Do you often wish you could trust yourself more?
- Maybe you have a hard time making decisions and always seem to end up deferring to other people’s advice and guidance?
- Maybe you struggle with self-doubt or feeling unworthy?
- Or maybe you’re your own worst critic and tend to get stuck dwelling on past mistakes and failures, unable to move forward.
Regardless of the particulars, at its most basic level the issue of trusting yourself more is a learning problem:
You’ve learned to doubt and second-guess yourself, but with the right approach, you can also learn to trust yourself again.
In the rest of this article, I’m going to walk you through 8 of the best practices I’ve found to help people learn to trust themselves more. They’re the practices I used in my work as a psychologist that I have seen to be the most helpful in real life.
Let’s do it!
Why don’t I trust myself?
Before we get started, let’s take a quick minute to talk about why most people don’t trust themselves.
If you’ve struggled with self-doubt and self-trust issues for a long time, it can feel like some kind of core personality flaw or character defect:
- I’m just too neurotic. I’ll never feel as confident as other people…
- My mother constantly doubted herself. It’s probably just in my genes…
Of course different temperaments and personality styles can influence your tendency to not trust yourself—and the same goes for your genetic makeup and early childhood experience. But all of these factors have a relatively modest influence on your ability to trust yourself compared to the major cause of self-trust issues: Your habits.
What you end up doing on a regular basis has a far bigger influence on your ability to trust yourself than anything in your DNA or your past.
This means that if you can learn to identify which habits are causing your self-trust issues, you can work to improve them and start trusting yourself more in the future.
How to Trust Yourself More: 8 Tips
Below are eight straightforward ideas for learning to trust yourself more.
Not all of them will apply to your situation, of course. So I recommend reading through them all quickly to get a sense for each. Then revisit the one that resonated most for you given your situation and goals and work on that one first.
1. Eliminate reassurance-seeking
It’s completely normal and healthy to ask for help and/or support in difficult times. We human beings are social creatures, after all, and our wellbeing is intimately tied to our sense of connection and belonging with others.
But here’s the thing:
There’s a big difference between the occasional request for sympathy and support and chronic reassurance-seeking.
When you get into the habit of constantly asking other people to reassure you and make you feel better, you’re teaching your brain that you can’t handle feeling bad. In a sense, you’re outsourcing emotional labor onto other people.
And while this may lead to relief in the short-term, it absolutely kills your confidence in the long-term because you’re teaching your own brain that you’re not competent. And it’s not hard to see how this leads to problems trusting yourself.
The solution is to start to resist the urge to use other people to help you feel better and start to acknowledge and confront difficult emotions like fear or anxiety on your own.
- Instead of immediately calling up your best friend when you’re nervous before a first date, you could try validating your anxiety instead.
- Instead of instinctively texting your buddy for advice ahead of a big presentation at work, you could try clarifying your emotions and understanding what you’re actually afraid of first.
See, most issues with self-doubt aren’t really about your ability to handle problems in the world. What they’re really about is your ability to handle your own fears and insecurities.
When you become confident managing yourself, you’ll feel much more confident handling problems in the world.
Learn More: 4 Habits of Emotionally Confident People
2. Express yourself assertively
Many people struggle to trust themselves and feel confident because they’re not assertive—they’re afraid to speak up directly and express themselves in a direct and authentic way.
- You have a good idea during a meeting at work, but don’t share it because you’re afraid other people will think it’s a dumb idea.
- You want to re-energize your marriage, but never seem to ask for something different because you don’t want to make your spouse feel bad.
- You want to have a conversation with your best friend about their chronic lateness but always chicken out at the last minute because of how awkward you feel bringing it up to their face.
Here’s the problem:
When you habitually put aside your own wants and needs because of how you’re afraid others will feel, you’re teaching your own brain that what you want is less important than how other people feel.
And if your brain really starts to believe that, how could you not live in a constant state of self-doubt and low trust in yourself?!
