When I sit with clients in my office, one of the things that I often tell people within the first few sessions is that I see therapy as a team effort. I have expertise in several areas. And my clients come in to sessions as experts on themselves. For many people this statement doesn’t feel quite true yet. When you have had experiences that make you question your own judgements, it can be hard to think of yourself as an expert. You might not be sure who you are, or what you want.
Often, the foundation of therapy is helping my clients complete two key tasks:
- Learn to discover who you are: including your core values, hopes, dreams and plans (while understanding that what has happened in your life or to your body is not all of who you are).
- Learn to trust yourself as someone who is not only an expert on your life and your experience, but is able to be a caring and compassionate steward of your life and your talents.
Trusting yourself is a very big deal.
Because no one else will live your life. No one else understands your perspective as well as you do. No one else copes with the consequences of your choices. No one else occupies your body.
If you are like many of my clients, you aren’t accustomed to thinking of yourself as someone who is trustworthy. Instead, you may be accustomed to dealing with thoughts like this:
- I don’t like where I am in life, so I must be failing at the choices I make.
- I am struggling with relationships, so I must have social problems.
- I feel betrayed by my body, and stuck with it.
- I have been disappointed so often, I must not know how to do this.
This lack of trust can show up in many ways. Maybe you have gotten so deeply into the habit of not trusting your own instincts that if I ask you to tell me what you are passionate about, you come up blank. Maybe you have struggled so much in choosing friends or dating partners that you don’t trust yourself to try again. Maybe you have felt so let down by your body that you have stopped listening to it.
No matter why you are struggling with trust, or how that struggle shows up in your life, learning to trust yourself is such an important part of the process of growing into a healthy person.
I’d like to invite you to think about trusting yourself. What feelings and thoughts come up when you consider that? Could you experiment with making yourself a small promise (maybe a great meal, or a short walk, or some time on the phone with a friend), and then keeping that promise? How do you feel about beginning to build your trust in yourself?
*Yes, there was an asterisk in the title. Because trusting yourself is important. At the same time, it is important to understand that sometimes our thoughts and feelings may be giving us inaccurate information. In the next few posts, we’ll look at when it is useful to challenge thoughts or feelings. Then we’ll explore some tools to help you be in better touch with yourself.