Dare to Trust Yourself
Don't let doubts, worries, and everyday anxiety derail your daily practice.
Posted Sep 19, 2020
This post is part 19 of a series of posts on the psychological and practical benefits of daily practice. In this series, I’ll explore the elements of daily practice, varieties of daily practice, challenges to daily practice, and strategies for meeting those challenges. Please join me in learning more about this important subject! Complete information can be found in The Power of Daily Practice.
It’s fine to follow the recipe. But mustn’t it also be OK to add a few more carrots to the soup if you really like carrots? It’s fine to learn the customary way a thing is done. But mustn’t it also be OK to change up the method a bit because you see a way to improve it?
It’s fine to look to the experts, but aren’t many experts only self-proclaimed and neither very knowledgeable nor very honorable? Isn’t a little healthy skepticism sensible? Isn’t it one of your more solid life principles that you ought to trust yourself?
Indeed, your daily practice rises on self-trust and is likely to crumble if you can’t trust your own decisions: your decision to live your life purposes, your decision to take charge of the meaning in your life, your decision to stand up for your values, your decision to work in a disciplined and devoted way at a particular thing. You bring trust to the process, and by getting to your practice day after day and year after year, you earn your own trust and grow worthier of your own trust. If you can go in trusting at least enough that you persevere, the self-trust will grow.
What does trusting yourself look like when it comes to your daily practice? Say that you’ve been writing your novel for two months or so. You love your idea, or rather, you loved it when you began. Now you’re more than a little bit doubtful. But it’s still so early on in the process that you ought to stand behind your belief in your book, oughtn’t you?
But many writers can’t tolerate those doubts or that anxiety. They retreat by not writing. Doesn’t your new book deserve to be trusted, at least for a little while longer? Isn’t trusting that book idea for at least a little while longer identical to trusting you, the person who gave birth to that idea? Isn’t continuing to write an act of self-trust?
Or, say that you’re endeavoring to build your online business, and you’ve set aside a specific hour each day to reach out to celebrities, influencers, and other important marketplace players who are in a position to help your brand. This is your business-building daily practice… and one that you rather dread. You simply don’t feel “big enough” or “important enough” to reach out to these almost other-worldly creatures. Can you find the way to trust that, in some fundamental sense, you are their equal? Can you find the way to trust that you and your online business matter?
Or say that you’re contemplating an activist daily practice. You have a cause in mind. People are being terribly mistreated, and it makes your blood boil. You intend to organize, march, write, and put yourself fully on the line. You’ve decided that you will do anything you can to help.
But you don’t trust that you can contain your rage. You know your own nature, and you worry that you will step dangerously over some line and say something or do something fraught with danger. So, you table your plans and rage internally. Might it have been possible to trust that you could maintain control of yourself? Or might you have been able to trust your ability to find a modest way to be of help, rather than landing where you’ve landed, being of no help at all?
Or say that you’ve put into place a relationship-building daily practice focused on building a bridge with your sister, where, on a daily basis, you chat with her. But her remarks continue to inflame you, just as they did when you broke with her, and you don’t trust that she will ever stop insulting you. Can this practice be maintained if she continues to insult you and if you’re certain that she always will?
What sort of self-trust makes sense here, or is possible here? Maybe trusting that you are right and that letting your sister go is necessary for your emotional well-being? If that’s the truth, that’s the truth. This daily practice may have run its course. Here, trusting yourself may lead to the end of a particular daily practice: and so be it.
Trust yourself. This will mean different things in different situations. Sometimes you will need to trust that you are equal to continuing. Sometimes you will need to trust that you ought to stop. Sometimes you will need to trust that you have the personality resources needed to meet a challenge or to solve a problem. Sometimes you will need to trust your worry that some personality shadow will get the better of you if, say, you go into that bar, join that march, or write that email.
It is, of course, possible to trust yourself too much. It would be a symptom of something—narcissism, grandiosity, delusion, stubborn obstinacy, fantasizing, wishful thinking, naïveté—if you thought that you could sing the lead in Aida without ever having sung a note, play center for a professional basketball team at five feet tall, or walk on water. Trusting that you can walk on water is over an edge.
But basic, everyday, staunch self-trust is a necessity. Otherwise, you will be buffeted by every breeze and find yourself halfway out to sea. You are not a feather to be blown about at the discretion of others. You must lead, and you must trust yourself.