"Trust yourself, then you will know how to live."
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
This post is about learning to trust yourself above all others. It is about learning to shut out the din of the world around you and believing on a very basic level that your thoughts, feelings, ideas, interpretations, impressions, understandings etc are as real and valuable as anyone else's are. In fact, it is believing that yours are more real and more valuable than other people's simply because they are yours. Think about that for a moment. It's an important statement. My instincts, thoughts, feelings, ideas, understandings are as equally important and valuable to me as yours are to you. And because they are mine, ultimately, they are more important. Not in an arrogant way, but rather because I have to live with them. I have to act upon them. I have to stand alone with them. I have to be able to withstand criticism and doubt from others because of them. I have to fundamentally know that what I am thinking, believing, feeling and understanding in a particular moment is right for me. Maybe more importantly is realizing when something is wrong for me as well.
Up until 5 months ago, I really didn't spend any time thinking about the idea of self-trust. It was a given. Like most people, I lived my life and used my experiences and the teachings of other people - the world around me - to help form my judgement and vision. My understandings being formed in large measure by outside influences. I was not given to considering and forming my own independent thoughts and understandings. I was not given to asking myself how I felt about something. Did I like or dislike it? Did I agree or disagree with it? Was it instinctively comfortable or uncomfortable for me? I never spent a lot of time just listening to my internal trust mechanism. I would often let others determine the outcome and then acquiesce and go along, silently ignoring the little alarm bells that told me that something didn't sit right with me. And like any skill set that goes unused for too long, my ability for self trust slowly atrophied.
Thoreau once said that "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." I think a lot of that desperation generates from a place where someone did not trust themselves and follow their own road and instead began a slow walk down the road of compromise. Slowly selling their soul for security or safety or material gain or for the acceptance of others. Those who do no do that, who never surrender themselves to any judgment except their own, those are the people we call complete. Those are the ones who trust themselves and allow themselves to live completely. Most of us do not. Which are you?
The idea of self-trust is important and has a lot of sub-parts that deserve consideration.
Self trust leads to self forgiveness. It actually increases our humanity. Inevitably, there will be things that we get wrong. Incorrect judgements and mistakes. The important part is to look at where we got things wrong and then file that away and grow from it. Not only is it fine to make those mistakes and grow from them, but it also develops the notion of letting go...that even if you do get something wrong, that you are perfectly capable of being fine wherever you end up. I am slowly learning to understand that. When you trust yourself, you can let go of controlling the outcome. Let the day take you where it may, you'll be just fine wherever you end up. I am learning to trust in the moment and my understanding of the moment. And then letting it go when another one approaches.
Self trust leads to respect; both self respect and respect for others. Because you understand that other people's self trust mechanism is speaking to them as equally powerfully as yours speaks to you, then it is hard to deny them their right to a different point of view. The beauty of it though is that you can now take or leave those people you cannot find common cause with and never worry about what might happen. I do not accept your point of view, and I do not expect you to accept mine. And I am fine with that. Your judgement of me has no bearing on my own judgement of me. That's a tough sell in the world we live in. That my self-worth is wholly irrelevant of your judgment of me. Self trust says to the world, "Here I am. Take me or leave me. That choice is yours. I will be fine whichever way you choose. Your choice to accept or reject me has absolutely no bearing on how I view myself."
Self trust is liberating because it opens you up to see other options, to see other points of view, to gain a new and different perspective. Mostly because it is precisely the self trust mechanism that will inform you whether or not to accept or reject some other point of view. In fact, someone with a highly developed sense of self trust is likely to go actively searching for new and even uncomfortable ideas that challenge them. They do not get wrapped only in their own limited understandings.
In the end, learning to trust yourself above all others, is really about seeing yourself authentically and accepting yourself as human and whole. It is about taking possession of yourself. Becoming responsible to yourself first. Accountable to yourself before anyone else. Reliant on yourself. Independent of others. Not bound by outside influence. Self trust is what allows you to tell your truth. And stand firmly on your piece of truthful ground. It is about loving yourself.
My writing here has been described at times as both insightful and sophomoric. There have been comments on previous posts that have told me that I was really on to something and there have been people who have said that my thoughts each week are not the ruminations of a 43 year old man, but rather someone who is coming of age. And I think both are equally true. My personal journey has been a lot slower than my professional one. It was easy for me to rail against the Army and a lot of how it does business and develops it's people. My professional instincts are pretty solid. It is my personal ones that have taken more time to develop and catch up. Chief among the reasons for this slower development I think is the idea of learning how to trust myself implicitly. How to discover my truth. How to accept myself as whole and complete and good just the way I am. How to not be an armchair quarterback. How to take a stand in the arena. In a way, how not to be afraid, nor to care what you think about me. How to live. The people who find my work sophomoric mostly do so for that reason. They likely do not understand how someone can have an under-developed sense of self trust. I'm learning to see and appreciate now that, genius with something to say, or infantile rambler with no understandings worth a damn.....That choice is yours. I write, and you choose or don't choose to read. Either way, I have learned to trust the words on the page and the mind that put them there.
Leadership has a lot of it's basis on the notion of trust. Leaders need to create environments that foster trust. Followers at a basic level follow because of trust. In the heat of a moment, when all rank and title and position have fallen by the wayside, one person will follow another on a purely instinctual level.....because they trust them. Because they feel that the person they are following is authentic. Real. We mostly call this natural leadership. That weird combination of brains, personality, and a strong belief that you are the right person, at exactly the right moment, facing these exact circumstances to get the mission done. That person who makes others want to do more, to be better, to grow and learn. Those are the natural leaders and every natural leader I know has one very common, very basic trait. The all possess a strong sense of self trust.
Maybe it's time for each of us to listen very closely to ourselves. Are we becoming quietly desperate men, or are we willing to listen only to ourselves and follow those basic instincts and voices that tell us when we are really being authentically true to ourselves?
Ironically, it just occurred to me that you, the reader, can probably trust me more now, than you could when you started reading this. At least you know that I am searching and listening and trying to discern what my truths really are. While I may not be able to do it correctly every time, I am learning to trust me and that is a hell of a lot further down the road than I was and slowly walking one step at a time away from a life of quiet desperation.
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.