How to Cultivate Self Trust
Codependency created much pain and agony in my life. One of the ways it manifested most was my extreme lack of self trust. I would overthink decisions to death, fearful that I would choose the ‘wrong one,’ or upset someone if they didn’t agree or were disappointed by my choice. I was terrified of ‘making a mistake’ and exhausted myself trying to collect everyone’s opinion (to ensure they would be pleased with me), before finally settling on a choice.
As annoying as it was, for myself and everyone around me, I couldn’t stand firm in my decisions. I longed to be more confident and decisive but couldn’t understand why it was so hard for me.
Growing up with an authoritative, controlling parent, I didn’t have the opportunity and support I needed to feel my feelings and let my intuition guide my choices. I didn’t get to learn from my mistakes. Mistakes equaled blame, shame and criticism, all too much for my empathetic system to handle.
As a way to protect myself , I learned that if I placated and pleased, others seemed happy. And because I became so good at dictating others’ needs, feelings and wants, I never learned how to build my own muscle for confidence and good decision making. I was terrified if I made a decision, I would be wrong.
Feelings and emotions were not welcome in my world, so my only way through was to disconnect from feeling at all. At an early age, I felt responsible for other’s mood swings and emotions. I learned that sharing my needs or opinions was triggering for others and I didn’t have the skills to navigate how heavy that felt. Slowly I began to look outside of myself for advice from others to the point that it never occurred to me to stop and check in with my own wisdom and opinion.
When you’re reliant on other people’s opinions and guidance, you’re much like a feather in the wind-susceptible to any small or big gust that comes along. You aren’t in control of your life and you give others way too much power over how you feel.
HOW DO WE BUILD OUR SELF TRUST?
One of the best ways to begin to build self trust and heal from codependency is to begin feeling your feelings, living from the neck down as I like to say. Moving from our cognitive thinking brain (because I know you know making decisions shouldn’t be this hard), to the wisdom of our bodies.
I shared the story above of my own personal journey, because I believe that in order for us to really build this self-trust muscle, we have to learn how to trust our feelings. And that takes building a sense of awareness around why you might be codependent in the first place.
Perhaps like me as a child, you were programmed from an early age not to trust your inner knowing, or intuition. This results in low self-worth. And, this happens for a number of reasons.
● You were abused or neglected (physically and/or emotionally)
● Your feelings and needs were minimized.
● You were judged, shamed or mocked for your feelings, maybe even being called ‘too sensitive.’
● Your feelings and needs weren’t as important as other people’s.
● You didn’t have at least one parent or caregiver validating your feelings and sense of worth. You didn’t have someone mirroring back to you your value and ‘enoughness.’
If you experienced any amount of neglect, or had emotionally unavailable parents, like me, you probably learned to suppress your feelings in order to survive. And what we resist persists so those feelings that we try to shove down only intensify.
3 TOOLS TO BUILD SELF TRUST
I want to help you learn how to trust your inner wisdom so you can make decisions from an empowered place.
TOOL #1 – Daily Check in of your feelings.
I’m a big fan of pausing and checking in with myself to notice what I am experiencing. When I first started doing this, I would set 4 alarms on my phone. When the alarm went off, I would simply do a 2 word check in by asking myself,
“What am I feeling, what am I experiencing right now?” Often we are running through life, not checking in on how we are doing and feeling (especially if we struggle with people pleasing and codependency). We do a lot of things everyday all day-we go to work, we drive a car, we make decisions, we parent our kids, but we often don’t check in with ourselves and ask do we need to shift something?
This is actually a big part of self love (which self love is the language of boundaries), checking in and asking-before I have this conversation with my child, my partner or my boss, or customer service for my computer, what’s going on with me? Oh…I’m feeling ornery, hungry and maybe I need to address that before I have a conversation.
You can also do this by journaling. Keeping track in a journal of your feelings can be a beautiful way to understand, process and look back on your experiences. Here are some journaling questions to help you get started:
● What do I need to hear from myself that I’ve been avoiding?
● What in my life am I excited about?
● What do I love about my life right now?
● Today I woke up feeling (fill in the blank)
● Am I living a life aligned with my values?
