Cultivating Trust in Yourself

If hope is the thing with feathers, as Emily Dickenson said, then trust floats on gossamer wings.

Most people lose that child-like trust with the end of a first love, but not all. I have known a handful of souls who maintained it until death, or appeared to, but it’s certainly not the norm. Life intrudes on the fantasy that someone will be an all-loving, supportive parent. Paradoxically, if you had toxic parents, it’s even harder to relinquish this desire as yearning for a kinder, gentler life becomes a mission to get what you missed as a child.

Whether trust is broken by an affair, an addiction, or the gradual departure of someone’s heartfelt interest, it requires a radical shift in your world view. Emotionally adjusting to that cognitive terra incognita takes time and energy, but is worth it as it builds maturity and a commitment to being responsible for yourself.

At the end of the day, if you truly trusted someone and found out he or she was unworthy of that level of faith, you may swing to the opposite side of the pendulum and feel wary of everyone. That’s OK. It’s temporary. When you have been badly burned it’s natural to fear fire. Eventually, you will allow people into your heart again. You may never trust anyone else 100%. That’s fine,  because the real task is learning to trust yourself. Before we explore ways to build self trust, let’s look at what trust entails.

Trust may mean your parent, child, mate, friend, business partner will:

  • Take care of you when you’re sick or old.
  • Tell you the truth.
  • Treat you kindly.
  • Be faithful.
  • Keep your secrets.
  • Honestly, and with compassion, share most of their thoughts, feelings, and personal information.
  • Listen to your thoughts, opinions, and concerns.
  • Have your best interests at heart.

Everyone has their own notion of what trust feels like. On some level, trust is having faith in someone else’s ability to truly know and support you. This may mean nurturing, protecting, listening, contributing financially, knowing what you are thinking without you having to say it, anticipating your desires, etc. As you can see, it’s a tall order. The most realistic approach is to hope someone who loves you will do their best, most of the time, to act for your highest good. It doesn’t hurt to remember that everyone is after their own happiness, and they will usually put that before yours. So, if the relationship is reciprocal and they feel they are getting most of what they want, they will make a bigger effort to please you. If not, they will have less incentive.

There are two important things to remember about trust:

1. Your decision to trust someone is a gift to you, not to them. You do it for peace of mind.
2. If they betray you, it is a reflection of who they are, and says nothing about you.

If you have been betrayed and your trust was breached, it may be a good idea to use the above concepts as mantras until they become automatic. When something bad happens, it is all too easy to let feelings of insecurity, vulnerability, and grief distort your perception. Thinking more clearly will change your feelings from anger, despair, worthlessness, hopelessness, depression, and anxiety to acceptance, optimism, sadness, and concern, all of which will help you adjust to a new reality.

Trusting yourself is much harder than handing yourself over to someone else. After all, you came into the world as a helpless infant who needed adult care and attention, so on some very deep level, it’s tempting to want to feel fully nurtured by someone. Since everyone has some abandonment issues, this desire is heightened by the fear that those we love the most will eventually leave. The good news is until you drop the body, as they say in India, you can always count on yourself. It may take a lot of practice to prove to yourself you are truly capable of healthy self-care, but you are. Keep at it and the emotional rewards will accrue, until, one day, you will automatically guide yourself towards self-loving thoughts and behaviors.

How can you build inner security and self-trust?

  • Patiently accept your own pace as you move forward in your journey.
  • Take responsibility for yourself emotionally, financially, physically, socially, intellectually, vocationally, and spiritually.

Practice supportive self-talk by saying loving things to yourself. Even if you are lucky enough to have friends, family, or a therapist who repeatedly tells you calming, helpful things, there is something deeply soothing about being able to hear those words in your head, and comfort yourself with them anytime—knowing you really mean them. Either way, the more you hear them, the more quickly they will become second nature, eventually eclipsing the cacophony of internal self-downing you may have been immersed in for as long as you can remember.

Everything, no matter how awful it might feel in the moment, is for your highest good and personal evolution. When you are struggling, miserable, grief-stricken, and saturated with anxiety, it seems almost impossible to remember this deep truth. Even if you don’t believe it, just keep repeating it. Eventually, you will see the way life constantly shifts and changes. It’s just like a seesaw, only now, you know you are the fulcrum.

© Copyright 2011 by By Nicole Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, LMHC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment

    July 29th, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    You’re so right when you say don’t blame yourself when someone breaks your trust…I’ve come across many people who have been heartbroken because somebody else broke their trust.It’s just not right!

    If somebody breaks your trust then they’re not worth your tears or for you to be sad!

  • jillian

    July 29th, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    But what if you have never had that sureness in your life that everything is going to be alright? What do you fall back on then? I want to trust myself and my decisions but I guess I have never had that special person there encouraging me so I always start to doubt myself.

