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Why you do not trust yourself

Some good friends and I joke around about axioms of the pop-psychology and personal-development industry: There are some hilarious statements used out there. They’re funny because they’re always true.

“You don’t trust your yourself” is perhaps the quintessential example. Statements like this are used by gurus, therapists and cult leaders all over to create instant “OMG-you-hit-the-nail-on-the-head!” feelings in the listener.

You don’t trust yourself, because you constantly beat yourself up for not doing “enough”. You hunt for solutions to motivation problems, because you don’t trust yourself to do the things you know you should. You fret about creating structure in your life to protect yourself from yourself: Better hide those cookies, or they’ll all get eaten!

Can we just write off “You don’t trust yourself” as a clever verbal trap, or is it tapping into something deeper? Is there a universal human confidence problem? Or are you just being paranoid? Either way you are your own worst enemy.

A lack of faith in yourself is impeding the wealth, freedom and impact you want to create – so let’s find out why you don’t trust yourself. And how you can find that faith again. 

How do you know if you don’t trust yourself?

Lack of faith in oneself shows up in the way we make ourselves do things. It’s the difference between being your own worst enemy, versus your own best friend. If you spend a lot of time regretting things you’ve done or decisions you’ve made, you don’t trust yourself.

If you beat yourself up, if you think you’re not doing good enough, or if you constantly feel like you’ve got under utilized potential then you don’t trust yourself.

It really comes down to is this: You’re afraid that if you were to feel totally happy about your life, your motivation to actually do things might vanish. 

People who don’t trust themselves are terrified of allowing themselves to feel good. They’re afraid that if they do feel good, their motivational drive will disappear – they don’t trust that they’ll still want to create, give or grow.

People who don’t trust themselves create self-perpetuating cycles of stress and anxiety to ensure they never get to that place where they’re happy or satisfied. This ensures they never run out of whips to crack over their own back.

So, as an untrusting entrepreneur, you do everything you can to make sure you don’t give yourself an inch:

  • Even though you’re creating success in your life, you never seem to escape your “problems”.
  • You weirdly plateau your income right at the place where it’s “just barely enough” – so accurately that it’s damn spooky!
  • You tend to forget your biggest successes but you persistently dwell on your worries.

Resonate much? That’s what I thought.

So why oh why do you not trust yourself?

You don’t trust yourself because you weren’t always trustworthy

Like all great psychological truths, the answer to this particular conundrum lies deep in our pasts. Our childhoods. So stretch out on the chaise lounge and get ready to regress.

You don’t trust yourself now, because you were born into a world determined to make you do things that you don’t want to do. Things no human would want to do. Things you couldn’t be trusted to do without being coerced.

The adult world forces children to take action on all kinds of stuff without rationale: Study hard. Put money in your piggy bank. Eat your veges. Because you have to. Because that’s just the way it is. Because that’s what everyone does. Because life isn’t fair.

As children we endure the experience of our teachers, parents and superiors all bludgeoning us into doing the “right” things, not the things we want to do. This is just the way it is – I’m not attempting to change or even criticize this process. You just need to understand that this is happening and what it’s done to your mind.

As you grow into an adult, you start to develop your own rationale. Do you remember the point where you really saw the value in saving money? Or when it really clicked that eating your vegetables would be a smart move? Or that magic moment when you realized that focus, commitment and finishing what your start are all good ideas.

As the old joke goes, the older you get the smarter your parents become. It’s true and it happens because adulthood exposes us to the real world, giving us the all powerful Why. We unearth our own reasons for doing all that hard work and discipline stuff. We see the light.

For entrepreneurs, those moments are even more vital. They’re the pivotal instances of totally “getting it”, when we click and realize the things we’ve heard and read are really true: Sales and marketing are everything. These are the entrepreneurial lessons we read about when we start out, but don’t truly click with until we “grow up” as business owners:

You have to make something remarkable. You must make big promises and over deliver. Look for a problem to solve. etc etc etc.

