Often, when we think about trust, we think about whether or not the other person is trustworthy—whether or not they’ve shown themselves to be someone who has a character worthy of our trust. Because of this, we go around evaluating people based on whether they meet our criteria; if they do, we trust them. It is important that we learn to see what is and is not trustworthy behavior; however, this is not the end of the story.
If we have experienced a breach of trust at some point in our lives—and most of us have, some of us to an extreme degree—it disturbs or breaks down our ability to clearly see another person’s behavior.
Because of this, we might be blind to some untrustworthy characteristics or not see them so clearly. And we might actually be skeptical of somebody who is trustworthy. Our ability to gauge whether or not we should trust gets impaired by the filters that we wind up looking though because of our past betrayals. Maybe you’ve had this experience; maybe you trusted somebody who really was not so trustworthy or did not trust someone who turned out to be worthy of your trust.
This is one reason why this defensive analysis of who is and isn’t trustworthy is not totally reliable.
The more that we play by this game, the longer our list of what is untrustworthy gets. Our distrusting story looks like this: “I really can’t trust people because I trusted this person after I ran them through my faulty evaluation system to figure out whether or not they were trustworthy, and they turned out to be another person who betrayed my trust. Therefore, I now know that I cannot trust people even more completely than I did before. I have tried. People, across the board, are untrustworthy.”
So, as our life goes on, we have a smaller and smaller group of people whom we are willing to trust; sometimes, it comes down there being nobody, really, whom we’re willing to trust. We might feel like we trust some people a little bit with certain things, but deep down we don’t really trust that anyone is going to do right by us.
This erosion of trust in our lives creates all sorts of problems. We become cynical and shut down. When we are not trusting, we feel we need to constantly protect ourselves. What other choice do we have if we cannot trust anyone? Consciously or not, we feel unsafe because the people around us are untrustworthy. We lose sight of what it feels like to have a deeper, more trusting connection with others.
It is a problematic situation. So, how do we find our way back to trust if we can’t trust our own judgment? The good news is that there are a number of different ways to do just that.
Trusting Ourselves: More than learning to trust others, we benefit from learning to trust ourselves. This means (in part) acting in ways toward yourself that are supportive, kind, and honest. It means taking responsibility for poor choices, learning from them, and making a commitment to do better. It means acknowledging yourself for all of the good choices that you have made along the way.
Learning the Signs: Chances are we learned some bad cues when we were growing up. We may have put a bad behavior into the category of a loving behavior because of our experience. As adults, it is important to learn what is healthy and what is unhealthy, who is trustworthy and who is untrustworthy, so that we can choose the right people to keep in our lives.
Healing the Past: Part of why we do not trust is because of how we have been hurt in the past. It is only through fully healing our old wounds that we become free to embrace a whole new life. This healing requires us to accept what happened and offer forgiveness where necessary. As we do this, the distortions these old hurts have created in our present life are lifted, and we find ourselves able to make better choices.
Trusting Again: As simple as it may sound, one of the ways that we heal our wounds with trust is to try to trust again. It is through trusting that we have the opportunity to be proven right. One of the most helpful things we can do is to turn our story about trust on its head. We so often focus on the few people or situations that broke our trust; however, they are actually the minority. More frequently, there are many more people in our lives who have done right by us than who have done us wrong. Focusing on what has worked helps to restore trust.
For more about discerning trustworthy people take a look at my article >>> “Should I Trust You: What Does a Trustworthy Person Look Like?”
One characteristic of a trustworthy person is authenticity, which means being true to one’s personality, spirit, and character. When a person is authentic, you can feel it. They’re telling you it as straight and directly as they can. This doesn’t mean that their reality is the end-all, be-all reality, or that what is true for them is true for you, or anything like that. But you know that you can trust them to be authentic and honest in accordance with their individual perspective. When you see someone being true to themselves over a period of time, you can trust this person to act authentically when you interact with them.
Another characteristic of a trustworthy person is honesty. While expecting people to be 100 percent honest all the time about all things is a tall order that may not be completely fulfilled, the higher the level of honesty, the more you can rely on the information that they share. These people will do their best to report what they experience or know. They’re not going to give different stories. Even though people change and what they say will be subject to moods and shifts in perspective, they are not going to tell you one thing one day and another thing the next. They are not going to be deceitful. If they make an infrequent mistake and lie out of fear, they will come clean and apologize.
