Romantic relationships are the most vulnerable relationships we have. Our heart does what it wants, whether it’s good for us or not. This is why building trust in someone is essential if you want to feel less vulnerable.
However, romantic relationships are not alone in causing a vulnerability. Children are very vulnerable because they don’t even know about trust and how to build it. They don’t get to pick their parents. Therefore, they must find their own way to feel emotionally safe and secure, kind of in the “dark”.
We’ll discuss this further when it comes to Self-Esteem in this article.
What is Trust? And How do I Know if I Have That?
We don’t just build trust in romantic relationships. Friendships also involve building trust. The more we let someone in, the more vulnerable we could feel. Therefore, it’s vital that you make good choices in friends, dating, and one day your mate.
The dictionary defines trust as the “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” Trust is built through our experiences in life and our relationships.
If we have learned to feel emotionally safe in our relationships we trust more easily in general. If we’ve been hurt, degraded, let down, abandoned, etc, we learn to not trust anyone easily, if at all.
Trust is believing that the other person will have our back, and will believe in us. They value who we are and come through for us. Their words match their actions.
Understanding Why You Don’t Easily Trust
Believe me. You weren’t born untrusting. It evolves over time. One of my favorite experiments I read about involves a baby whose mom (for the experiment) becomes unresponsive. You quickly see the baby become agitated when he realizes the mom is no longer connecting with him.
In the experiment very soon you see the mom reconnect and the baby returns to his normal and healthy connection with her. Click here if you want to see this experiment.
Relationships begin in childhood. We learn from our parents and their parents in generations going way back. The degree of emotional safety we feel comes from how we feel valued and cared for by our parents. We learn to trust them when their caring for us is healthy and consistent.
That trust we’re born with fades away over time when we feel we can’t trust our parents to meet our needs as a baby or toddler. When this occurs, the baby learns quickly to not expect his needs to be met. This forms a lack of trust with others in our life regardless of our age.
Examples of Past Experiences That Break Trust
- When parents don’t physically or verbally respond to the child.
- Demonstrating inconsistent rules or behaviors.
- Breaking agreements at any age.
- For example, dismissing wants or needs. Click here for an article on this: Not valuing the child’s needs and preferences.
- Causing physical harm to a child.
- Continually criticizing a child or belittling them.
- Often making fun of the child, especially in front of others.
- The negative behaviors are significant at any age but are especially damaging to the child.
How Self-Esteem Affects Our Ability to Trust
The better we feel about ourselves the easier it is to trust others. This is especially true when others demonstrate valuing us, and keeping their word, treating us with respect, etc.
The lower our self-esteem, the harder it is to trust others because of a lack of valuing ourselves. We would be choosing friends and mates with about the same degree of mental health that we have. Therefore, our friends are more likely to struggle with self-esteem and related factors as would we.
The better we feel about ourselves, we will seek other healthy people as friends, lovers, and eventually mates. Click here to read more about how self-esteem affects dating practices: The healthier the self-esteem, the easier it is to choose healthy people and to navigate relationships successfully.
Emotionally healthy people are naturally safer for us because their actions match their words. They are consistent in their behaviors. We feel respected and valued by them, and vice versa.
When we have healthy relationships we tend to build trust in others more easily. In addition, it’s easier to build and sustain trust in ourselves as well.
What if I Don’t Even Trust Myself Sometimes?
Here again, low self-esteem results in difficulty to value and believe in ourselves. If you can examine your strengths and those things that are less healthy, you can make necessary changes. When you do that, your ability to trust yourself and others significantly increase.
The more you trust yourself to make healthy decisions, the healthier is your self-esteem. This leads to emotionally healthy people as friends, dating, and a mate one day.
How to Build Trust in Your Self
Building trust in someone else begins first in trusting yourself. It’s a process that you must bring about consistently over time. You do this by actively doing the things that are healthy for you. Here are some examples:
- First of all, it’s important to value yourself. Even if you don’t like yourself much, give yourself some room to grow. No one is perfect.
- Identify those occasions when you have made good decisions. How did you do that, especially if you normally don’t? Was there some reason or something someone said that made it easier for you to trust your own judgment?
- Begin to make a list of the good decisions you have made in your life. Sometimes we are so hard on ourselves, we forget the good things we also did. That’s human nature.
- With that list, determine if there were certain factors that made it easier for you to trust your own judgment. Keep those factors in mind to use going forward.
- Then, identify those occasions when you chose a less healthy way to go. For example, in looking back, did you stop your education because you were getting a failing grade in one class? Or perhaps you realize that you broke off with a pretty good guy because you didn’t believe in yourself the way he saw you.
- If you regret those decisions from the past, what can you do differently today? I’m not saying you need to look up the guy in your past. But start noticing those people who are healthy. What is it about them that makes them that way? What do they do in their actions or words?
- As an experiment over time, approach some of these people and see what happens. Remember, others never define our own worth. We define our worth. If someone turns you down, it doesn’t define you. It is a preference they had, just like you would feel at times with others.
The How-To for Building Trust in Others
Trust is built over time. Here’s an article on finding the right mate: It’s created by one’s actions, intentions, efforts, etc.
- With your eyes open, see the actions these people take. How does it make you feel? Comfortable, uncomfortable, valued by them?
- Look for consistencies in their behavior. Does their behavior seem to be healthy or unhealthy?
- Look at their decisions. Are they healthy or unhealthy ones?
- Do they seem to be aware of their actions? It’s easier to grow when we are conscious of what works and what doesn’t.
- Is the person open to receiving feedback, especially when it has negatively affected you? Willingness to talk things out is vital for healthy relationships of all kinds.
- Do their words match their actions? This is really important in building trust. How can you trust someone who doesn’t take responsibility for their actions? Or they say one thing and do another?
- Be open to new potential relationships of all kinds. It’s good practice in developing trust. Keep your eyes open and notice how you feel when you are around them.
- Especially with new and potential friends or mates, pay attention to what they say and if they follow through. Often, people say things they are not really going to do. Kind of what I call “social mindlessness”. Personally, I tend to stay a bit distant around those folks.
- Remember, trust is earned over time. It must involve consistent behaviors that you can rely upon and are healthy for you.
- Finally, practice, practice, practice. Skills don’t develop overnight. They are learned and then practiced over time.
Building trust in someone is challenging and takes time. Sometimes it’s really helpful to seek professional guidance, such as a psychotherapist. Often my clients are surprised about all of the good things they can begin to see about themselves. In addition, my clients are learning healthy life skills that aren’t taught in school.
Building trust in others takes time and isn’t always easy. Trust must be earned. Sometimes we may be disappointed in people. Trust is a skill that can be learned and practiced over time. But it’s worth it to have healthy and fulfilling relationships!