When recently kayaking with friends, I noticed a family of water birds swimming nearby.
“Oh look, a grebe and her chicks!” I said to my friends.
And someone responded, “That’s not a grebe, that’s a wood duck!” And the others agreed with her.
I said, “No, I’m pretty sure they’re grebes.”
And once again, the others said they were wood ducks.
When my brother caught up with us, he saw the same birds, and said, “Hey, look at the grebes!” Without skipping a beat, my friends didn’t dispute his opinion that they were grebes.
I had begun to doubt myself because the others had disagreed with me. And this was a really trivial topic. See how easily self-doubt sets in?
How to Regain Your Self-Trust
From this small example, we can see how easy it is to question ourselves and our perceptions.
Now imagine if we are in frequent contact with someone who routinely contradicts us or doubts us. We might start to question our own sense of reality. People with narcissistic personality traits frequently engage in this behavior, which we call gaslighting.
When we experience gaslighting, whether from an individual, group, or institution, we might lose touch with our intuition, our confidence, and our sense of self-trust. We begin to doubt our own sense of what is real.
This is especially prevalent on a large scale in our current world climate amidst the coronavirus. Our government may tell us that the virus is under control, that the pandemic is over, and that it’s safe to go out and live life fairly normally when in reality, infections are at an all-time high. Those of us who are still sheltering at home and taking precautions when we go out may question whether we’re overreacting even though a part of us knows that we’re not.
Losing Our Internal Compass
It can be hard to maintain our own sense of reality when we have a constant input of information and messages telling us that we are wrong or our perceptions are inaccurate.
When we’re constantly told what to do or think, we lose our own sense of self-trust. We lose track of our internal compass. When that happens, it’s hard to navigate in the world.
So we look outside ourselves for navigation and validation. We might look to leaders, our spouses, friends, or relatives to determine what is real and help us test reality.
Women in particular can be prone to this. Women are taught that men are the authorities and that women are often irrational or illogical. Men have been running the world for a very long time. Almost all leadership positions in business, religion, and politics are held by men. Women are taught to obey, to be pleasant, to smile, and to be accommodating, even when their gut is telling them “no”.
Signs that this is happening and what you can do
Here are some indications that you are listening to others more than yourself.
- You consult others before making a decision. Not necessarily experts.
- You don’t voice your opinions.
- You tend to go along with what others are doing, thinking, or saying, even if you internally disagree.
- You seek external validation often.
Do any of those sound familiar? If so, you’re in good company, especially in this post-fact world.
But how do you regain your self-trust and an internal compass when your connection to your own truth feels shaky?
1 – Notice it is happening.
The first step of regaining your self-trust and confidence is to notice if you have a hard time making decisions or disagreeing with anyone. Or if you find yourself frequently deferring to others’ opinions and perceptions.
It can even be in simple situations like my experience with the grebe vs wood duck debate. If you can relate to any of the indicators above, you might be seeking answers and validation outside yourself instead of within.
2 – Practice listening to your gut.
I know this is easier said than done, but once you notice that there’s a conflict between your internal self and your external influences, you’ll start to distinguish between the two.
Then, you can tune in to your inner voice.
Gradually, you will feel able to follow your gut instead of what others are saying. It will get easier as your intuition grows stronger and your confidence grows greater.
Here are some small steps you can take to regain your self-trust:
- Do your own research. Read what the experts say. Always consider the source before you accept something as truth.
- Ask yourself what you really think and feel before seeking external validation.
- Practice making decisions on your own, even if you start with small things like what you want to eat for dinner or how you want to spend a Saturday morning.
- Practice standing your ground on small things, even if it’s as simple as the wood duck vs grebe discussion.
Over time, you may start to feel that you can trust yourself, that your opinions matter, and that you are capable of making decisions, even if others disagree with you!
If you’d like to learn more about growing your confidence and reconnecting to your inner voice, I invite you to join one of my Consciousness Circles where we will explore these topics in-depth with a community of individuals on the same journey. Learn more about those here!