be more present in your life. Feel free to think of nothing at all, or feel free to use a breathing mediation.

For instance, when you exhale, you can think, “I exhale hate” (or some other negative emotion). When you inhale, say “I inhale Love” (or some other positive emotion). If you would like to read more about the power of breathing, you might like this post. (By the way, I think negative emotions play an important role in our life and that they are to be accepted alongside our positive ones. However, sometimes our negative emotions bog us down and create a lot of pain in our life. This exercise is meant to help us in times like that.)

You can also use intentions or prayers during this time. You can find some intentions/prayers here, here, and here.

You can also use meditations like the one below.

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Four: Spend time walking outside. There is something about walking in nature that brings beauty, creativity, and deeper thought into our lives.

You can read more about this here and here.

Five: Minimize your time around people who try to control you or who demean your ability to develop your Wise Self. (You can read more about this here.)

It is very hard to develop your Wise Self or to connect to it if someone, or a group of people, is constantly demeaning or working against your ability to do so.

Six: Build connections with and ask the advice of people who regularly connect with their Wise Selves.

Just like you have a Wise Self, so does everyone else. The more you spend time with people who connect with their Wise Self regularly, the more easily you will connect with your Wise Self and recognize thoughts and behavior that flow from this place of dignity.

You can often, although not always[3], find people who connect with their Wise Selves at sacred communities like mediation centers or churches or synagogues or mosques. You can also often find them at community groups like AA meetings or some book groups or other groups that are pursuing loving and compassionate work in their communities.

Seven: Honor your process and know you will make mistakes.

Connecting to and acting on your Wise Self is a process, and it is a skill you develop. You are going to make mistakes in the process, so please be patient with and show compassion to yourself. For instance, sometimes you are going to act on intentions you think are right and good, and afterward you might discover that you weren’t thinking clearly after all.

Everyone makes mistakes like this. While mistakes can be painful and embarrassing sometimes, they are a normal part of being a human being and learning to listen to and trust ourselves.

When you make a mistake, accept yourself and make amends or ask for forgiveness if you need to. And then set your intention again to act in such a way that honors your dignity and the dignity of everyone else.

Keep practicing connecting with your Wise Self. You will get better at this. I promise.

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Is There Ever a Time We Cannot Trust Ourselves?

Although it is really important to learn to trust ourselves, there is one time that we have to be careful about listening to what our thoughts and emotions are telling us: it is when we are stuck in or living from our Wounded Self.

Just like we have a Wise Self that is our place of dignity (love, compassion, creativity, and wisdom), we also have a Wounded Self. The Wounded Self is the place of fear, addiction, hate, compulsion, rage, and depression that we get stuck in when we get cut off from our Wise Self (and it can happen for other reasons, too).

When we get stuck in this place, we act primarily in any way to stop our pain, fear, and anger, rather than acting to connect with our Wise Self.

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When we act out of our Wounded Self, this can lead us to forming addictions or to trying to control or dominate people. It can lead us to lash out in anger and rage or to totally isolate ourselves out of fear and extreme anxiety. It can cause  us to make impulsive, rash, and unwise or unloving decisions.

When we are acting out of our Wounded Self, we need to pay attention to our emotions and reason, but we need to be careful about listening to and trusting the things our emotions and thoughts are telling us to do because they are fueled by fear instead of wisdom and love.

All of us get stuck in our Wounded Self sometimes, but when we regularly get stuck there, we need to work on healing ourselves so that we can connect with our Wise Selves again and stop acting out of fear and anger.

How Do We Heal Our Wounded Selves?

The process of healing the Wounded Self is different for everyone, but here are some of the most common ways:

One: If you are struggling with any addiction, find an AA meeting near you. While many AA meetings focus on addictions to alcohol, there are AA meetings for just about any addiction people suffer from (whether it is gambling, food, pornography, shopping, etc.), and you can find them by googling the specific support group you need.

AA meetings are especially helpful because they help us connect with a Higher Power (you can think of this Higher Power in religious or non-religious terms), and this Higher Power, in turn, can help us connect with our Wise Self.

Two: Seek counseling or guidance from spiritual directors. Although it may sound cliché to encourage people to seek counseling if they are dealing with difficult emotions, sometimes counselors and therapists are extremely helpful because they help us escape harmful and ineffective thoughts that cause us to get stuck in the Wounded Self.

Three: Try EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapping): EFT is a type of self-acupressure that uses finger tapping to release emotional blocks.

When I first heard about EFT, I thought it was really weird and corny. And then I tried it. It has helped me to release painful emotions in several areas of my life that troubled me for years. Every time I use this technique, it provides at least some comfort, and sometimes it brings an incredible amount of comfort and healing.

Sometimes we can release emotional pain like anxiety and depression through receiving help from a counselor. Sometimes, however, we need some technique that allows us to release pain in a way that doesn’t involve talking to someone else. Sometimes talking about the issues that bother us increases our pain.

You can read more about EFT here. (It is a really easy technique to practice on your own, and this site give instructions for doing this.)

Four: Use visualization.

Sometimes we get stuck in our Wounded Self because of painful memories we have—either about the ways we have been hurt by others or the ways we have hurt other people. We can use visualization, which is a form of imagination, to heal these painful memories.

You can read more about how to use visualization in this way in this post in the section called “Parent Imagination” and “Making Amends Imagination”. (This post is a bit long, so you will need to scroll down to find these sections.)

Five: Use affirmation cards to reprogram your thinking.

Frequently we get stuck in our Wounded Self because of harmful and ineffective thought patterns we develop. It can be difficult to reprogram these patterns on our own because when we get used to thinking about things one way, it is hard to figure out how to think about them a different way.