People who are trustworthy respect who you are. When a person respects you, they are kind and considerate. Their respect is a sign that they are willing to do right by you, that they have your well-being front of mind. Signs that someone does not respect you would be if they treat you in a way that is a negating, condescending, or mean. And that lack of respect should be a clue that this person is likely not to do right by you.
Their level of emotional intelligence can indicate how trustworthy a person will be. A person who has a low emotional intelligence is likely to act in ways that are harmful when there are challenging situations in your relationship. If you trust someone who has low emotional intelligence with emotionally sensitive material, you are very likely going to end up feeling let down or betrayed. It may not be that the person is untrustworthy in the greater sense of the word, but more that they are not to be trusted with certain delicate situations.
There is no perfect person out there. Every person, if you know them long enough, will let you down in some way. Sometimes this will happen because they made a wrong choice, sometimes this will happen because they just see things differently. It is not a lack of flaws that makes a person trustworthy—it is their willingness to own them and make things right when they have a negative effect on others. Expecting perfection will leave you trusting no one. Expecting integrity will lead you to the right people, time and time again.
Even more important than learning the cues for whether someone is trustworthy is learning about what it means to really trust ourselves. When we trust ourselves—when we know how to do right by ourselves, when we know how to care for ourselves—we not only make better choices regarding the people in our lives, but we also recover more quickly from the bumps and upsets along the way. Learning to trust ourselves—not just in our judgment of others but also in our willingness to take care of ourselves in the wake of less than ideal choices—is key to becoming stronger, more resilient, and making better choices in the future.
For more about trusting take a look at my article >>> “Trust Yourself!”
While love is a magnificent gift that we can offer those around us, an even more poignant offering is the gift of our trust. Love can flow through us unabashed regardless of our wounding. Trust requires our effort.
Most people have had their trust broken many times by the time that they reach adulthood. It can seem at times as if betrayal is a necessary part of the human growth process. Once broken, trust or lack thereof hides out like a troll under a bridge. The bridge may appear safe, but no one gets across it.
I recognized recently that I had learned to trust based on a list of trustworthy vs. untrustworthy behaviors that I had created starting in childhood. Each person who stood before me would get measured based on these behaviors; those who passed would be considered trustworthy.
In truth, no one passed completely. Some did pass enough for me to say that I trusted them. However, I could feel that regardless of this initial success, I was watching them for when they finally messed up.
Once they demonstrated behavior from my untrustworthy list, I could then feel betrayed and have even more reasons why I should not trust.
What I realized is this: While it is necessary to be able to tell healthy/trustworthy behaviors from unhealthy/untrustworthy behaviors so that we can navigate this sometimes dangerous world, our trust cannot be derived solely from this type of discernment.
Why? Because even trustworthy people will at times make mistakes and choose poorly.
We cannot only trust a person if they are error-free in behavior. There is not a person out there who does not make errors in judgment. All of us will show weakness at one moment or another. All of us will choose the wrong option from the options in front of us from time to time.
We trust a person because we know without a doubt that they will try to do the right thing as much as possible, and when they don’t, they will try to course-correct as quickly as they can; this course correction is in the neighborhood of what we are capable of ourselves.
We trust them because they have learned skills such as self-reflection and making amends for their mistakes. We can trust them because we know that they put effort into personal and moral development. We trust them because their efforts are sincere.
We also should not put our trust in someone because we hope that they will act in a way that is always in alignment with how we see things—what our list of what trustworthiness looks like. We benefit from trusting another person to act in alignment with their own truth and the greater truth they are connected to.
In short, we trust someone’s willingness and capacity to be a good person to us based on how they show up to the task of being trustworthy, and we can trust another person to be true to who they are and their own ethical code of being.
However, in the end, two other types of trust end up being equally, if not more important—our trust in ourselves and our trust in the benevolence of the universe.
For more about trusting others take a look at my article >>> “Should I Trust You: What Does a Trustworthy Person Look Like?”
Whether you are the person who has been hurt or you are the person who has broken trust, you very likely will want to do some repair work. Here are fourteen things that you can do to help rebuild trust with another person once it has been broken.
1. Take Responsibility: Regardless of which role you played in the situation, you are responsible for your own contributions to what has occurred. Take some time to be clear about what you did and what you did not do that may have lead to a situation where trust was broken.
