It’s no secret change is hard. Yet most of us can think of a thing or two – or twenty – that we want to change.
And I’ve written a fair amount about the reasons we get stuck. Mainly, our brain is protecting us from anything bad from happening if we start taking action.
What if I look stupid?
Will my new habits damage my relationships?
What if I get hurt?
Will people figure out I’m not qualified?
What if it leaves no time left for me?
You get the idea. The steps required to change could have negative side effects.
But even when we know the mindset traps and how to challenge them, there’s another piece of the puzzle to consider.
As in, can you trust yourself to actually change?
THE SEEMINGLY ENDLESS CYCLE
If you could see my journals over the past 20 years, you would see a trend. It would go something like this:
- Feeling inspired and motivated to change
- Excited that this time will be different
- Start changing
- Stop changing
- Feel disappointment
What I never explicitly wrote down was this: “Cat, it’s cute that you think this time will be any different.“
Each time the cycle would start, the internal commentary would pop up. And I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was all about trust. Or, a lack of trust.
A LESSON IN TRUST
In short, I didn’t trust myself. And it makes perfect sense why not. I had taught myself not to trust my efforts to change.
All those years that I was unknowingly fighting against my psychological immune system, I was learning the same lesson over and over:
You can’t trust yourself to change.
I was blind to the powerful hidden forces at play protecting me by holding me back. I didn’t have the tools to make lasting change. But I didn’t know that. So all I saw was a person who wanted to change but couldn’t. I saw a defective, broken person incapable of changing.
Is it any wonder this internal commentary full of doubt would appear every time I wanted to take action?
RULES OVER TRUST
Over time, I found myself drawn to programs or systems with clearly defined rules. Black and white. No grey area.
In other words, I was the person saying: “Just tell me exactly what to do.”
Take the Whole30 program as an example. In 2015, I learned about this elimination diet and followed it exactly as outlined. I loved how black and white it was. Eat that. Don’t eat that.
All the decision making was done for me. Basically, I didn’t have to be in charge. What a relief.
What I didn’t realize until recently was that I loved not being in charge because I didn’t trust myself left to my own devices.
Now, I want to clarify something about my Whole30 experience. I truly did take it on to find out why I was having gut issues.
And, the program was actually quite powerful as I did learn new things about which foods I could tolerate. It did work as an elimination diet. I have no regrets and believe it was a catalyst for me eventually pursuing Nutritional Therapy.
But, it’s what happened after it was done that signalled I had trust issues.
After my initial Whole30, I repeatedly sought out external rules to follow. The motivation for doing so would differ slightly – like managing my autoimmune disease – but at the core, I now see that I didn’t want to be in charge of my decisions.
Realizing I didn’t trust myself was illuminating. And, it was the first step I needed to take towards rebuilding trust in myself. It was hard to admit to myself – just like it’s hard to write this publicly.
But I know I’m not alone.
So what am I doing about it now? I’m treating it like I treat all limiting beliefs. Because “I can’t trust myself” is a limiting belief. And all beliefs can be challenged.
The first challenge is checking my confirmation bias. It means considering all the times in my life I did change. And I’ve changed many things in my life.
I can change.
My confirmation bias focuses on all the times I’ve failed to change and ignores all the rest. By actively acknowledging all the ways I have made lasting changes, I am weakening the power of my limiting belief.
Next I consider other people. I think about people who struggled to change for a long time before making a change that stuck. It happens. To many people. And, no, those people aren’t exceptional human beings. They are individuals who changed their mindset and broke free from their limiting beliefs.
So now I see I’m not that different from others. I know working on my mindset will unlock my ability to make lasting change, and I have examples of people who’ve shown me what’s possible.
Finally, I run experiments to test whether I can trust myself. Choosing small, safe tests that discredit my limiting belief. Experiments that prove through first-hand experience that I can trust myself.
Like going to a restaurant and actively listening to my intuition. Making choices with intention. Paying close attention to how that feels and acknowledging each time I choose to trust myself.
AN ONGOING PROCESS
Honestly, I don’t fully trust myself yet.
And, learning to trust myself completely will not happen overnight. But it has already started to change. A shift has been taking place ever since I recognized what had been happening for so long.
And I’ve used what I know about challenging limiting beliefs to start doing the work.
So if you are someone who doesn’t fully trust themselves to actually change, have faith. You can change.
You can rebuild trust.
And you owe it to yourself to try.