The problem occurs when you arrive at any one of these “getting it” moments as a newly minted adult – and I use that term loosely; I know 50 year olds who haven’t made it yet. You get the rationale and for the first time you want to work hard and make huge things happen.

But for some reason, though you want success, you just can’t make yourself do the things that you KNOW create it.

There’s resistance, motivation doesn’t flow easily and everything feels hard. You don’t trust yourself. 

You’re new to this place but the child inside of you has years of experience rebelling against all the adults and their coercive insistence on doing things just because you have to. So when your fully developed adult mind voices it’s desire for those grown up things too, your inner child has already put it’s fingers in it’s ears. Lalalalala!

You’ve spent such a vast portion of your life being coerced into doing things you don’t understand that, when you finally get the point, it’s already too late. Your inner child is in rebellion. The self sabotage has already begun.

Most people’s reaction to this only makes the problem worse. They start using the tricks that nasty grown ups used to use, but on themselves! They create artificial reward systems, leverage social pressure and more. Most to-do list apps are basically gold star charts for grown ups.

They don’t work because the more you try to coerce yourself like this, the more your inner child rebels. That part of you used to only hate the other adults but now it loathes you as well. It lashes out and it’s desires get more and more childish. Soon, you’re blowing off whole afternoons, to do nothing but eat junk food and watch cartoons!

Once established, the cycle is simple: Your inner child doesn’t want to do the things you know you should, so you try to force it to grow up with structure and coercion. In response, your inner child rebels harder, inspiring even more irresponsible behavior. Your response to that is to *drumroll* not trust yourself. 

Of course you can’t be trusted. Part of you, a deep and very vocal part, wants to slack off completely. It hates all the grown up, coercive systems you use to attempt to make yourself productive and responsible. It tears your structure down with a sly and impish grin. How could you trust such a part of yourself?

The solution lies in giving yourself the thing your inner child always wanted. The thing it feels it has to snatch and steal. The thing it doesn’t trust you to provide, because you never really had:

Play.

Fun. Joy. Good times.

Your whole life, you’ve been trying desperately to grow up, diligently delaying gratification so that you could have a shot at the big business success in the distant future.

And your inner child has had enough.

Look around your life and ask yourself how many hours out of the last week include activities that seven-year-old you would have been genuinely excited to participate in.

If you’re like I was – or many of my clients were – the answer is zero.

We’re all so obsessed with growing up, progress and spartan “do-the-work” rituals that we actually forget how to have fun. We even forget that having fun is important.

The most powerful force of self sabotage in your life is the part of you (the inner child) that has not forgotten this. Not even a little bit.

The scary truth is that it’s our inner child who taps creativity, who’s standing at the switchboard for magical business sky-rocketing serendipity and all the other stuff that makes the real difference.

If you’ve built yourself a life that would bore a child to tears, it’s time to seriously re-evaluate your lifestyle. The structure and schedule you’re imposing on yourself, in the search for success, is unintentionally creating boatloads of sabotage.

When you slake your inner child’s thirst for fun and joy, you’ll get it.

You’ll get to the place where your inner child is aligned with your adult desires – where one hundred percent of you is collaborating in the same direction. That kid within you will, for the first time, see why you’re trying to do this “success” thing.

You’ll arrive at a place where work, success and productivity are synonymous with fun, play and joy. 

It’s a long path and merely having “arrived” doesn’t guarantee you’ll always stay there, but the more time you spend in this magical vortex the easier it is to find your way back.

Over at my other company, Commit Action, we help entrepreneurs end procrastination and achieve superhuman success with a number of psychological hacks of which “Play” is just one! We just released a free video training program where I share all our best tactics and research. You can use this stuff to find out why elite entrepreneurs succeed easier, faster and more often… and how you can become one of them! The whole series is free. Click here to download everything. 

71 Comments

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  1. I was wondering about what keeps us back when we are on that edge, but from this piece of writing, I really got the point.
    But Peter after knowing the reasons “Why don’t we trust ourselves”, I would like to learn some methods from which “We can really enhance our self trust”
    Would you like to suggest some?

