Do you ever wish you were braver?
Do you sometimes find yourself holding back from expressing your opinions or speaking up during conversations with your boss, your peers, your partner, etc?
Or perhaps you struggle with vulnerability and asking for exactly what you want and need?
Maybe you find it difficult to set appropriate boundaries in your relationships and consequently end up tolerating behaviours you find unacceptable.
This is a common theme amongst the women I coach and it’s certainly something I’ve struggled with in my own life, and still do at times.
- Sometimes it’s women struggling in their marriages and it manifests as a lack of connection and honest communication with their husbands. Or a fear of what might happen if they try to set some boundaries in their relationships.
- Or it can show up in the workplace for professional women, frustrated by their tendancy to stay in their comfort zones, despite knowing they are capable of so much more.
Regardless of the situation, the underlying cause driving these behaviours is the same.
At first glance, we can attribute it to good ol’ fashioned FEAR.
When fear is the emotion driving us, it’s hard to find our courage to be braver.
But if we dig just a little deeper, what’s often fuelling our fear is a lack of trust in ourselves.
In order to be braver, we must build our self-trust muscle.
Self-trust is knowing we are always enough, regardless of the opinions, reactions and behaviours of others. Regardless of what we do or don’t do, achieve or don’t achieve, in our lives.
Self-trust is deeply knowing we can count on ourselves. It’s knowing we won’t abandon ourselves, no matter what.
It’s understanding we can’t control other people’s opinions of us, and it’s not our job to do so.
It’s knowing that other people’s opinions of us are about them, not us. Always.
And that others’ opinions do not mean anything negative about us or who we are as a person. Unless we decide to make it so.
When we don’t fully trust ourselves, we’re not willing to take the actions that might expose us to this kind of risk. Our self-doubt works to keep us emotionally safe and is a natural response to fear. Our brains work to protect us from any kind of perceived psychological risk.
So, what prevents us from trusting ourselves more fully – even, and especially, when we know we’re smart, competent and highly capable?
Some obstacles that get in our way are:
1. Fear of being Judged and Exposed as a Fraud/not Good Enough
What if we speak up, give it our all and we get it wrong and make a fool of ourselves – what will that mean?
2. Fear of Conflict
What if the other person pushes back and disagrees with us and it turns into a fight or a conflict? How will we handle that?
3. Fear of Rejection
What if we show our vulnerability, open our hearts and express how we really feel and ask for what we need – and we’re refused or ridiculed? What will that mean about us and our worthiness?
Underneath these types of fears is our survival-level desire to protect ourselves from a core belief* we hold about ourselves, being revealed to others.
These kinds of beliefs* include:
- I’m not good enough
- I’m not as smart as other people
- I don’t deserve to be loved
- I’m not worthy or as worthy as other people
It’s no wonder then, that our fear would be bigger than our courage. Who amongst us would want these kinds of ‘truths’ exposed?!
*Even when we rationally know these beliefs aren’t true – they aren’t coming from the rational part of our brains. When they are part of our unconscious belief system, they will be driving our behaviours.
How to Start Building Trust with Yourself
So, how do we become braver? How do we begin to trust ourselves more?
How can we begin building self-trust so we have the courage and the confidence to use our voices, stand in our power – and reach and grow towards our full potential?
How can we begin trusting ourselves so we can evolve into the next best version of who we are capable of being?
Here are some steps that may help:
1. Get Curious
Get curious about the core underlying belief that may be driving your undermining behaviours and making them necessary. (Remember your self-doubt is simply doing its job of protecting you from this belief being exposed.)
2. Question the Belief
Once you have identified the belief, question it! Begin to seriously doubt your self-doubt! What if it’s false? What if it’s simply old, outdated programming from your childhood that served you in some way back then. But is no longer true or needed and in no way represents who you are today?
3. Question it Again!
And then question it further. Is it really true that if you speak up and voice your opinions, ‘everybody’ will know you are a fraud and not good enough? Really? Think about how you would feel about somebody else who spoke up and ‘got it wrong.’ Would you judge them as completely inadequate and write them off? Of course not. And yet, that may be how you are judging yourself.
4. Test your Assumption (Core Belief)
Begin to test and challenge your core assumption in small ways, such as:
Risk asking your husband for something you would really appreciate from him, and notice your response to his response.
Understand that you are making a request of him – and he has the right to say yes or no. If he chooses not to comply with your request, it has nothing to do with you or your worthiness, or how loveable you are.
Identify an opportunity to speak up at work. Ask a question when you don’t understand something (chances are you won’t be the only one) or offer your perspective or opinion when you would normally hold back.
Practice treating yourself with compassion and reassuring yourself that, no matter how other people behave towards you, you are on your own side. You have your own back.
Choose to trust that, regardless of the response from others, positive or negative, it does not reflect on your worth as a human being.
Because it doesn’t.
Your worthiness is inherent. It cannot be proven or disproved by anything you do or don’t do.
This is what self-trust looks like.
This is a big part of the work I do with my clients when we coach together.