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People Pleasing v. Self-Trust

After my first book, Bars, Dumps, and Other Childhood Hangouts was published a friend asked me this question, “How can you trust anyone after what you’ve experienced?” My response just popped out of my month before I could think and it surprised even me. I told her, “I can only trust others when I know I’m being who they want me to be.” At the time, I didn’t realize what a profound statement this was. But as I thought about it in the coming days and months, I understood that trust was something I needed to examine.

I started examining trust in my life and how my codependent people pleasing nature played into my ability to trust others and myself.

My first book tells the story of the abuse I suffered in the first ten years of my life with my biological family. To keep myself safe from the abuse, I became a people pleaser. This was the best defense I had as a child. I tried to figure out what others wanted and needed. If I gave it to them, I could sometimes keep myself safe. The cost of this safety was that I didn’t learn to focus on or even understand my own needs.

Putting the needs of others, as a child and adult, before my own devalues who I am. Whe

n I don’t value myself, then I can’t really trust myself to care for what I need and want. The encounter with my friend made me think about how I trusted others. Through my recovery journey, I realized self-trust was what I really needed.

Positive Psychology gives five ways to build self-trust. These are the things I continue to work on:

1. Maintain your boundaries

2. Prioritize self-care

3. Keep promises you make to yourself

4. Speak kindly to yourself

5. Be mindful of your emotions

We are all a work in progress. The five ways to build self-trust are all things I continue to work on. Doing these things takes courage. When a person has been pleasing other and ignoring their own needs for most of their life, it takes time to change that behavior. But every journey starts with the first step. I’m happy to say I’ve made many steps on the journey. I can now trust myself and truly trust other people.

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