    1. Hey Talha,

      It’s about cultivating stuff that will really feed your inner child’s appetite. When you can get that part of yourself ON YOUR SIDE, you can accomplish almost anything. I’ll be writing more posts about this in the future for sure.

      1. i thought by giving fun yo my inner child, i don’t have to trust my self to do what i have to do, cause i already can, so i was wrong huh

        1. peter, in conclusion, if i fail in doing something, i just have to forgive my self and forget it? what to do? i am afraid my self become naughty and want to be a failure time over time, should i really just forgive my self? may you have a suggestion please? thanks 🙂

    1. Hey Kelly, glad you found it valuable for that reason too. I’m not really trying to criticize parents or parenting in anyway, but I imagine we could be more mindful about that sort of thing too!

  2. Peter, you hit on something I experienced this week that was out of the ordinary. I actually had fun at work! I was shocked at how it was even such a revelation. So I’ve been assessing why it was fun and and how different my attitutde towards work was. There is so much there!

    It’s amazing how fun has become the new four letter word in the workplace. Fun is immature and silly.

    Joy, creativity, exuberance and laughter what a concept!

  3. Thank you for bringing your theory to light. It never occurred to me that I was using procrastination to motivate myself with the endless loops of ups and downs. This state I’ve been operating in has affected all of my relationships as well as the businesses. I have a lot to think about…

    1. Hey Julie! I think when left unchecked, these types of motivational patterns can cause entrepreneurs to lash out in their significant relationships… in part as a reaction to business ups and downs. It’s something to watch out for, for sure.

      1. Like a child I tend resent those who put pressure on me including employees, vendors and family at times especially when I am overextending myself. I think I have to identify these feelings of frustration and find a release. Sports or some kind of physical activity usually works best for me and up until recently I resisted doing anything good for myself or fun so I went for a swim Sunday at the local pool and I played with the dog in the brook out back yesterday with the family- I skipped doing any of this last summer!

  4. Wow! That hit me hard!

    I read this yesterday and pieces started falling into place. So, last night, I did stuff I enjoyed when I was 7 – many years ago. I read aloud a story I hadn’t read as a child. The feeling of peace was tremendous.

    I’m including young me in my working day. After lunch, I’m going outside to play with a ball for 10 minutes.

    Shan

    1. Hey Shan!

      That’s a terrific example to add to the dialogue – thank you SO MUCH for sharing this. I actually think it takes courage to do things like this the adult mind might deem “silly”… and even more to post in a public forum! Well done 🙂

      1. shan, i jumped rope 100 times, and it was so fun, i remember i always play jumping rope with my friend when i was in elementary,

  5. There is a term for the concept you are talking about – Self Compassion. Kristin Neff – http://www.self-compassion.org/ – has done significant research on the subject and has a great book that I suggest to anyone struggling with this issue. The reality is we actually do better when we stop beating ourselves up because we have more energy to give to the projects at hand, but it feels counter-intuitive and uncomfortable. It is extremely difficult to get out of that rut.

  6. -snip-
    You weirdly plateau your income right at the place where it’s “just barely enough” – so accurately that it’s damn spooky!
    -snip-

    This.
    I agree, it really does happen. But I don’t follow the logic that connects this phenomenon with the whole “inner child not happy” idea. Could you please maybe explain this another way or use another example. Sorry to be dim mate but I’m not getting it.

    1. Hey Michael, good question.

      This is an example of just one type of symptom that arises from self-sabotage caused by the inner child’s needs going unmet. Typically we can tap in the motivation to produce what we NEED to survive, even while the inner child is having a tantrum… but to progress BEYOND what we need to survive, the co-operation of the inner child is needed.

      So people who don’t figure out this inner child stuff tend to get stuck at a place where they make enough to cover necessities, but struggle to find a higher form of motivation to inspire them to a level beyond that.

      Make sense?

      1. Yup, that’s making a lot more sense. I’ve never run up against this “inner child’s unmet needs” concept and I’m really interested to see where it goes. Thanks again for the post and answer.

  7. Peter,
    This is outstanding and I can relate even more now with the clarity couch challnge audio you sent and I just responded back to you on.