2. Show Empathy: When we have hurt someone, it helps for them to see that we understand the pain that they are going through. When we have been hurt, some of us will expect ourselves to get over it quickly and others will tend to hold onto the pain. Either way, empathizing with our own experience is helpful to our process of healing. It is also helpful to show empathy when possible to the person that hurt us. This person usually hurt us because of his or her own pain.
3. Keep Promises and Agreement: If you have betrayed someone’s trust, their whole system is on red alert. More than likely they expect you to continue to hurt them. By only making promises and agreements you can keep – as well as making sure to keep them – you can start to rebuild trust.
4. Be Authentic: People can spot a phony, (and even if they go along, they do not really trust them). So if you have hurt someone, being real is the best way to rebuild trust. If you were the person hurt, being authentic might mean that you are truthful about your emotions and where you are in your healing process.
5. Expect and Support Emotional Reactions: When there has been a breach of trust, everyone wants it to go away. But, expecting it to be cleared with an, “I’m sorry,” is often overly optimistic. Emotions will come and go. The more that you can support the emotional healing of yourself, or the person you hurt, the more likely you are to reestablish trust.
6. Sincerely Apologize: Perhaps, this should be number one. Offering an apology is the first thing that you can do to begin the healing after trust has been broken. Just lip service will not do – you will need to understand how you hurt the other person and truly feel remorse for your actions.
7. Accept and Admit Your Faults: Regardless of which side of the coin you fall on, you have flaws. These flaws, while understandable, likely contributed to the situation at hand. Stating your flaws and saying what you are going to do differently is helpful in regaining trust.
8. Keep Your Head on Your Shoulders: Assess the situation at hand. If you have sincerely shown remorse and the other person is not able to forgive you even after doing your due diligence, (or the person who has hurt you has not altered his or her behavior to be safe), your best choice might be to cut ties. Rebuilding trust is important… but pay attention to when your time is better invested elsewhere.
9. Imagine Different Outcomes: So, you trusted and you got hurt. This does not mean every time that you trust you will get hurt. Learn what you can, and then look to the future. What kind of people do you want to relate to? How would you like them to show up to the relationship?
10. Listen to Your Intuition: Very often when someone betrays us, we had a sense that it was happening or even just a sense that something was not right. The more we hone our intuition the easier it is to make good decisions for ourselves in the future.
11. Forgive Yourself: We all make mistakes. Sometimes, there is a high price tag to pay for the type of mistake that we made – like loss of a relationship, or loss of trust with ourselves. Regardless of what you did or did not do, the best you can do is learn from it and make difference choices in the future.
12. Forgive the Other Person: Building off of forgiving yourself, the person that hurt you also is prone to making mistakes and bad choices. When you are ready, forgiving the person who hurt you can be one of the most liberating actions and can open you up to truly trust again.
13. Try Trusting Again: Seriously, get back on the horse. Perhaps one person broke your trust but how many other people did not? The odds are in your favor. Keep building with the people who have shown themselves to be worthy of your trust.
14. Make Yourself Happy: The happier we are, the healthier we are. The healthier we are the better decisions we make… and the faster we bounce back from our challenges. Taking care of yourself and doing what you love will help you feel courageous enough to trust again.
For more about discerning trustworthy people take a look at my article >>> “Should I Trust You: What Does a Trustworthy Person Look Like?”
Both self-care and pleasure begin with self-love. As we love ourselves more and more, it creates the conditions for pleasure, for our continued well-being, and for us to really care for ourselves. However, it’s not necessarily a linear process wherein one thing creates the other. It’s more of a cycle: This love creates the conditions for self-care, and self-care opens the door to even more love for ourselves. Love creates an environment for pleasure and the conditions for us to experience pleasure. And then, this pleasure again creates a sense of well-being and welcomes in even more love.
There are various aspects to understanding how to bring in a new skill or develop a new area of our lives, but people often get confused about their personal development because they feel like they are getting conflicting information. This is often because they’re trying to see it as a linear process when it’s actually a multidimensional process. We adjust one part, then another, and then another, and that eventually snaps the whole new way of being into place.
Our self-love is an essential ingredient in developing our self-care and pleasure.
So, what does it mean to love ourselves? I get this question a lot.
There are many behaviors that show that we love ourselves. Primarily, self-love occurs when we treat ourselves with respect, care, and kindness. But it is more than ways of acting toward yourself. It’s also actually cultivating a flow of love through all dimensions of who you are. Learning to love yourself is partly about cultivating the feeling or sensation or energy of love in all aspects of who you are. You allow this flowing love to run through you and into all aspects of your life.
