Pursue What Matters
Episode 233: Learning to Trust Yourself
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Can you count on yourself? Can others count on you? Are you reliable? Do you do what you say you’ll do? Well, today I want you to reflect on your own trustworthiness. So first and foremost, can you count on you?
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:17
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So we are in the middle of a series all focused on self leadership, we’ve been talking about the secure foundation acronym, which is all about those behaviors and daily activities designed to help you thrive. So with the foundation acronym, we are focusing on those behaviors that help to make you unstoppable. So these aren’t really growth behaviors. And of course, today, we are on T. So we’re almost through this acronym, I certainly hope that the behaviors that we’ve talked about are helpful for you, as you reflect on your own, on your own self awareness and your own self leadership. Of course, I don’t want to overwhelm you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:26
So you know, just pick one or two to really, maybe just focus on or reflect on even starting to ask yourself some questions about some of these topics can be a really helpful start. And so, you know, every week with the podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your confidence to lead in one of three areas. So leading with clarity, which is all about connection to purpose, leading with curiosity, which is all about this self awareness. And we are talking all about curiosity these days, and then leading and building a community, which is really all about those specific skills, that really helps you to thrive as a team, whether you have a specific leadership role, or not. And so of course, again, today, we are talking about the very important skill of learning to trust yourself.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:20
So what gets in the way of trusting yourself. So if you’re like most of us, you have some mistakes in your past, maybe you have some experiences that you’d rather not think about. So for many of us, we can think about our past mistakes, we can feel the scorn of others judgments, self criticism, fear of disappointing others, or perfectionism. So it’s important to reflect on what gets in the way of trusting yourself, because that’s the first step for understanding how you can build some of that trust. And so, you know, if you’re like most of us, of course, one of these things, or something else can get in the way of trusting yourself. So, you know, as part of thriving in life, we want to learn to trust ourselves, and to cultivate intuition. So when you know, when we think about leadership and intuition, most people won’t, won’t even talk about intuition, right? They talk about hard numbers, objective data. And for sure, I’m not dismissing any of that, that’s very important. But part of effective leadership is self awareness and being able to be aware of those gut reactions. And sometimes it’s literally a gut reaction, those intuitive moments where something just doesn’t sit right, something doesn’t quite feel right. And so, you know, today with a podcast, the invitation really is to get curious about your experience and learn to recognize your gut intuition as an important guide. So this recognizes that there are many ways of knowing, right, so objective data research, but intuition is also an important way of knowing. And in particular, when we think about intuition as a way of knowing and learning to trust yourself, it requires you to get quiet. And it requires you to get curious.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:24
So you need to be able to turn down the noise in your life. And of course, with the secure acronym, one of the components of that is unplug, right? We literally need to quiet our lives, so that we can pay attention to what’s going on around us pay attention to what’s going on inside of us. And intuition really acts in those quiet moments. But of course, right like intuition doesn’t have all the answers, but it can be a useful source of information when it comes to decision making. And so I just have another word on intuition. This comes to us from Brene Brown.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:07
So she says intuition is not for a single way of knowing. It’s our ability to hold space for uncertainty, and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith, and reason. And I absolutely love this quote, because with it, Brown really challenges the idea that intuition is just one way of knowing. And rather, she teaches that intuition includes many ways of knowing. And so you know, it’s not an either or proposition. So intuition is all about holding space for the many ways, we’ve developed knowledge and insight. And I think this understanding of intuition can be so helpful, because it doesn’t require you to dis own any parks. Right? When I think about decisions that I make in my life, some of those decisions are so straightforward. And when I look at, okay, how did I come to that decision? It might be based on experience, right? Like, I’ve seen this type of thing plenty of times, and I have a lot of clarity about what needs to happen. And then there are other situations where there’s more uncertainty, and certainly, my experience comes to bear in those situations, but I need to quiet myself with it more, I need to reflect a bit more. And that might be a place where intuition really comes in, that might be a place where gathering information and research getting perspectives. So that I can inform myself about a situation can be helpful. And these are all ways that we can know. And more importantly, these are all ways that we can learn to trust ourselves. So like I said, intuition is a really important form of knowing, and an important form of trust. But like I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, most of us have blocks that get in the way of trusting ourselves, or, you know, we sometimes undermine ourselves. So it’s, you know, we can’t really rely on ourselves, if we’re not consistently tuning into intuition and learning to quiet ourselves.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:21
So you know that there’s a funny little thing that happens. And that is that when we have a difficult time trusting ourselves or others, we often resort to control. And so in a very real way, control is a false substitute for trust, it’s false, because it doesn’t work, it does not do the job of trust. In fact, it fails miserably. So when we rely on control instead of trust, it does bring an initial sense of relief in the face of anxiety, because our brain says, Oh, you’re doing something about this. But because it’s a false substitute. That control only serves to feed more anxiety, because we can’t really control things outside of ourselves.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:08
So try it, try it with a toddler, try it with people at work, it doesn’t work. Plus, it undermines our relationships. Because Newsflash, others don’t like to be controlled. It’s not a great recipe for strengthening relationships. And so initially, our brain really likes that idea of control, command and control. But it’s false, it doesn’t really work. And so the net result of that is when we seek for control, we’re actually signing ourselves up for more anxiety, and more fear next time around. So we really want to resist that temptation to move in to control mode. And, and, you know, really, the recommendation here isn’t pleasant. So I’ll just be upfront about that right now. Learning to trust yourself, can feel so incredibly painful and frightening. And anyone that tells you otherwise, has not had much experience with pain and suffering. Learning to develop trust with yourself can be really challenging. The other folks who who claim that trusting themselves isn’t that difficult.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:25
You know, they, they probably just have a lot of self delusion going on. Because that this idea of self trust, right, like if that’s no big deal, no problem. It kind of sends the message that you haven’t made mistakes, or that you don’t have, you know, things in your history that you look back, you’re like, gosh, I could have done that better. And I’d much rather have, you know, deal with someone who sometimes struggles to trust themselves, because I know they have some honesty with themselves. They don’t see them. selves as perfect, and not making mistakes. And so I worry more about the folks who are like, trust, self trust is a breeze. So back to the fact that learning to trust yourself can feel really painful and frightening. The reason for this is because learning to trust ourselves invites us to tolerate uncertainty. And if there’s one thing that human brain does not like at all, is uncertainty.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:29
Our brains are meaning making machines. And so when we get data points, so an experience happens, we get data points, our brain naturally starts to try to make connections. And sometimes the brain will really stretch to make connections that really have no foundation, in reality, but it really just makes the point that our brains like stories, our brains like certainty, and so even if the story is crazy and ridiculous, and has no foundation in reality, if it helps the brain, the mind to settle down in turns in terms of certainty, right, so to be able to say, Oh, I know what’s happening here, that that decreases anxiety initially. So the work of self awareness and self leadership, and specifically learning to trust yourself, is learning to tolerate uncertainty. We also along with that need to learn to tolerate the possibility of failure. Deep breath. So you know, this is where it’s really important to have some some common humanity, right, failure happens for each of us. So over the past couple of years, I have been dealing with a really big stressor. And my goodness, it has really driven me to my knees in prayer, it has made me question a lot about my decision making capabilities about my sense of resilience, and it’s my trust with myself has taken a hit. And it’s not necessarily because, you know, I feel like I’ve made a mistake or anything like that. It’s actually making a decision that moves me in the direction of purpose. But it’s so stressful. And there’s so much uncertainty about it. And I’ve got to tell you, as ironic or paradoxical as it sounds, the moment that I learned to tolerate the possibility that I would fail, I felt better. Because before that, I had this, you know, this false sense of control. And, you know, this sense of expectation of like, it’s got to work out, it’s got to work out, it’s got to work out, recognizing that I didn’t have control over all of those factors, of course, I was doing and continue to do everything in my power to work towards success.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:59
But the reality is, life happens. The reality is we don’t control all of the factors that we have to contend with. And it really wasn’t until I was able to accept the possibility of failure, that I felt peace, because then my efforts shifted from fear and control, to acceptance, not accepting the possibility of failure necessarily, but accepting that I don’t have control over everything. And it helps me to focus in on the things that I do have control over which often right for most of us is our attitude, our work ethic, our willingness to learn the lessons, our ability to ask for help. And I’ve got to tell you, I’ve asked for so much help in the past couple of years, both personally and professionally, because I recognize that I could not get through it on my own. And so that is one of the paradoxical things about, you know, letting go of that control and learning to tolerate the uncertainty is that it shifts you out of that tight tension holding mode into a focus and an ability to see the big picture.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:25