I have found affirmation cards incredibly helpful in healing my Wounded Self. There are hundreds of these decks out there (you can find many of them on Amazon.) Here are the ones I have found especially helpful.

Louise Hay’s Power Thought Cards

Alana Fairchild’s Journey of Love Cards

Julia Cameron’s 64 Ways to Give Thanks for the Peace and Joy in Your Life

Six: Stick Up for Yourself and Resist Bullies and Boundary Crashers

Sometimes we get stuck in our Wounded Self because, to be honest, the people we are around are mean and cruel to us and violate our boundaries. This can cause us to develop patterns of rage, hopelessness, anxiety, depression, and fear.

It is really hard to listen to our Wise Selves when we are filled with these feelings. In cases like this, it is really important to learn how to stick up for ourselves and stop the behavior of people who are treating us badly. You can read more about how to do this here.

Seven: Learn How to Heal Yourself With Kindness

Sometimes we get stuck in our Wounded Self because we are being mean and cruel to ourselves. Unfortunately, it is really easy to get stuck in patterns of being mean and cruel to ourselves because there are a lot of cultural forces like toxic advertising and distorted religious messages that benefit from making us feel bad about ourselves.

In addition, we are often not taught how to show ourselves kindness and love in a healthy way. Often this is because we are afraid that self-kindness and self-love are a form of selfishness or narcissism or self-indulgence.

It is really important to realize that there is a healthy kind of self-kindness and self-love that are the complete opposite of selfishness, narcissism, and self-indulgence. You can read more about that here and here.

You can read more about how to show yourself kindness here.

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You Can Do It

Friend, you may be someone who finds it very hard to trust yourself. I understand. I have struggled with this before, too.

I know it can be scary, but you have so much wisdom inside of you. You have the seeds of beautiful things that are ready to grow and develop. You can practice little steps each day to connect with your Wise Self, and before you know it, it will become second habit.

And if you know you are stuck in your Wounded Self, please have hope, Friend. You can heal your Wounded Self. You can reconnect with your Wise Self. We are rooting for you. The world needs your light.

Trust.

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Recommended Books:

Here are some of the wise books or sacred scripture that I have found the most helpful in helping me to heal my Wounded Self and connect with my Wise Self:

Return to Love, Marianne Williamson

A Course in Miracles, The Foundation for Inner Peace

Madly in Love With Me, Christine Arylo

The books of Proverbs and Psalms in the Old Testament of the Bible

The books of James and John in the New Testament

The DaoDeJing

There is Nothing Wrong With You, Cheri Huber

The Key: And the Name of the Key is Willingness, Cheri Huber

What You Practice is What You Have, Cheri Huber

You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay

The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown

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If you found this post helpful, please consider sharing it on social media.

What books have helped you in healing your Wounded Self? What podcasts that have helped you in regards to the things discussed in this post?

If you would like to read more about this topic, you might enjoy this post:

When We Don’t Trust Ourselves: How Not to Live a Secondhand Life
[1] You can read more about the Wise Self here.

[2] If you are religious, you can think of these texts as Divine thoughts communicated through human beings. If you are not religious, you can think of these texts as the best, most highest and loving thoughts of human beings. And there is something Divine in that, too.

[3] People join churches, synagogues, mosques, and other spiritual communities for a lot of different reasons, some of them good and some of them bad. So, while it would seem like all people involved in these places regularly connect with their Wise Self, that is not always the case.

13 thoughts on “Why You Can Trust Yourself (And if There Are Any Times You Can’t)”

  1. I love your simple way of explaining difficult and complex dynamics. The wounded self is so easy to relate to. I don’t need a book, Shelly, because you disseminate all this wisdom, and put your special creativity and charm into the mix.

    1. Ali, thank you for this compliment. I love it when people tell me that I explain difficult concepts in a simple way that is easy to understand. This is one of my main goals. Thank you so much for your always-lovely encouragement, Ali.

  2. I love how you get to every possible detail for a topic, so there is always some familiarity to how are experience is shaped. We grow up with so much conditioning and sometimes dependency that it can take long to unlearn all that before we can truly access our own voice with trust and compassion.

    1. Thank you so much for these kind words, Infinite Living. I agree. I think all of us have conditioning that makes it hard for us to trust ourselves and have compassion. It is definitely a process.

  3. Trusting yourself is very hard. I really liked all your thoughts on it (that wounded self drawing made me sad!). “Feeling Good” and “When Panic Attacks” are two other good books by Dr. David Burns that helped me through a lot. Really good cognitive behavioral tips in there for when the panic and anxiety gets too overwhelming. As with you, I also enjoy nice long walks to get my feelings calmed down.

    1. M.B., Thank you so much for your recommendations. I have cognitive behavioral stuff really helpful, too. I will check these books out. I am glad walks help you, too. They have been helping me so much lately. And I agree, that little Wounded Self guy makes me sad, too. We are all him sometimes. So I am so glad we have our Wise Self, too.

  4. This post just filled in a lot of gaps in my understand of what it means to trust myself. I think everyone who struggles or is curious about self trust should read this.
    Your writing is logical, easy for me to understand and I can apply it to my life. I’m so glad I found you on WordPress! Have a great week!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment, Friend. Your blog is my newest exciting find. I feel so enlightened and encouraged when I read it, and so I am very pleased you found this post helpful. And I am so glad you found my post logical and easy to read. I always think that if I cannot explain a concept in a way that is easy for everyone to understand, I don’t understand it very well myself. I hope you have a great week, too.

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