Exercise for loving yourself:
1. Think of something or someone whom you really love, and focus your attention on feeling that a strongly as possible.
2. Expand that feeling through your attention.
3. Take this feeling and apply it to yourself.
Once you have a read on what love feels like, then you can start to access different parts of your experience. For example, while you’re eating, is this self-love present? While you’re with this person, is this self-love present? While you’re taking a walk—and so on. You can see whether this love is present in all aspects of your life and environment. You can look at each one of these aspects by comparing what is present to this strong love. Where you find love to be lacking, you can ask yourself “what would allow that feeling to come in more? What kind of changes in my behavior or in the kind of people I’m around?”
Sometimes you will know and sometimes you can just experiment. If you have trouble coming up with new ideas, then there are plenty of ideas available online. Otherwise, just try something out. For example, perhaps try to be a bit more intentional while you’re walking and then pay attention to whether or not that shifts things. Or, if you try speaking your truth a little bit more in your relationships, does that help? After each experiment, assess whether it strengthened the love that you were feeling or not.
As you experiment with creating a life full of self-love, you to be able to better refine what it is that you’re doing so that you can have more of this self-love in your life. Loving yourself raises your energy, and that allows you to make better and better choices for yourself. It allows you to draw in more pleasure. It allows you the ability to better care for yourself.
For more about self care take a look at my article >>> “On Self Care”
When people think about self-care, they often imagine a list of things that they need to do for themselves. So, they check the boxes, making sure that they’re exercising, drinking enough
water, sleeping enough, eating the right food. All of these things belong to the basic category of self-care. If we are doing these things, then it must mean we are taking care of ourselves, right?
There is some truth to this. These are the basics. This is what we need to do in order to sustain our health.
However, self-care is much deeper than checking these boxes. Our self-care is more about how we are able to take care of ourselves in each and every moment – this includes all of our behaviors, thoughts, and emotional experiences. It is more than diet, exercise, getting enough sleep, and the occasional massage. Each and every act in our life either cares for us and supports us, or it does not.
Our ability to care for ourselves is also a sign of how much we have healed ourselves up to this point in time. So self-care is both a way of seeing how much we have healed ourselves and a
way of healing ourselves.
When we give ourselves something that we didn’t have in the past – if we take care of ourselves in a way we weren’t taken care of in the past, or if we love ourselves in a way that we weren’t loved in the past, or any other way that we give to ourselves something in the present that undoes or rebalances what was done or not done in the past – it is powerfully
healing. So as we give ourselves the care that we may have missed out on, it lifts us to an entirely different place, a whole new level of healing.
However, there are a number of things that get in the way of receiving this deep healing through our self-care. For example, we may have learned ways of caring for ourselves that we were taught were helpful but actually are less so. Someone could think that they’re eating in a healthy way because that is what they’ve been taught is healthy, unaware that what they’re eating is actually really harmful for them. This type of misconception can happen in every area of our life. What we eat is just one example.
Another way that we become limited in our ability to care for ourselves is through our thoughts and perceptions about who we are and what we deserve. We cannot care for ourselves if we believe that we’re not worthy of it. These beliefs, which we often learn in our childhood, teach us to cancel out our wants and needs. We become blind to what it is that we need. We become out of tune with what it is that we’re wanting or needing in any given moment.
Because of this, we might reach out to various different things that are maybe less healthy, less useful, less caring of ourselves. In part, self-care is actually learning what it is that we need. Like, what are these things that maybe we’ve lost sight of yet are truly supportive of who we are and who we want to be and how we want to live our lives: one is the habits that we develop, another is the way that we have lost sight of what is good for us.
There are also institutional structures in place that actually lead us away from caring for ourselves. We’re taught to evaluate ourselves based on our ability to persevere and work really hard. We are taught to evaluate our own goodness according to how much we sacrifice for those around us. As we become aware of these cultural influences on our ability to care for ourselves, we can peel back another layer of what has been getting in our Way.
Self-care is a foundational element to doing personal development work. It is both an act that keeps us healthy and one that heals us. There are a number of challenges to being able to really care for ourselves. Recognizing the obstacles that are in the way of our self-care will help us to be more prepared in our efforts and proud of our successes.
For more about self care take a look at my article >>> “On Self Care”