    This is a loop I know all too well and would like to integrate and move through as you mention about how these things can come together in the long run for dreams being lived in real time!

  8. thank you so much for this. the part where you said that we dont let ourselves be happy because we are afraid that we wont have anything to motivate us is soooooooooo true. but i dont understand, now what do i do, because even after reading it, i still feel that i should not be having fun because ill get carried away and distracted from my studies. iam always locked up in my room studying and getting upset at the dumbest things.

  9. Peter,
    “People who don’t trust themselves create self-perpetuating cycles of stress and anxiety to ensure they never get to that place where they’re happy or satisfied. This ensures they never run out of whips to crack over their own back.”

    …this has been my experience and eventually my attitude towards my business turned very negative to the point that I hated working! I eventually lost my company to my partner in his attempt to salvage some of his investment but I could have cared less about the time and money I put into it and lost everything I built up over 8 years.

    I am afraid to start a new venture because of this lack of trust in myself, which has increased after my failure. I am afraid of repeated this this experience.

  10. I don’t know much about this although I do know that I feel horible about myself. I feel like I am in a hole and even if I try getting out the hole gets bigger and bigger. I not just don’t trust myself but I have a lot of fears of trusting other people. Have been feeling this way since 3rd grade and I am now a sophmore in high school.

  11. I’m in that special place where I’m asking the universe and Angels for validation to some of life’s biggest questions like what do I want to be when I grow up and after a few links and hundreds of articles I land on this one. I accept your solution to play. It’s about time I give myself permission to have fun. Thank you.

  12. Just for fun, I re-read my posting above and noticed that the post by Gigi was done at 11:19. Everytime I look at the clock whether am or pm I see it exactly at 11:19. Just the other day I finally found a numerology site that explained why I always see 11:19. It’s my Guardian Angel’s way of letting me know I’m on track. I laughed when I saw Gigi’s posting time. There’s no mistake I am asking the right questions and getting the exact answers I need to manifest my hearts desires In this physical realm. 🙂

  13. Makes a lot of sense Peter. I have been offered an opportunity by a friend to take a chance and move abroad working on a Yacht but over the last 4 years my confidence has diminished and I feel as if I have gone backwards. I feel very much like the child you mention and I never trust my own judgement always seeking approval from others. I really hate my job and maybe if I took a “risk” it might work out fine? I can’t get past the not knowing though. I feel that perhaps I will take all these negatives with me wherever I go and that’s what scares me.

  14. I read your article is very intuitive and it did discuss on some of my problems. But you forgot one. This is the sad one that ALL men counselors seem to forget. I was abused by my second husband for long time. When he died it took me over 5 years to find out who I am and want in life. Unfortunately to this day I can’t trust myself to date. I know it’s not the other person’s fault, but my. So, my question is how to do you cure that problem?

    1. Jane, thanks for stopping by. Your question is outside of the scope of my expertise, but if you email me I can potentially refer you to another source of information or support.

    2. All you should do is abuse people you date. They deserve it. Tell them how stupid and worthless they are no matter what. Men deserve to be degraded because they have to be extremely perfect.

  15. You told the story of my life, Peter. I ‘m an architecture student (19) and i’ve been having serious trouble with the carrier . It is hard for me to keep focused on what i’m doing.. i get frustrated so easily…and it all happens as you say above… sometimes i believe i am not ready to study a carrier like this one. I love what i do a lot but recently (year and a half) i feel like doing other things and i cannot work hard as i should be. It takes me ages to decide what to do when it comes to my design projects… i waste too much time in doing and redoing…actually it has become like a torture to me to sit on my table and start doing a project and not knowing what to do,trying hard and not getting nor finishing anything ..
    i hope you can give me some more help with this because im not feeling well u.u
    I loved your article. I’ll start following you

    1. Hey Carlos, thanks for swinging by and sharing your story. Take a look at my free ebook and keep following the blog – you should find some of the answers you’re looking for.

