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Are You Supposed to Distrust Yourself?

distrust

I was taught to distrust myself. After all, the heart is deceitful and wicked. For years, I second-guessed my every thought, feeling, or inkling. It felt wrong to listen to—let alone trust—my own instincts.

Instead, I did one of two things:

1.) I prayed for God to “just tell me” clear answers.

2.) I analyzed with friends ad-nauseam.

And, mostly, I stayed stuck. I sabotaged opportunities for happiness, and I shied away from leaning into my own wisdom and talents. I figured that since I couldn’t trust myself, it was better to play it safe.

That’s not trusting God. It’s hiding.

I didn’t yet know that I could learn, with God’s help, to trust the woman that God had made me to be. I didn’t yet know that learning to trust yourself is key to forging healthy relationships with other people.

Many of you were taught to distrust yourself based on a specific Bible verse that says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9 NLT) The problem is that this verse is taken out of context. The very same prophet who declared this bad news about our deceitful state also foretold the good news about what would happen one day when Jesus would come. Just a few chapters later, Jeremiah prophesied the solution to this problem in the coming of God’s Spirit: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts” (Jer. 31:33 NLT).

As humans, we are not “ultimately” trustworthy like God is. We fail all the time. But, we also have access to the spirit of God inside the beautiful soul that he made. We can become trustworthy people, even as we acknowledge our shortcomings. We can learn to trust ourselves, even as we ask for help in facing our blind spots.

However, as women, we don’t often hear, let alone see modeled, what it’s like to trust the spirit that lives within us.

We don’t feel that we can trust ourselves, so we give over to self-doubt.

For example, you might find it challenging to trust yourself to:

  • Make a decision that goes against what is expected of you.
  • Call out toxic behavior.
  • See the red flags in a romantic relationship.
  • Choose a path that aligns with how God made you.

Instead of learning that you have what it takes, you defer to those outside of you. You search for answers from your parents, friends, a pastor, or spouse. That works for a time, until one of them fails you. When all else fails you might pull out the old Magic 8 Ball (or Google) for help. You grow frustrated and weary of this cycle. But, you don’t know how to stop.

After all, if you can’t trust yourself, how can you really trust anyone around you?

It’s a terrible place to find yourself.

Instead of taking charge of the things that you can (which are many), you wait around for God to bail you out.

For example you:

  • Hope God will magically put the right friends in front of you.
  • Pray your boss will do right by you, even if he’s proven otherwise.
  • Hope your spouse will somehow know what you need.
  • Pray your toxic parents will suddenly change.

When you don’t trust yourself, you put yourself at the mercy of other people. Instead of using the abilities God gave you, you lean on others blindly.

That’s not trust. It’s codependency.

A relationship is thought of as “codependent” when you rely excessively on another person. You tend to:

  • Look to another person for approval constantly.
  • Rely on others for all your decision making.
  • Let others define your needs
  • Defer always to their emotional state.

Codependency shows up in any relationship where we outsource what psychologists call our “agency” to another person. Agency is simply your ability to take charge of your life. We can give control of our lives over to our parents (even as adults), spouses, friends, pastors, and even to our children. You can even become codependent in your relationship with God. Instead of maturing into a capable, spirit-filled disciple, we stay young and unformed, hiding behind God, instead of going forth into the world shining his light.

Frankly, most women are taught that deferring our power to others is right.

It’s not.

Always deferring to someone else can appear like you’re being loving, faithful, or a servant. But, it’s not. It’s hitching on to someone else instead of doing the hard work of healing, growing, and becoming more of your true self.

I lived hidden like that for years. And, I hid behind God.

But, then God called me out, and I had to change. I started the work of healing with God’s help.

Think of it this way: when someone really loves you, they call you out of hiding. They ask you to step out from behind where you are hiding because they want to see you. They want to get to know who you are. They want to beam with pride as you move, think, express, and create. And something beautiful happens as you are seen in this way:

Trust starts to develop. You start to trust yourself, the woman God made. Other people start to see you as trustworthy. And, God celebrates.

God does not want a codependent relationship with you.

He is calling you out of hiding. He wants to see you, know you, and nudge you. He wants you to become the trustworthy person he made.

To be clear, here are some examples of what trusting yourself is and is not.

Trusting yourself is:

  • Becoming aware of your needs and how to meet them.
  • Taking responsibility for your decisions.
  • Honoring your emotions in challenging situations.
  • Building a support network that understands you.
  • Standing up for your convictions.

Trusting yourself is not:

  • “You doing you” regardless the cost.
  • Never caring what others think.
  • Turning your back on God.
  • Never seeking help or advice.
  • Placing “ultimate” trust in yourself.

Trusting yourself leads to trustworthiness. And, this is a key quality in healthy relationships. As you learn to trust what you need and want in your life, you will start to understand how to detect trustworthiness in other people.

An Exercise in Trusting Yourself

The opposite of trusting yourself is self-doubt. If you’ve struggled with trusting yourself, try the following exercise. Take out a blank piece of paper and divide it into two halves. Think of a situation where you continually doubt yourself and start to pay attention to the messages in your mind.

1.) List your “Doubt Yourself” Messages.

On one side of the paper list the “doubt yourself” messages that run through your mind. These messages can show up in any number of ways. They often include the words, “I can’t,”  “I’m not”, or “They are”.

  • I can’t trust what I want.
  • I’m not good enough/strong enough.
  • They are so much smarter/wiser than me.
  • I can’t be sure what I’m feeling is right.
  • I don’t have what it takes.

2.) List your “What if God Does” Messages.

Often we are afraid to believe that God is entrusting key decisions and relationships to us. He believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. Like a good parent, he wants us to find our way. On the other side of the paper make a second list. On this list, give yourself permission to write down “What if God Does” messages.  For example, What if God Does:

  • Want me to make this decision on behalf of myself.
  • Believe I have what it takes.
  • Want me to trust my instincts about the next step.
  • Value the concerns I have about this relationship.
  • Honor the wisdom I’ve gained.

3.) Get Curious.

Take a look at both columns. At this point, don’t evaluate which side is “right” or “wrong.” Instead, get curious about each of the columns and what it feels like inside to see them in front of you. Simply notice what it’s like to get these messages out of your head and onto the page in front of you.

Getting curious shifts you out of old patterns of thinking and creates space for new possibilities. It helps you become more aware of habits or behaviors that may no longer be healthy for you.

4.) Invite God to Draw Near.

Prayerfully consider both columns, inviting God to draw near. What would it be like to take a step toward trusting yourself with God’s help? Is it possible he’s nudging you toward making a brave decision? Don’t rush into making a big change at this point. Simply notice any assumptions you’ve been making about God.

The point of this exercise is to grow in self + God-awareness. It’s to begin to notice messages that you might be listening to that aren’t actually what God wants or what is best for you.

Remember: Learning to trust yourself does not mean you stop trusting God. The two are not mutually exclusive.

God is still your rescuer, your rock, your provider. He is still there for you. Do not mistake what I am saying. But, don’t underestimate your capability in any given situation.

Would you call out for rescue when you have what it takes to find safety?

Would you beg for help when you have the skills to go out and find it?

Would you hide behind God when you could be out shining his light?

As you say “yes” to learning to trust yourself with God’s help, you become the confident, talented, brave woman God made you to be. You bring honor to him. And, he has never been so proud.

This article originally appeared here.

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Alison Cook, PhD is a counselor, speaker, and the co-author of How to Turn Your Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings into Your Greatest Allies. For over 20 years, Alison has helped women, ministry leaders, couples, and families learn how to heal painful emotions, develop confidence from the inside out, forge healthy relationships, and fully live out their God-given potential.