Do you find it hard to trust people? Have you been hurt in the past and you’re now afraid to let other people get close to you?
I get it. Because I’ve been there.
In fact, I spent the better part of my life not trusting other people.
Regardless of whether I was spending time with friends, family members, or business colleagues, the core question that was often running in the background of my mind was ‘Are you messing with me?’
I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was waiting to be hurt by others like I had been hurt in the past.
My fear was so intense that my ego would fiercely fight people when they tried to get close to me. I would find ways to sneakily sabotage the connections in my life, and I would distrust friends who had the best of intentions for me.
“When is the truth going to come out? When is the pain going to arrive? Don’t let them get too close to you, because the inevitable pain is right around the corner.”
In retrospect, it’s sad to think about because I exerted so much energy in this place of being perpetually guarded.
Brene Brown has called shame a ‘200 pound shield’ that you carry around. I would say the same thing for distrusting others. Yes, it may keep you somewhat protected from potential attack, but it is exhaustingly heavy to carry around with you 24/7.
In the last few years of my life, I have experienced the deepest and most fulfilling relationships (personal, professional, and romantic) of my life thus far. And I know that I wouldn’t have gotten to this place if I hadn’t first worked on my relationship to trust.
I would love to share with you the most significant things that have moved the needle for me in cultivating my ability to trust others. These are the exact things that I wish I could have shared with myself ten, or twenty years ago.
First, I’m going to name a few quick truths about the concepts of trust and trusting others. Then I’m going to explain how to get to a place where you can trust others with more ease.
1. Your ability to trust others correlates with your ability to trust yourself
A romantic partner can leave you… and you can still know that you will heal eventually and build an even better life.
A business or career path can ‘fail’… and you can pick up the pieces, learn new skillsets, and add new value to the marketplace.
A major health scare can set you back in your health, fitness, and energy levels… and you can know, deep in your bones, that it will only make you stronger in the long run.
If you trust yourself enough to have a general sense of ‘I, as a person, am appropriate to handle life’, then you know that no one can truly abandon you as an adult. If you trust yourself, then you can eventually learn to trust others too (because nothing they do can cause irreversible harm).
2. You fear getting close to people because you’re holding on to old pain
I get it. You’ve lived a good chunk of life, and people have abused your trust in the past.
Maybe a lover cheated or left unexpectedly. Maybe a colleague took advantage of you. Maybe you had your heart broken by someone who you thought would never hurt you.
Life happens. People are shitty sometimes. It sucks.
But just because something painful happened in your past doesn’t mean that those people or events are allowed to take up precious real estate in your life in the present day.
At a certain point of self-reflection, emotional processing, and forgiving, the only thing left to do is pick your socks up and march forwards.
Be a bigger person. Grow from what has happened to you, and behaviourally do the more mature, self-honouring thing. Don’t let the story own you anymore.
3. You fear getting close to others because you don’t trust your ability to handle chaos
Any chronic fear, anxiety, or resistance to life tends to correlate highly with your self-perceived inability to handle unknown impending chaos. In other words, if you don’t think you are fit to handle life, life will scare you.
Conversely, if you trust your ability to handle anything, then you won’t have any reason to fear other people.
This ‘I can handle it’ level of confidence and self-esteem comes from being in the trenches of life, being tested, and coming out victorious. Or, at the very least, battered, bruised, and wiser.
As long as you are staying awake and listening to the lessons that are constantly being presented to you, then you will always be growing in this regard.
Now, in terms of how to actually get to this place of durably trusting others, this is what worked the best for me.
5 Ways To Trust Others More Fully
1. Stop abandoning yourself
It is easy to distrust others when you have repeatedly broken your trust with yourself.
Do you tell yourself you’re going to stop going for a certain type of partner, and yet you find yourself dating a carbon copy of them anyways?
Do you say that you’re going to start making your body and health a priority, and yet you’re pounding coffee, alcohol, and processed foods on a daily basis?
Did you promise yourself a vacation, and then you ended up skipping it to do just a bit more work? And do you tend to skip rest, relaxation, or self-acknowledgment in general?
If you chronically break your promises to yourself, you will find it difficult to trust the word of others.
Make your word good in your own life first, and you will magically start to see this trend start to reverse in your relationships with other people.
2. Do more work on accepting yourself fully
The only things that you fear others will make wrong about you are the things that YOU already make wrong about you.
Take out a fresh piece of paper. At the top, write ‘Things that I dislike about myself’. Then write out the first 10-50 things that come to you. Free flow. Let it all come out.
Then highlight/underline/put a star next to the top five things that you find yourself criticizing most frequently about yourself.
Then, figure out what the healthy, reality based, self-compassionate replacement thought is for that negative belief, and strap it to your metaphorical shield for the next few weeks.
Again, as if by magic, the more you start loving and accepting parts of yourself, the more other people in your life will also start to love and accept those things.
And if one of the main reasons that you kept people at arms distance up until this point in your life was being secretly afraid of the negative judgment of others, you will now be better prepared for the rare people who might try to shoot some arrows at you.
3. Be more trustable
Defences often end up creating the exact thing that they most fear.
For example, if you’re terrified of people leaving you, you’re highly likely to leave them first. You think you’re protecting yourself, but in reality you are just guaranteeing the exact outcome you feared most.
Watch how you tend to sabotage your relationships… name that defence mechanism to a close friend, therapist, or confidante… and then don’t use that escape hatch the next time you want to go against your word.
By being more trustable in your relationships with others, you will begin to believe that others are more trustable too.
4. Be willing to stay put
In modern times, it’s socially acceptable (and even seen as sexy or desirable) to be completely ‘free’, with no ties to others.
Live the nomadic lifestyle by working from your laptop and changing countries whenever you feel like it!
Ultimately, this need to remain free and have no constraints feels lifeless and dead. It goes against our very nature as a social species.
My recommendation: Be in one place. Remain in relationships over longer periods of time. Stick to a career path for years.
Stretch out your timeline and allow yourself to make plans for the future.
People who are unwilling to trust in others (or the world, or themselves) have a challenging time planning for the future because they don’t trust that a) it will be good, or b) that it will exist. So counteract this mindset by allowing yourself to make plans for the future and build longer term commitments.
Buy concert tickets to that thing in a few months and ask your lover if they would like to go with you.
Plan a vacation several weeks out and put the deposit down on the place you’ll be staying.
Join a men’s group or women’s group and remain in it for a full year or more.
Start going to the gym with a weekly gym buddy and see where it takes you.
Put down roots. It will serve your growing sense of trust well.
5. You learn to trust by trusting
Ernest Hemingway once said “The best way to find out if you can trust anybody is to trust them.”
A dancer can only be caught in the air if she trusts her partner enough to jump.
The businessman can only prove his efficacy if you decide to trust in his ability to provide the desired outcome you want from him.
Your lover can only love in you what you trust them enough to show them.
Leap. Love. Be fully you. Deploy the courage you need to, and your ability to trust people will come with time.
Dedicated to your success,
Ps. If you enjoyed this article, then you will also love:
– I’m Done With Love: 5 Tips For When You’re Tired Of Trying
– 10 Questions To Ask To Go Deep In Your Relationship
– 6 Connection Exercises For Couples To Build Intimacy
– How To Overcome Depression Naturally