Assertiveness is the foundation of confidence.
If you really want to trust yourself more and feel confident, practice expressing yourself assertively.
Learn More: A Beginner’s Guide to Assertive Communication
3. Keep a self-gratitude diary
Something I’ve noticed about people who struggle to trust themselves: They’re not very good at appreciating themselves either.
It’s as if life is just a long series of problems, and as soon as they’ve dealt with one problem, they move immediately on to solving the next problem.
How can you expect to build self-confidence and trust yourself more if you never make time to slow down and reflect on your wins and successes?
If this sounds like you, here’s a tip: Keep a self-gratitude diary.
You’ve probably heard of gratitude diaries or journals before: Lots of research shows that making a little bit of time each day to express gratitude for the good things in your life is a powerful wellbeing practice.
And while it’s wonderful to express your gratitude toward other people, there’s no reason you can’t do the same thing for yourself. This is especially powerful if you struggle to acknowledge and appreciate yourself.
So, take a few minutes at the end of each day and jot down one or two things about yourself that you’re grateful for. I think you’ll find that as your appreciation for yourself improves so too does your ability to trust yourself.
Learn More: How to Keep a Self-Gratitude Diary
4. Reign in your chronic worry
If you’re constantly worrying about terrible things happening, you’re going to develop an overly negative picture of the future. And if your vision of the future is full of terrible things, it makes sense that you would find it hard to feel confident and trust yourself, right?
- If you’re constantly worrying about other people thinking badly of you, it’s going to be that much harder to trust yourself to express yourself honestly and authentically around them.
- Or, if you’re always worrying about not performing at work and all the terrible things that might happen as a result, it’s going to be hard to trust yourself and feel confident in your work.
The point being…
It’s very hard to trust yourself more when you’re constantly worrying.
This means that getting a handle on your chronic worry is usually a necessary first step toward beginning to trust yourself more.
One simple practice that’s very helpful with chronic worry is to get in the habit of writing your worries down on paper.
For one thing, this slows your worry down because you can’t write nearly as fast as you can think. And the slower your worry, the fewer worries you have, which means the less anxious you will feel.
Seeing your worries written out on paper also gives you perspective on them and helps you sort out genuine concerns from irrational worries.
5. Practice saying no to other people’s requests
One of the biggest reasons people struggle to trust themselves is that they’re not very good at keeping promises… to themselves.
If you always promise yourself you’re going to do something, and then never do it, is it really that surprising that you have a hard time trusting yourself?
Ironically, this type of person is often very good at keeping promises to other people. In fact, they might be too good at keeping promises to other people…
If you’re constantly stressed out because you never say no to other people, you’re not going to have much energy left to keep your promises to yourself.
- If you’re in the habit of immediately addressing every want, whim, and request of your kids, you might find that you’re so exhausted by the end of the day that you have no energy to keep that promise to yourself to go to the gym.
- If you’re in the habit of immediately saying yes to tasks from people at work, you could easily end up procrastinating and delaying your own projects that you’ve been promising yourself you’d get to.
If you want to trust yourself more, it helps if you follow through on your promises to yourself.
But to do that, you probably need to get better at setting boundaries and saying no to other people’s requests so that you have enough energy to keep your promises to yourself.
Learn More: 5 Rules for Setting Healthy Boundaries
6. Replace self-criticism with self-compassion
Imagine you just started a new job…
- For the first few days, you keep hearing all sorts of stories about this guy in the office named Bob. Specifically, everything you heard about Bob was negative—he was flaky and never followed through on things, his work was always sub-par, he was obnoxious and no one liked him, and he was on the verge of getting fired.
- Then one day Bob walks into your office and explains that the two of you have been assigned to work on a new project together. Now, how are you going to feel about working together with Bob?
- You’re probably going to be a little concerned! Specifically, you might have some trust issues doing such an important project with this guy everyone says is pretty terrible.
- And even though you might tell yourself you don’t actually have any first-hand evidence that Bob is terrible to work with, it would make sense that you would feel hesitant to trust him to do good work, right?
Well, think about this with yourself:
It’s hard to feel like you can trust yourself when you’re in the habit of constantly criticizing yourself.
Even though you might know intellectually that you are a competent and trustworthy person, if you’re constantly telling yourself that you’re not, well, you might have some issues with feeling like you can trust yourself.
If you want to trust yourself more, you have to get a handle on your habit of self-criticism and negative self-talk. And one of the best ways to do this is by substituting self-compassion for self-criticism.
Self-compassion is the simple idea that when faced with doubts, mistakes, or insecurities, you can give yourself the same degree of support and encouragement that you would give to a good friend in a similar situation.
And when you start supporting yourself instead of criticizing yourself, it’s a lot easier to have trust in yourself.
7. Embrace emotional vulnerability
As we talked about earlier, most issues with self-trust are less about trusting in your abilities and skills and more about trusting that you can handle difficult emotions.
Well, one of the biggest reasons we don’t have much confidence in our own emotion management abilities is because we don’t give ourselves an opportunity to practice!
Because difficult emotions feel painful, our instinct is to avoid them. But when you distract yourself or numb out difficult feelings, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to practice engaging with them in a healthy way.
One of the best ways to break the habit of emotional avoidance and start to build emotional confidence is the practice of emotional vulnerability. And being emotionally vulnerable is actually pretty straightforward: It just means talking a little more openly about how you feel.
- You get home from a stressful day at work and your spouse asks how you’re feeling.
- You could just say “Oh I’m okay” or “Just a little stressed” and then move on.
- Or you could be a little bit vulnerable and actually talk about how you’re feeling: “I’m feeling a little anxious about this big project coming up” or “I’m really disappointed in the board’s decision to fire Tom.”
The more you practice talking plainly about your emotions—instead of intellectualizing them—the more confident you will become in your ability to handle them. And when you become confident in your ability to handle difficult emotions, self-trust won’t be far behind.
8. Avoid perfectionism by updating your expectations
A good way to never trust yourself is to set and maintain crazy high expectations for yourself.
- It’s hard to trust yourself and feel confident in your ability to lead a team meeting if your expectation is that the meeting must be “transformative for every person present.”
- It’s hard to trust yourself and feel confident to quit smoking if your standard is that you will never have another cigarette again.
- It’s hard to trust yourself and feel confident in your ability to be a good parent if your standard is that your child should always feel loved (you can’t control how your kid—or anyone else—feels).
In other words:
It’s hard to trust yourself if you’re a perfectionist.
The good news is that you can put a serious dent in your perfectionistic tendencies by being more intentional about your expectations—especially your expectations for yourself.
- Identify an area of your life where you tend to have unrealistic expectations for yourself (your job, for example).
- Then, over the course of a week or two, keep a little notepad by you and jot down any expectations you notice of yourself or your work as they come up throughout the day.
- Next, scan your list and pick one or two especially unrealistic ones.
- Then, restructure those expectations to be more realistic—literally re-write them in a way that’s less extreme.
- Then, whenever you notice those expectations pop up in your self-talk, catch yourself and substitute the more realistic version.
With a little practice, you can literally update your expectations to be more realistic and achievable. And when you do, you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to feel like you can trust yourself.
Learn More: What Causes Perfectionism and How to Get Over It
All You Need to Know
Whatever caused you to lose trust in yourself in the past, it’s your habits in the present that are maintaining your self-doubt. This means that if you want to learn to trust yourself again it’s about building better habits.
Here are 8 tips to help you get started:
- Eliminate reassurance-seeking
- Express yourself assertively
- Keep a self-gratitude diary
- Reign in your chronic worry
- Practice saying no to other people’s requests
- Replace self-criticism with self-compassion
- Embrace emotional vulnerability
- Avoid perfectionism by updating your expectations