I want you to think of someone who has earned your trust.

Now think of someone who you don’t trust at all.

What’s the difference between them?

Usually we think of trust as something someone else creates with their actions—that if we trust someone, it’s because of how they behave. And if we don’t trust them it’s because they behaved in an untrustworthy way.

But other people’s actions don’t cause trust.

It’s a feeling, caused by our thoughts.

Many people trust people who are actively deceiving them.

Imagine someone cheating on their partner. The partner totally trusts them because they have the thought that the person is trustworthy and wouldn’t cheat, but they’re totally wrong.

Then imagine the partner confesses to cheating. Now they’re telling the truth, but suddenly the partner no longer trusts them.

So, we can trust someone when they lie to us, and not trust them when they tell us the truth! How much more obvious could it be that trust is caused by our thoughts not their behavior?

I think what we really mean when we say we want to trust someone is we want them to act a certain way so that we can have the feeling we want to have. We want to believe we know how they’ll act, so we don’t have to wonder about it. If we decide to believe they are a certain way, it makes our lives easier (or so we think).

Trust feels so important to us, because we think the person we’re trusting has the power to cause our feelings. So really what we’re saying when we trust someone is, “I trust you to create for me the feelings I want to have and not to create for me any feelings I don’t want to have.”

Sometimes there’s an explicit conversation about it, but often we just decide “everyone knows” there are ways a friend/partner/parent/boss should act, and then suddenly, if they don’t act that way, we decide we can’t trust them. That’s how you can end up with two people having different ideas about whether one of them has violated trust at all. And that’s why it becomes difficult for us to think about whether to “trust someone again” after we think they’ve broken our trust, because we’re essentially asking them to act in a way that changes our thoughts and feelings about them (which, of course, is impossible).

The one thing we can always trust other people to do is whatever their thoughts and feelings are driving them to do. Humans are capable of anything! We can never truly know what someone else will or won’t do. We’ve all thought we knew and have been wrong. We tell ourselves the other person changed or tricked us, but the truth is we just didn’t know the full set of facts about them. We were choosing to believe they were one way, when that wasn’t the truth.

The surprising thing that is true is that the only person you truly need to be able to trust is yourself. You are the only one whose thoughts, feelings, and actions you can control. If you take responsibility for your own emotional state, you don’t have to worry about whether you can trust them to create the feelings you want for you or not (which is impossible anyway). Because you are creating your own feelings, on purpose. If you create trust with yourself, to always have your own back, to manage your mind, you don’t have to worry so much about whether to trust other people. You can make clearer decisions about it, without emotional drama.

Most of us spend way too much time worrying about whether we can trust other people and trying to manage them into “being trustworthy” (read: acting the way we want them to act) and not nearly enough time building our trust with ourselves by learning how to manage our own mind and take care of ourselves. Shift the focus from trust in others to trust in yourself, and you’ll feel safer than you ever have before.

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