Learning to trust ourselves is all about follow-through
As Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, “Self-trust is the first secret of success.”
Yet many of us are missing this.
Sure, we know what not trusting ourselves feels like. It’s feeling like we’re not good enough. It’s our inner critic having free reign to criticize, guilt and shame us. It’s hiding what we truly want. It’s being stuck and frozen when making a decision.
When we don’t trust ourselves, it’s harder to trust those around us. And we build trust by following through and doing what we say we’re going to do. Often, we can be awesome at following through for others—loved ones, friends, work colleagues—anyone who provides us with validation.
Following through for ourselves, not so much.
A men’s circle can change this. We bring attention and focus to the places we aren’t showing up for ourselves. We hold each other accountable for the times we don’t follow through and ask “What’s up with that?”
We also challenge one another to chase more-audacious goals and fight for them.
For years, I secretly nurtured an ambition to write some of the stories in my head, but never possessed the courage to act on it. Then, in summer 2020, the men of this circle gathered around the fire in my Marsh Lake backyard. The easy camaraderie and trust of these particular friendships—plus the liquid courage of a fine scotch—propelled me into sharing an epic, fictional tale of how a family from Fermeuse spread out across the country, helped overthrow the Government of Canada, and installed the “United States of Newfoundland.” The group was mesmerized by the story I’d carried in my head for over a decade.
The group was mesmerized by the story I’d carried for over a decade. Afterwards, one guy asked where I’d seen this—was it a film or a TV show?
“I made it up,” I replied. “It’s an idea for a novel.”
He grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. “It’s brilliant! You need to write this.”
Now knowing my secret, somewhat audacious ambition, the men brought their curiosity to bear on it. Tiny, brave sparks of courage, unadorned by alcohol, began to smoulder.
Tonight, 11 men faced off against me. A line of rope lay at my feet. I was tasked with defending this rope, this line on the floor. The rope represented my goal for the upcoming quarter.
Earlier that evening I declared I would write every single day, for at least 30 minutes, for the next three months. It must be creative writing, a story—not something I had to write, not writing for my job, not writing in my journal, not an article.
I also shared the top-three distractions that would hinder me: giving time and energy away to others by not letting go of work on evenings and weekends, and numbing by binge-watching TV and scrolling social media.
Embodying one of my distractions, Charlie was the first to approach and attempt to cross my line. “I need your help, Michael. I’m sad. Come cheer me up. Let’s hang out. Do something fun.”
He danced before me, side to side, then darted to my left. I threw all my weight into forcing him back. “No! You can handle this. Ask Jeet or Greg to hang out instead. I need to write!”
Warren sprang forward and barrelled into me. “Throw down your pen and paper! I’m a depressing British police show! I’ve won awards!” Laughter made it harder to hold my ground, plus Warren had better moves, twisting out of my grip several times and making another attempt to slide past me.
“You’ll still be there when I’m done writing. No TV until I write!” I protested.
“But … everybody’s watching me! I’ve got seven whole seasons! And a corrupt cop!”
“No!” I pushed him back. The rope moved, but wasn’t crossed. My goal was defended and I possessed a stronger, more-tangible sense of how hard I needed to protect it.
Each man named his goal, that night, and then defended it from the rest of us … each taking turns to embody the distractions and obstacles that would derail us.
Three months later, with the support of the circle to check-in with and hold me accountable, I’d written every single day, and the men celebrated my achieving this goal. I was one step closer to writing my novel.
Are you feeling low in self-trust? Do you want to turn this around?
Try this exercise: Do the same simple thing, for yourself, at exactly the same time, every single day. Try getting up earlier, wiping the bathroom sink, prepping a packed lunch, 10 minutes of meditation, or walking for 30. As long as it’s just for you and no one else. Do this at the same time, every day, no matter what.
We can struggle with the self-discipline it takes. In a life filled with “shoulds” and “have to’s,” we can default to letting ourselves off the hook; yet, consistency builds habits—and also self-trust.
Do this for 30 days and see if trust in yourself has improved.
Do it for 60. How do you feel now?