The Threshold of Trust: Trusting Yourself

Smiling businessman congratulating with himself

I’m still good friends with most of the people in the divorce support group of when I was in the thick of it ten years ago. A lot has happened since then, and one of the most interesting things has been how many of us have opted to not pursue any romantic relationships. There’s the “Been there, done that” and “I’m happy on my own” types, but the really interesting ones are those who say they could never trust someone else ever again.

Have a think about that: one person’s actions ten years ago, making every potential romantic interest suspicious. Every one. Forever. Does it seem fair or logical? No. The issue isn’t with what someone else might do, but with what we might: making a choice, being vulnerable, feeling, acting… that stuff is all us. The subtext of “I could never trust someone else ever again” is actually “I could never trust myself with someone else ever again”.

Last week I introduced the idea of the trust pyramid, with self-trust at the base. There’s a reason: when we don’t trust ourselves, we don’t truly trust anyone, or anything, else. Trusting ourselves also means that when other people break our trust – and they will, if we’re actually out there, interacting with other fallible human beings – we hold firm: it may disappoint us, or even rock us to the core, but it won’t devastate us. But probably far more importantly, self-trust underlies the most important relationship we’ll ever have – the one with ourselves.

How to develop trust in ourselves is a question for the ages, and I have to tell you now that there are no easy fixes, or quick ones. Each step below could also be a book on its own, and worth exploring further if you are serious about learning to trust yourself and reaping the benefits.

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Surround Yourself with the Right People

Let’s get this one out of the way quickly. You may – just may – be surrounded by the kind of people who erode your self-trust. At best they may do it in subtle ways, by constantly questioning everything you say and do, and at worst, they may actually be abusive. Yes: people are supposed to question you occasionally. (I couldn’t do without the handful of people who call me to account if they’re worried about a choice I’ve made.) So ask yourself the key questions: “Is this person trying to support me, nurture me, or challenge me?” If the answer is yes, make them part of your inner circle. If the answer is no, banish them to the outer edge… and poke them repeatedly with a sharp stick until they go.

Keep Promises to Yourself

Trustworthy people come through for others, over and over again. You can learn self-trust just like that – by coming through for yourself. It may not be easy; many people wouldn’t dream of breaking a promise to someone else but think nothing of breaking one to themselves. In talking about promises I mean literal promises, and also goals, and the acts of backing yourself or committing to something. Every time you come through on them, your self-trust grows. If you are not used to keeping promises to yourself, begin now: choose simple promises, make them your first priority, and reward yourself for keeping them. Make promises bigger and hairier as you get good at keeping them. Oh, and by the way? You don’t get out of this one by saying, “If I don’t make promises, I don’t have to worry about keeping or breaking them!” People who don’t make promises are fundamentally suspicious – so there.

Live a Life that Is Congruent with Your Values

Values drive us; they are central to who we are. Do you know what your values are? At their most basic and vital? If you don’t, you will be used to feeling conflicted, and constantly doubting yourself. Find out what your values are, and compare them against the choices you make: do they match? When they do, you are honouring something essential, even sacred; this honour nourishes self-trust like nothing else can. When they don’t, there’s a part of you deep inside that asks, “If I can’t trust him to live by this most essential, sacred thing, then what can I trust him with?” When you live a life that’s congruent with your values, you’ll also reap much more than self-trust: you’ll have more peace, happiness, and energy, and making decisions and promises will become a natural thing.

Have High Quality Communications with Yourself

At the end of the day, it had to come down to communication. But not just any communication: your inner dialogue. Tony Robbins said that the quality of our lives is ultimately determined by the way we communicate with others, and with ourselves. This is a big, big statement to ponder, and not necessarily an easy one. What is your self-talk like? As you think about that, I want you to remember the people I mentioned earlier. Who do the voices in your head sound like? The ones that support, nurture, or challenge you, or the ones that deserve to be banished? Everything you do to develop your self-trust can be undone by the kind of cruel messages that you’d never dream of telling others, but think nothing of telling yourself. On the other hand, high-quality communications will lead to high quality lives.

Whether you take all steps at once or one at a time, learning to trust yourself is life changing – and an apprenticeship for what’s next: trusting others. More of that next week. See you then!

Photo credit: © minervastock via Depositphotos

Pigeonholing is for the birds

Young frustrated businessman trapped in small carton box

My ex-husband’s parents had a business. A very successful family-run business, well established and respected, run in a traditional management style that had worked well for decades. In the early 1990s, when they belatedly discovered the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), it was as if they had discovered fire. It would solve communication issues! Make people managing easy! Attract the right people for the job!

So for the first time ever, they made interviewing and résumés secondary and tertiary, and did MBTI testing on all job applicants, instead.

Enter the applicant I’ll call Bob. MBTI said he was perfect, and he was hired without further ado.


“Shame they spent all that money on MBTI,” I said to my then-husband some months later when he was having his fifteenth Bob-induced nervous breakdown, “instead of making sure Bob actually had some brains to put into the job.”

I know I sound awful, but intelligence wasn’t Bob’s strength. Which would have been OK if he’d been an eager learner or modeler (which he wasn’t). Or not spent the intelligence he did have wreaking interpersonal havoc with each and every single person in that workplace (which he did).

Bob was fired, and MBTI was never mentioned again.

Personality tests, on their own and as they are, have their place. But not every place. And certainly not an overly important place. I believed it then with Bob, and I believe it now with associates who describe me with one letter of DiSC (two on a good day). Recently, the stats backed me up.

