Once you make the decision to heal and move on from toxic relationships, learning to trust yourself becomes the work. Yes, we want to be happy again, and yes, we want to fall in love with ourselves again, but none of that can happen without trust. Your relationship with yourself is like any other relationship: trust is the foundation, and trust creates the stability we crave.
Before we get into the how let’s talk a little bit about the why. If you’ve been in toxic relationships, you have probably spent most of your time hyper-focused on the feelings, needs, and wants of others while completely ignoring your own. When this happens, it becomes a challenge to know what our own feelings, needs, and wants are. We start needing reassurance and advice from others - we begin to overthink, second guess, and avoid making decisions on our own.
We may even start to value the opinions of others over our own, which can be very dangerous in toxic relationships. The hurtful words they say eventually become the hurtful words we say to ourselves. When we are prone to negative self-talk, breaking our trust with ourselves.
Learning to trust ourselves again means being able to see our own feelings, wants, and needs as valuable and important and to trust our inner world to guide us in this life.
Trust makes it possible to make decisions without needing validation from others. It makes it possible to be in relationships without losing ourselves completely.
Get to know yourself.
How do we gain trust in others? By getting to know them. It is no different when we are building trust in ourselves.
If we are going to use our own thoughts, needs and wants as a guide, we need to know what they are. It is common in a toxic relationship to feel like you don’t know who you are anymore. That’s ok, we can start small.
Think of it like dating yourself. On a first date you might start by asking questions like ‘What is your favourite food?’ or ‘What do you do for fun?’ This is a great place to start.
When you feel ready, you can start to ask deeper questions, remembering that there are never any wrong answers. You can grab a journal if you’d like to write down anything that comes to mind when you ask yourself these four questions:
What is something you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t think you were allowed?
What are your strengths? What makes you unique?
What values do you want to live by?
If you could have the life you want, what would it look like?
If you have spent a lot of time disconnected from your own feelings and needs (this is really common with toxic relationships) you can try this Needs Inventory Tool - It is one of my favourites.
Trust your intuition.
This is getting to know yourself on a whole other level. It requires you to switch your focus from the external to the internal. We need to be able to sit with ourselves, to sit with our feelings, even challenging ones, and learn to trust them.
The body does not send signals to us for no reason. Any kind of emotional response is a reaction to our needs being met or not being met. Challenging emotions such as sadness, loneliness, guilt, and anger are a response to our needs not being met. As difficult and intolerable as they may feel, they are trying to give us important information about our needs and prompting us to take some sort of action to get them met.
Learning to trust ourselves means trusting the information our body is telling us and taking action where needed, without seeking external validation or opinions.
Show up for yourself.
Trust is something that is earned. We earn this trust by showing up for ourselves consistently and with compassion. In what ways can you commit to yourself and follow through?
A good example of this might be asking yourself what you want your life to look like. If you want to have more peace in your life, for example, what is something that someone with more peace in their life might make space for? Maybe it’s a short walk in nature each day, or meditation practice, or reading.
Can you commit to doing one small thing each day that contributes to the life you want?
When you make this commitment and then show up for yourself consistently, you build trust in yourself. You begin to embody the knowledge that you are there for yourself, that you are that sense of stability in your life.
We aren’t going to get it right every time. We sometimes make the wrong decisions, and we will have days when we don’t show up for ourselves. And that’s ok.
Expecting perfection is at best unrealistic, and at worse, a way to break the trust you have been working to build in yourself. So many of us use perfectionism as a way to avoid criticism or rejection from others and often try to be perfect at healing as well. The truth is that healing is messy and complicated - accepting that we will make mistakes is part of the process.
Offer yourself the same care and compassion you give to other people, forgive yourself and move on. There will always be another chance to show up.
Next, celebrate yourself often! No win is too small. Did you pick the Netflix show after always letting someone else choose? Did you call a friend you haven’t spoken to for a while?
That is the work, that is how you build self-trust.
And if you are looking for something to help you get through the harder times, here is an affirmation I love to use: