Can You Trust You?
When most people think about trust, they usually focus on whether or not they can trust someone else. While being able to trust others is obviously very important for relationships, a question I would encourage you to ponder has to do with the most important relationship in your life – namely your relationship with you. The question is, “Can you trust you?” Many people seem baffled by this question when I ask it and express that they’ve never really given it any thought.
When I mention your relationship with yourself, I’m referring to the relationship we all have with our inner child that is largely expressed through the internal dialogue that runs through our minds and how we take care of ourselves physically.
Looking first at our internal dialogue, one exercise I sometimes have clients do is to write down the thoughts that typically run through their heads, particularly when they’ve done something that didn’t go as well as they would have liked. I then have them reflect on the following questions:
1) Did you call yourself a name? (That is, did you attack your person rather than just your behavior?)
2) Did what you say make you feel worse about yourself or the situation?
3) Would you repeat what you said to a young child you cared about?
Whether we realize it or not, there’s an inner child in all of us that is constantly listening to our internal dialogue. For any child (including our own inner child) to feel trust and security, that child must know they are loved unconditionally, no matter what. Now that is not to say that their behavior can’t be deemed acceptable or unacceptable, but under no circumstance are they suddenly a “bad” person. The distinction between unconditional acceptance of the person versus conditional acceptance of behavior is crucial for a child to develop a healthy sense of self, trust and security.
If there is room for improvement with regard to your internal dialogue, I would encourage you to be as vigilant as possible regarding the thoughts you think about yourself. If you were to edit them so they better reflect how you would speak to an innocent child you love, I think you’d be pleasantly surprised at the impact of doing so.
The other way we earn the trust of our inner child is by how we treat ourselves physically and through acts of self-care or lack thereof. Can your inner child trust you to give yourself healthy nutrition, adequate sleep, and moderate exercise? Or are you someone who subjects yourself to inordinate amounts of work and stress with little to no consideration of your needs. Do you often turn to destructive avoidance strategies such as drinking, drugs, smoking, or compulsions (excessive exercise, workaholism, perfectionism) to cope? Would you treat your own children or a child you care about the way you do yourself? How would you feel about your own children growing up to treat themselves as you do?
If there’s room for improvement in this area, I would again encourage you to become more conscious about the quality of your self-care. Remember, your inner child is counting on you to take care of him or her in the way he/she deserves. Please show your inner child he/she can trust you!