  • Eric Stansell

    July 30th, 2011 at 4:49 AM

    Trust is something that is so fleeting once you have that one opportunity that shows you have lost that trust with someone. That first girlfriend that chooses to see other guys is a tough one. It didn’t dawn on me until 2 or 3 years of therapy after my marriage how much that high school event still haunted me. The walls were built quickly and they became the norm before I had the cognitive ability to realize that I had built them.


    July 30th, 2011 at 8:12 AM

    I feel trusting myself is easier than trusting others.Maybe that’s coz I am way too suspicious of people and dont trust anybody quickly.It always takes something special or a long time for me to trust somebody.Maybe I’m just hard wired this way but I’m not complaining ;)

  • Zara

    July 30th, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    Finding and trusting in yourself is so difficult. It is a journey in life that is never ending but is so critical to finding true inner peace and harmony. There are always bound to be others who try to undermine you and who in essence do not allow you to be and to become all that you can be. The trick is to focus and determine that you are your own leader, not another, and that learning to trust another will allow you more freedom to let others in on that trust factor too.

  • 4life

    July 30th, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    sometimes I feel we humans are a weird lot.& this is one of those topics that would make me think in that direction…Someone cheats us or betrays us. And whats the result? we blame ourselves and keep ourselves away from others! its only doing ourselves more harm!

    this is something that is coherent in all regions and cultures.maybe thats one thing we need to go through without any choice…

  • Kevin M.

    July 30th, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    I just never feel that I can trust myself. I am always second guessing the things that I do or the thoughts that I have. This almost cripples me sometimes in making decisions. But I have trusted my girlfriends to make the right decisions and to treat me fairly. This hasn’t worked out so well for me in the past as I can’t find that one woman who seems to complete me. My trust seems to always be betrayed.

  • harriet

    July 31st, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    lacking trust?it may be because of something from the past wherein something that you thought was right turned out otherwise or some wrong on your part…it happens but doesn’t mean you stop trusting in yourself again.come to think of it:if you don’t trust yourself then how will others?

  • EMMA

    August 1st, 2011 at 4:34 AM

    If you can’t trust yourself then who can you trust?

  • Jon

    August 1st, 2011 at 7:08 AM

    “If they betray you, it is a reflection of who they are, and says nothing about you.”


    I don’t get it when people cry and blame themselves for somebody else’s betrayal.That person broke you trust,you haven’t made a mistake.I think this is a continuation of us feeling like we made a mistake when we got bullied as kids.It’s simply the other person’s mistake!

  • Nicole

    August 1st, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    Hello and thank you to all who took the time to write and share.

    Let me respond to some of you individually.


    I am so sorry you have not experienced that “sureness that everything’s going to be alright.” It can be very comforting to hear those words and feel more secure.

    You can ask for support from a good friend, therapist, or clergy, though learning to cultivate it in yourself is best, since you will always be there.

    The truth is, it comes down to what you believe. The good news is you can choose to think whatever you want. Why not pick those thoughts that infuse you with optimism?

    You may also like the following link, as I always find it leaves me feeling more positive and alive:


    It is wild, isn’t it? As you so rightly said, “Someone betrays us and we blame ourself.”

    Blaming yourself or someone else is often part of the recovery process. Luckily, for most people, the anger abates. It’s the lessening of trust and a closed heart that you want to watch out for, because that only limits your ability to experience intimacy with someone else in the future.

    Blaming the other person is like blaming a daffodil for not being an Iris. When someone betrays you, the best reaction is to thank the universe for showing you the person’s true nature. (Of course, there are tiny betrayals and huge ones.)

    As Anne Lamott says, Forgiveness doesn’t mean you want to have lunch with the person. (And, forgiveness doesn’t mean you suddenly forget the whole experience.)


    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no one will complete you. That’s your job. It’s what we therapists usually try to do, help people feel more complete in themselves.

    If you were neglected, abused, over-protected, or anything else you deem harmful, whether as a child or an adult, it’s your opportunity to create a life where you can trust yourself to take the very best care of you possible.

    Try making small decisions and giving yourself credit for them. Keep a list in a journal so you can track your progress.

    Jean Vanier, a great humanitarian, said he has spent the past forty years trying to love reality. That’s a tall order, but a little affection for reality could help you accept people and life as they are, not as you wish they were. The more humbly we look at our own lives, the more likely we can have compassion for everyone’s fallibility.

    Wishing you all more self-love, self-acceptance, and self-support on your path.

  • Ilissa Banhazl, MFT

    May 17th, 2012 at 10:23 PM

    This article presents great tools for moving beyond betrayal. It also lets the person whose trust has been broken realize it is not because of a defect in them. We often wonder that at those times. Thanks for sharing. I will share it with my patients. Ilissa Banhazl, Marriage and Family Therapy in Glendora

  • Nicole

    May 18th, 2012 at 6:25 AM

    Thank you for your kind comments Ilissa.

  • Lisa

    October 31st, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    Wow. I am so grateful to have come across this entry because it illustrates self trust in a way I can digest and agree with and I am very thankful.

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