So some of the other reasons, of course, that learning to trust yourself can feel very painful, is because it really requires you to allow your emotional experience, right as I have been going through this tough time. I have had to confront fear on every front and I’ve got to tell you, I’ve had so much fear it makes me sad even to talk about it because those have been some really painful moments that really are not characteristic of me. And you know, for sure I’ve had a tendency in the past, to resist my emotions to push away to even pretend, right that things are okay. And not because I wanted to fool anyone, I certainly didn’t think I was fooling myself. But because though there was a worry, I’ll just say I had a fear that if I turned to words, my emotions, right, if I allowed those painful emotions out, that I would become overwhelmed, that it would be even harder for me to do what I needed to do. And you know, most days still, even then, felt really hard. And so, you know, for many of us the thought of turning towards our emotions and making room right for pain, and acknowledging like, oh, gosh, this is really hard. It’s something that as humans, we naturally resist, we really move towards self protection, and defense. And it you know, it can feel like a survival mechanism, in many ways it is, and yet for our, for our well being, right, and our emotional health, it’s not the best approach. And so, you know, I can just speak to my own experience, but also, you know, as a psychologist and leadership coach, working with 1000s of people over the years, our ability, and our willingness to allow our emotional experience to turn towards our emotions, whether their joy is whether they’re deeply painful, really opens us up to healing. And it opens us up to trusting ourselves, especially as we learn to appreciate that every single one of our emotions are here to teach us something. They teach us what we care about. So that’s one of the things I certainly have recognized as I have gone through this challenging experience, because I had so much fear. And although that was so unpleasant, to put it mildly, right, it really painful experience.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:04
It also taught me what I really cared about. Because, you know, the path that I have been on is one that’s deeply meaningful to me. And so the thought of failing at that, or the thought of, you know, not being able to be successful on the goals, and, you know, the, the desires to, you know, be of service and to be helpful. That was really painful for me. And so it, it, it showed me really clear clearly what I cared about and where my sense of purpose lies. And so even though of course, the fear is not something I want, I would love for that to be gone permanently. I know that that’s not realistic. And I also every time that fear comes up for me, it also connects me to purpose. So I don’t have to be undone by that fear I can, I can welcome that fear and with a little bit of perspective to say, Yeah, you’re scared because you really care about this, you want to get it right. And for me that that has been a silver lining in some of the pain. The other thing, right, if we think about our emotions, they are they’re here to teach us right? Sometimes it’s our emotions are here to teach us how to break through them. Right? So how do we how do we stay grounded, and not get swept up in the emotions? Our emotions are really here to teach us a lot about the stories we tell ourselves?
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:42
Because we can have these outsized emotional responses based on the stories we’re telling ourselves, and so for sure, there’s an opportunity to, you know, to check out those stories to maybe challenge those and to say I think that’s a bit of an overreaction, right. Like, that’s my fear speaking, that’s not really, that’s not really evidenced in reality, or in the current situation. And so when we allow our emotions, we’re allowing ourselves to be taught, we are teaching ourselves how to learn how to cope and move through those emotions. And so, again, right learning to trust yourself can be really painful, because these moments teach us what we really care about, right? So for example, like I mentioned, I wouldn’t be so worried about the stressor that I’m faced facing, if I didn’t really care about it if I didn’t really care about getting it right. And so allowing your emotions without shame or judgment can really pave the way for more clarity and peace as you move forward. And that’s like a very simple statement. But I just want to tell you, that that is profound like that is profound change. change in our hearts, and in our bodies when we can turn towards our emotional experience with love and with tenderness rather than with shame and judgment. That is the healing that most of us need. We don’t need more self-criticism, we don’t need more shame or judgment, we need gentleness, we need care, we need witnessing to say I see you, I see this fear. And I’m here, I’m not going anywhere. And that, really is the foundation for building a deep and profound trust with yourselves with yourself. And of course, that frees us up to then be able to develop trusting relationships with others. And so when we, you know, appreciate that trust isn’t about getting things, right. But it’s actually about learning to be with yourself through the uncertainties of life, things get a little bit easier, we can carry, you know, our burdens, with maybe a little bit of a lighter touch. And that’s what self trust is all about to be able to say I can I can carry myself through through this pain through these emotions. And so it’s so important to remember the importance of learning to trust ourselves, it really is a foundation for growth and well being. Because it helps us to have a willingness to put ourselves out there and to try new things and to say, You know what, despite the fear, I’m willing to give it a shot. And this, these are the building blocks for resilience. These are actually the building blocks for confidence. And so it might not feel like it in the moment. But that is absolutely true.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:47
And so head on over to my website, to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/233-learningtotrustyourself. And that’s all as one word. One more time. That’s www.drmelissasmith.com/233-learningtotrustyourself. So I hope you’ll stay tuned for this series. There’s a lot of great tidbits. And of course, join me on Instagram @dr.melissasmith as I share additional information every single day on these topics that you’re hearing about on the podcast. And if you’re so inclined, I would so appreciate it if you had to Apple or Spotify and give the podcast a five star review. It really does help other people find the podcast and I’d love to get your thoughts on on the podcast. So in the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care
Transcribed by https://otter.ai