  16. You had me hooked up until the end of this sentence
    It really comes down to is this: You’re afraid that if you were to feel totally happy about your life, your motivation to actually do things might vanish. . . it would be taken away – is the way I would end that sentence.
    Your article makes sense, but what about my situation?

  17. I have a hard time finding credibility in your article because of all the spelling errors. In my brain, if you can’t find your own errors in something as simple as writing, how can I find you credible in something like pinpointing my trust issues?

  18. What a great and inspiring article. Enlightened to say the least. It is interesting how the written word backed with deep insight can help one change on a dime. Thank you so much. I honestly felt a burden lift.

  19. Wow….just wow. this really hits the nail on the head for me. Today was a tough day for me emotionally. I felt very “off” today and totally down on myself. I want to change my life, and have been wanting to for a very long time. My problem is that I never stick with anything long enough to make any real differences. Today I was particually fed up…..and felt a deep, raw yearing to truly, and finally understand why I do what I do….and don’t do what I know I should do! Today I just kept asking myself “what is wrong with me, why can’t I get it together…ever??”
    Well tonight I was lying in bed still pondering that question, and all of a sudden the thought came to me, “you don’t trust yourself”. And swear… I knew at that moment that those 4 words, were the root cause and reason my life was the way it was. I opened my laptop, and googled those words exactly….and your site was the first one I clicked on, and am I ever glad I did. Your words hit me head on…. straight to the point and so spot on that it scared me a little……I actually had butterfies in my stomach! I’m rambling on I know….but this is what I’ve been looking for most of my life…Thank you!

    Jeannette M.

    1. Everything you wrote has just happened to me (except the thinking about it before I went to sleep part.). This is pretty scary, but I’m am so glad that “I don’t trust myself” popped in my head. I went straight to google to see if I was the only one and I found this site as well. My only issue is that I have to figure out what fun is again and how to have it.

      Thanks for this article Peter Shallard.

  20. Wow…this article hit me to the core. It was like an epiphany and I wrote in the words ‘I don’t trust myself’ and this came up. Thank you, I will keep following you. This has paved a new path for my transformation.

  21. While there is some useful information in the article, perhaps some more about what can be done to change the conditioned patterns would help. I have found EFT (consistently applied rather than a onetime stab at it) to be helping me with lifelong trust issues. However, you might wish to consider this: http://tinyurl.com/cym3hsk
    We do not really have the degree of “control” we “think” we have, which is why there is no absolute “technique” to get what our mind (filtered through conditioned patterns we never asked for) thinks it wants…

    Thanks

  22. Great article! put some light back at the end of the tunnel. Dumbfounded when I got to the FUN part… I really angered the beast by saying ‘I cant afford to have fun, too much is on the line’ This revelation may re-ignite my motivation and pull me out of this tail-spin Im in. Crazy how exponentially destructive this can be!!!! always just in the nick of time!

  23. I’m going through the child-rebellion stage; it’s hitting me hard.
    Just yesterday I noted that whenever I found, or felt, or even merely assumed I did something because I “had to”, motivation plummeted instantly, and I’d sink back into apathy. It scares me because I know there are things I have to do even if I don’t want to, even if I can’t seem to motivate myself to do them; it’s just I’m still trying to tell those things, from the things I think I need to do but don’t really have to apart.

  24. The way you wrote this seems like this applies to people in their adulthood. I’m a pre-teen and I feel exactly the way this article explains. Is this strange?

  25. Hey Peter,
    Excellent article. Really gave me some good for thought.
    Here’s a question though:
    What if I AM doing those things that my inner child wants (i.e. those things I wanted to do but never could in my youth) but those things are mutually exclusive with being successful. What if all my inner child wants is to smoke weed and eat an entire tub of ice cream and go out and party till 3am? Don’t those habits prevent success, instead of facilitating it?
    In other words, Peter, what if taking care of my inner child comes at the expense of developing the habits of the man I want to become?
    Thanks
    Rick

    1. I totally understand this. I personally feel it is healthy to not place restrictions on myself and i feel it truly brings me back into balance. That was initially after i gave myself permission,without judgement and just love,to be and enjoy my body and the freedom it so desires. Alot of these so called self sabotaging patterns were self loving although it may have looked different to others. It allowed me to relax. Yes i gained weight and over induldged but this is a reflex action from the suppression. When that need is satisfied or even just acknowledged, the pattern will shift. Im not saying that works for everyone, but i am seeing the difference in myself. Also even just bringing my awareness to my behaviour is meeting my need to be seen, without judgement, to be listened to without fear, and to nurture myself in supportive ways and sometimes that is eating the two tubs of ice cream

  26. Peter,

    Your post makes me think.