Or rather, not so recently. Over 10 years ago, a study that should have made HR headlines but didn’t told us that personality tests are the second-worst recruiting tool – not to mention people management tool – there is. But they persist. Why? I have a few theories, but they’re not important. What’s important is that we can do better.

Personality tests may – if they do what they’re supposed to – tell us who or what people are, but they can’t predict performance. If that’s the case, what are they good for? It reminds me of the fabulously crabby Lucy Van Pelt, after her brother Linus tells her a fascinating but useless piece of trivia:


Given that personality profile information can’t predict performance, or attitude, or motivation, there’s only one thing you can do: proceed to pigeonhole people with it.

Now… you may think you wouldn’t, you couldn’t, you won’t, you can’t, but let me tell you, the odds are stacked well against you on this one. Let me introduce you to the fact – not idea, but fact – that we are all highly suggestible and relatively easily influenced. And place this fact as a backdrop against the phenomenon of confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias happens all the time. When we interact with each other, we have expectations of each other, so we seek out information that confirms these expectations. In fact, we’ll give greater weight to information that confirms the expectations rather than disproves them, particularly if we’re not motivated to question our beliefs.

Imagine this: you’ve read someone’s personality profile – an official, scientific-looking document. Whether you admit it or not, you’ve just had some very compelling ideas about that person suggested to you. When you meet them, the things they say and do magically fit what you just read. Will you then question what you see and hear? Gee, I don’t know: your firm has just spent thousands of dollars on these profiles, so how likely are you to be motivated to disprove them?

And so it will go. Another worker pigeonholed. Another person’s potential ignored. Another opportunity for effective management set aside. Another shot at excellence gone to waste.

I initially turned to the Language and Behavior profile, and lately (and happily) the iWAM assessment, because they combined my lifelong love of words and language with my newfound love of NLP. But when I realised that they don’t measure personality but behaviour, performance, and attitude, and do not put people into neat little boxes, I was rapt. Here was something I could really make a difference with, I thought. Turns out, people aren’t so easily swayed from personality profiling. Maybe personality profiling has a confirmation bias all of its own, yes?

You don’t need to come to me for your staff assessment needs (although if you want to, awesome), and you don’t need to completely forget about personality testing. You just need to know what you need that information for. And if the answer only serves to limit and pigeonhole people, there’s only one thing to do.

Give it the bird.


Photo credit © SergeyNivens via DepositPhotos

Get back in your comfort zone!

A cup of coffee or hot chocolate and female feet with socks on a white sheets.

I’ve had a Bodyline week, except with none of Bradman’s finesse: challenges and opportunities have been hurtling towards me at 150kph and all I’ve been able to do is swing wildly at them, hoping they didn’t conk me on the head. But still: I swung, all the while wondering what was happening to my comfort zone.

One of the things I have learned in my work with the iWAM and the LAB profile, which are psycholinguistic tools, is that yes, we invented language, but the kicker is that language also invents us. Either one of those things is, when you stop to think about it, remarkable; that both exist is mind-boggling.

Steven Pinker tells us that “language is not so much a creator or shaper of human nature, so much as a window onto human nature.” I’m not about to argue with Steven Pinker, but words have tremendous impact on us. We have a kind of symbiotic relationship with language. We inform it, and it informs us. Even the simplest words can affect us profoundly. They can even change us.

So back to my Bodyline week.

What does the term “comfort zone” mean to you? A quick experiment with Google tells us that most people want to get out of it:

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As does my stock photo provider when I type in “comfort zone” in the search bar:

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Nothing good, it seems, is to be found in our comfort zones.

Except that it is. You know it is, deep down. And this is the reason why, as soon as someone says, “I’ve gotta get out of my comfort zone!” they have just shot themselves in the foot. Their nonconscious (or subconscious, or unconscious if that’s more your bent) is going to make sure they stay put – or at least come back to that comfort zone eventually.

Our nonconscious intimately knows all the good stuff that’s in our comfort zone. Loved ones. Hobbies and interests. Places. Traditions. Mashed potato and gravy on Sundays. Stuff too good to leave behind.

So if you decide that you’re going to leave it behind, you’d better believe that a part of you is going to put up a fight.

And how do you fight your nonconscious? You don’t. You work with it, because ultimately, your nonconscious mind is 100% busy serving what it thinks is in your best interest. The key in getting it to work with your conscious self is in the language you use. If you need to make a change, to take a risk, to try new – possibly scary – things, instead of saying that you’ve gotta get out of your comfort zone, try saying something like this: “I’m going to expand my comfort zone!”

Expanding instead of exiting. Immediately you have exchanged language of exclusion and abandonment for language of inclusion, stability, and plenty. And if you don’t believe that such a small change can make a big difference, try saying both out loud. Which one feels better? Which one do you think you can actually, truly, work with?

Maybe there are things in your comfort zone that you could really do without. Should you talk about leaving your comfort zone then? Well, let me ask you this: if you had a really crappy boarder staying at your house, would you abandon your home? I mean really: is this your best or only choice? Unless you’re some sort of patsy, I say an eviction is well and truly in order, and instead propose something like, “I’m going to get smoking/procrastinating/dead end jobs out of my comfort zone”. Sorted. It’s your comfort zone, dammit, and there’s no reason why you should have anything there that makes you feel as though you should get away.

And that’s it. Subtle language changes, huge impact.

Next time you need to take a few swings at life, choose the words that work with you rather than against you. Then swing wide. There’s plenty of room.



Photo © NikiLitov via Depositphotos