Trust Yourself

Trust Yourself

Who do you trust?

The Practice:
Trust yourself

Why?

As I grew up, at home and school it felt dangerous to be myself – my whole self, including the parts that made mistakes, got rebellious and angry, goofed around too loudly, or were awkward and vulnerable.

Not dangers of violence, as many have faced, but risks of being punished in other ways, or rejected, shunned, and shamed.

So, as children understandably do, I put on a mask. Closed up, watching warily, managing the performance of “me.” There was a valve in my throat: I knew what I thought and felt deep inside, but little of it came out into the world.

From the outside, it looked like I didn’t trust other people. Yes, I did need to be careful sometimes. But mainly, I didn’t trust myself.

Didn’t trust that the authentic me was good enough, loveable enough – and that I’d still be OK if I did mess up. Didn’t have confidence in my own depths, the core of me, that it already contained goodness, wisdom, and love. Didn’t trust the unfolding process of living without tight top-down control. Doubted myself, my worth, my possibilities.

And so I lived all squeezed up, doing well in school and happy sometimes – but mainly swinging between numbness and pain.

In Erik Erikson’s eight stages of human development, the first, foundational, one is about “basic trust.” He focused on trust/mistrust of the outer world (especially the people in it), and to be sure this is important. Yet often what looks like “the world is untrustworthy” is at bottom “I don’t trust myself to deal with it.”

It’s been a lifelong journey to develop more faith in myself, to lighten up, loosen up, swing out, take chances, make mistakes and then repair and learn from them, and stop taking myself so seriously.

Sure, things go wrong sometimes when you trust yourself more. But they go really wrong and stay wrong when you trust yourself less.

How?

Nobody is perfect. You don’t need to be perfect to relax, say what you really feel, and take your full shot at life. It’s the big picture that matters most, and the long view. Yes, top-down tight control and a well-crafted persona may bring short-term benefits. But over the long-term, the costs are much greater, including stress, bottled-up truths, and inner alienation.

With gentleness and self-compassion, take a look at yourself. Is there self-doubt, holding back, fear of looking bad or failing? If you imagine being your full self out loud, is there an expectation of rejection, misunderstanding, or a shaming attack?

Understandably, we are concerned about what seems “bad” or “weak” inside. But challenge that labeling: are those things actually so bad, so weak?? Maybe they’re just rattled, desperate, or looking for love and happiness in young or problematic ways.

Maybe you’ve internalized the criticism of others, and have been hugely exaggerating what is wrong about you.

And missing so much that is already right.

When you ease up and tap into your own core, when you are in touch with your body, in your experience as you express it – what’s that like? How do others respond? What are you able to accomplish, at home or work?

Sure, be prudent about the outer world and recognize when it’s truly unwise to let go, take risks, speak out. And guide your inner world like a loving parent, recognizing that not every thought or feeling or want should be said or enacted.

Meanwhile, if you are like me and every single person I have ever known who has decided to trust one’s own deep self, you will find so much that’s right inside: so much knowing of what’s true and what matters, so much life and heart, so many gifts waiting to be given, so many strengths.

Be your whole self; it’s your whole self that you can trust. This day, this week, this life – see what happens when you bet on yourself, when you back your own play. See what happens when you let yourself fall backward into your own arms, trusting that they will catch you.



Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

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