    That said, I can’t 100% relate to what you describe. I have a pretty good schedule where “playing”, doing things that are other from work are involved. I am not a big fan of instant gratification for the sake of myself, what I call fun would be to spend time being helpful to others, read and musing over life. Which usually contribute to my business’s when I come back to it.

    That said, I know there are some issues I need to solve with my inner child that would really boost my productivity. I’ve yet to know what that is.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Cheers,
    Anh

  27. It’s funny I started having really deep “I don’t trust myself” feelings the last couple of days, and as I tried to figure it out I thought of failures in romantic relationships, failure to sustain healthy habits, failures in school and work… “Surely,” I thought, “I don’t trust myself because I’ve made so many bad decisions. Why should I trust myself?” But you know what? I JUST started yet another business venture yesterday. I want to do it. It’s a product I genuinely love and I’ll be working with people that I admire and want to be around. So it just didn’t occur to me that starting that venture could have possibly been the impetus that started that feeling of lack of faith in myself. But reading this makes the “problem” seem so simple, so natural, so easy and (dare I say it?) FUN to overcome!

  28. I find myself on this emotional roller-coaster. For a short period of time I feel like I can take on the world. Then out of know where all that motivation I had two weeks ago, is gone. I’m at square one trying to figure out what am I doing with my life. I wish I can just finish what I started and stop giving up.

  29. Very good article but at some point you confuse me
    I would say that grown up concept is not very clear to you
    Growing up means loving your inner child as well
    Growing up doesn’t mean you try to be as successful as you can
    That is ego

  30. Hi there

    This has hit me pretty hard. I see myself today in a position where i am bored to my skull with everything around me.I have persued everything “I thought i had to persue, A successful job, property etc” I am actually boring to be around quite honestly. I am afraid of what i may discover

  31. Be yourself or fight yourself. Like the guy here said, there is an inner child within you, that is not your inner child that is you!
    that You makes mistakes, that you maybe stupid, that you may like to make fun of people.
    we are taught to be like this, like that from child.
    be true to yourself. you may worry you’ll do something bad or you are not a good person, maybe due to your past experiences, but you are here today, you fight with yourself everyday because you took the time to think from somebody else’s view point, care about somebody else more, which means you are not a bad person truly, but the other people who may be ignorant, thoughtless or even vicious character do not have mentality to get to this level of thinking. so Chill -be yourself and fuck em.
    be true to who you are.
    the only fear you may have is you are not good enough, or you may do something bad. That is You.
    Be yourself or Fight yourself.

  32. Intriguing article, so different from the usual – and to me useless – motivational pablum I read. I feel it’s true for me. That being said (assuming you still look at comments since the original posting was several years ago), HOW does one get back to really enjoying ‘fun’? I do things I kind of enjoy (movies, read, sing, etc.) but don’t seem to be able to enjoy them at the same levels I used to. I am def. tired of being so serious all the time.

    Also, curious as to how you yourself arrived at this insight? Thanks.

  33. Wow. Peter, I am glad to have seen this. It’s great and the pleasure have someone like you in the society. I would of seen few people like you in Australia, they would make our lifes shine and awesome.
    It’s that we tend to act we are having plans, and are mature and showing care ” I would call it self will”. Becaus in any way We still function brain is in working that we aren’t going to be lost.
    As the lack of confidence I would always have to show I got something for my life toward others or I would be a loser. I like to be free ( I am not going to be lost).
    Thanks Peter and to all who participated.
    Good luck

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