TOOL #2-Reparent your Inner Child
Essentially reparenting your inner child is a beautiful way of giving your inner little one the things that he or she needed and never received in childhood. You become the parent you needed when you were a child. And, by giving to yourself what you didn’t receive as a child, you free yourself from the past. It’s not too late to give yourself the childhood you never got.
You have the ability to take care of your own needs. So much of reparenting yourself is about making choices every day in your own best interest. It’s becoming aware of your patterns and behaviors, understanding why you do what you do and carving out time for yourself to give yourself what it is you really need. One of my favorite ways to re-parent myself is to give myself the words I never got to hear as a small young child. Words like:
● I love you.
● I hear you.
● You are perfect and complete.
● You didn’t deserve that.
● I see that really hurt you.
● What do you need right now?
● That must have been very difficult for you.
● I’m so sorry that happened to you.
● You are smart.
● You did your best.
TOOL #3-Creating Safety Within
Codependents often have a distorted view of the world. Because we were raised by either emotionally unavailable or narcissistic caregivers/parents, we develop what I refer to as a hole in the soul. Our parents’ responsibility is to mirror back to us our worth and value, but when they fail to do that, we will look to someone or something, outside of ourselves to show us our worth and in essence, feel safe. It’s an endless battle of trying to fill that hole. Low self-worth, self value, self esteem and self regard are very typical for those of us who consider ourselves codependent. We look outside of ourselves for safety and approval, becoming dependent on that next hit or rush. That safety might last for 5 minutes, 5 hours and if we’re lucky, a whole day.
One of my trusted and reliable systems for safety was shopping. I would spend frivolously, buying things we didn’t need with money we didn’t necessarily have. This created a lot of stress and conflict between my husband and myself. He couldn’t understand why I had this insatiable push to spend. I didn’t understand it myself. I just knew that my system felt more ‘calm’ and relaxed once I made my purchases-until the excitement wore off, which usually happened quite quickly and I was back in the store, searching and spending, trying to feel my next fix. On top of that, the guilt would hit pretty quickly, knowing that my behavior would conjure up yet another argument between my husband and myself. I carried a lot of shame and anxiety because I knew cognitively what I was doing wasn’t healthy. Yet it felt almost unstoppable. It was as if I was compulsive. My body knew that this wasn’t sustainable which caused me stress, but stopping seemed unimaginable. The fear of knowing I couldn’t keep this up forever seemed to drive my strategies even deeper. Underneath the surface, what was actually happening was that I longed for the connection and safety I never received as a child. This is why I continuously broke my own boundaries and went without my needs being met in relationship. The unmet need of my inner child was creating chaos in my adult life.
It didn’t happen overnight, but once I learned how to practice that feeling of safety within myself (through lots of support through trauma informed coaching, therapy, breathwork, meditation, proper nutrition, speaking up for myself), how I expressed my co-dependence (shopping, addiction to certain relationships) SLOWLY seemed to disappear. I no longer needed to rely on my old strategies because I knew how to trust myself and offer myself what it was that I truly needed.
I invite you for a moment, to try this…close your eyes and imagine that someone or something that makes you feel at ease, perhaps even calm, safe (maybe your favorite forest or beach, perhaps a little cabin nestled in the woods). Notice where that sensation lives in your body. Be with it for a moment, just sit with and experience it. That feeling you just created was created BY YOU…it is YOURS.
Every time you do this exercise you release the belief that you can’t create this alone. That you can’t be trusted, and that you must rely on things outside of you to create safety. When I first started this practice, I had to implement every time I entered a store. I took a few moments while I sat in my car and created that feeling of safety within. That way, I felt a sense of calm and ease as I was shopping – keeping my prefrontal cortex online so that I could make rational purchases that I felt confident and good about. I started to build evidence that I could in fact trust myself to make healthy decisions. It was incredibly empowering and freeing to walk into a shop and simply admire the textures, patterns, scents and products without feeling an overwhelming compulsion to put things in my cart which I simply didn’t need.
Every time we do this practice and connect with ourselves this way, we are proving to ourselves that we can in fact create safety within. We slowly release the push to hand our worth over to something or someone and we release our co-dependence, therefore creating a deep well of self trust and acceptance within.
By Krista Resnick~ Master Coach/Boundary Expert
To learn more about Krista, click here: https://kristaresnick.lpages.co/free-experience-2022/
Krista is a regular contributor to the #1 Online Magazine For Codependency, Codependency Recovery.