Trust Yourself, And Drop Those Heavy ‘Shoulds’

“As soon as you trust yourself you will know how to live”

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Trust was proposed by Jon Kabat-Zinn as one of the foundations of mindfulness based stress reduction.  It’s an evocative word, and often we think of trust in relation to others, but here the emphasis is about trusting ourselves. It means developing a relationship with ourselves that honours, sometimes for the first time in a long time, our body, our feelings and our own authority.  Mindfulness training is very much about empowering each of us to listen more deeply to what feels right, to recognize the choices we are making, what we can control and what we can’t.  It’s about clearing a space for our inner wisdom and authenticity to emerge. We spend so much of our lives oppressed by a sense of should – ‘I should be more like that person’, ‘I shouldn’t feel this way’, ‘I should try harder’, ‘my body should be able to do this’, ‘I shouldn’t have these thoughts…’  These ‘shoulds’ contribute to a sense of homelessness, of not feeling at home and comfortable in our own bodies, our emotions and consequently our lives.

It’s a kind of separation from ourselves, carrying inside a little judge telling us how we should be; behave; look; feel or express.  For many of us this lack of self-trust comes from very real voices that told us how to be and what to do as were growing up, often related to our gender, ethnicity, sexuality or socio-economic group.  So much of our experience may have been directed by others, we’re taught to distrust ourselves, encouraged to compare and refer to others in finding our way.  Of course we live in community so negotiating with others, fitting in, compromising sometimes is all part of life.  But isn’t one of our deepest longings for a sense of home in ourselves?  For me mindfulness and self-compassion have been essential companions in finding my way along a path that of course continues to unfold.  Part of developing trust is recognising that life is unfolding, that paradoxically as I let be (see previous blog) I can trust a little more. Each time I tune into my experience of the present moment, whether I’m meditating or cooking or walking down the street, with a willingness to open to what’s here without judgement, I am trusting a little more. And there’s a little more freedom, and a lot more joy.

“Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit” E.E Cummings 

The good news is that our inner worlds are our own.  Our experience belongs only to us, and we can meet it free of shoulds. Each moment lived mindfully is a moment of freedom.  Once we recognise that direct contact with our moment to moment experience is more true than all the thoughts we have about our experience, what emerges is a new possibility : to choose to trust ourselves. We may need to hear into infinity that there is no right or wrong way to be or feel when we’re practicing being mindful – it’s just so hard to believe. Yet this is how it is, because we’re not trying to be anything other than who and how we are right now. And anyway, how can we really be anything else?!  As Oscar Wilde commented “be yourself, everybody else is already taken”. Not always easy, but also wonderfully true and liberating, isn’t it?

 “to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Finally cultivating a trusting relationship with ourselves is a win-win.  We all know the wisdom that we can’t trust others unless we trust ourselves.  Its a kind of inner safety and confidence that makes the whole world seem more trustworthy.  I notice that as I trust myself more I am less dependent on whether others are trustworthy or not, and much more able to walk away from those who I sense I can’t rely on. So may you enjoy trusting yourself a little more, and please hear this as a gentle invitation rather than another should!

 If you need somebody you can trust, trust yourself”
Bob Dylan 

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