Signs You’re Not Trusting Yourself Enough (And What to Do About It)

I'm Rishma!

Naturopathic Doctor & PhD turned scientific creative, travel adventurer, joy seeker, book lover, mom of two amazing humans, wife to her best friend. 

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“What do you do when you look back at your life, say the past year, and you think you made the wrong choices. At the time you thought they were intentional but now you know they’re not? And now you’re trying to course correct but you’re not sure if you know how. Maybe it’s a lack of self confidence. I’m thinking, will I ever be able to make a good decision again?”

This was a question someone asked me at a workshop I was giving and it really got me thinking. 

How do we move forward after feeling like we’ve made poor decisions in the past?

Let me first tell you that we’ve all done this, even me who spends all this time reading and researching on this subject. We’re never going to be 100% fully aware of the things we need in any one moment. And we’re never going to be able to be conscious about all of the things that influence our decisions. That’s just how we’re wired as humans, we’re going to make decisions, subconsciously, we’re going to make decisions reactively and the question is – how do we now make different choices going forward? 

Welcome to the XO Conversations Podcast. I’m your host Dr. Rishma Walji. Welcome to the XO Conversations Podcast. This is your go-to podcast for all things personal growth and intentional living. I’m your host Dr Rishma Walji.  And if you’re working through a decision right now, you need to grab my free guide – it’s my 5 go-to, must-ask questions for any complicated decision. You can get it free at

So before we jump into trusting yourself, I want to say that it’s not easy to trust yourself. I mean so much of my work is about how we tend to react instead of respond and I tell people, you’re making most of your decisions on auto-pilot, based on your past experiences, and your fears, and your old habits. So of course if you’re always looking for ways to change and improve, it’s going to feel like you can’t trust yourself. 

I’ve even said that sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between our intuition or our gut feelings and something maybe that’s holding us back, like fear.

  • Oh I don’t want to try that new job because what if I fail. Oh my gut is telling me not to speak up, but maybe it’s not my gut, maybe it’s that I don’t want to embarrass myself. Right? 

So why am I doing an episode about trusting yourself? Because on the journey to intentional living, and intentional decision making, at some point we have to know ourselves. We have to know what we want. We have to learn what things hold us back and eventually we have to reprogram our minds to differentiate between fear-based hesitation and genuine intuition. 

It’s about understanding the deeper layers of our emotions, our past experiences, and how they shape the choices we make in life. 

We need to start to rebuild that trust in ourselves, to recognize that while not every decision will be perfect, each one is a step in learning more about who we are and what we truly want. 

How To Know You’re Not Trusting Yourself:

I have 6 ways to know that you’re not trusting yourself, and then later I’ll go over some things you can do to start trusting yourself again.

1. You’re Always Saying Yes (Even When You Want to Say No)

Some people call it people-pleasing – where you want to make sure others are happy, and that they like you, and that they’re not upset with you. So you end up doing things for them, that you might not otherwise want to do. The more we do that, the more we lose our own self esteem. It’s almost like we’re silencing ourselves, for someone else. 

But I think it’s deeper than that. Maybe you say YES because you don’t want to make people feel bad, you feel a sense of obligation (that’s a thing for me, as a South Asian culture). Or maybe it feels impolite, like you’re being rude. Sometimes we say yes genuinely because we think we can do something but then we realize later that we’ve overextended and we actually can’t keep up with everything. 

Sometimes we say YES because people need us. My kids, my parents, my in-laws. That’s not people pleasing, that’s love, that’s support. 

But does that still mean that I should say YES when I’m tired, or when I’m emotionally drained? And maybe we need to learn how to balance their needs with our own, but I’d argue that regardless of the reason, there’s probably many instances where if you’re saying yes instead of no. 

And when we do this, no matter the reason, it ends up eroding our sense of self. It ends up shrinking our sense of wholeness. I remember when I was in the thick of a giving season of my life, not so much for people pleasing but more where I thought everyone needed me, I used to say ‘everyone wants a piece of me’ and then it was hard to find any pieces left. 

After this, check out my episode on boundaries – saying no in a world that expects a yes.

2. Decisions Feel Overwhelming

Some decisions are big, and complicated.  So it would make sense that it’s hard. And it would make sense that you need more time to work through them. 

But if many decisions in your life feel daunting, you might be stuck in analysis mode. It’s a fine line because there are times when we need to pause, and reflect, and figure out what we really want. But then in order to get what we want, we also need to take action, and make change. Even if it’s not perfect, which it’s not going to be. We need to iterate and try and learn and experiment. 

And when decisions become too overwhelming, we get stuck not doing anything. And often, it’s because we don’t want to make a mistake, we don’t want to do the wrong thing. 

Here’s the way I get the courage to move forward. I remember that decisions are not final. Most of the time, we can change our mind, try something else, or change plans. And when we do make mistakes, or make the wrong decisions, we need to cultivate an ability to be resilient, to get back up, to make it right, to try again. 

I have a few episodes on this too, like the one on pushing too hard, or the one coming up next time on unpacking complex decisions.

3. Doubt Creeps into Every Thought

If you’re always doubting yourself, it’s usually connected to a few things. You might be thinking of the world in a skewed way, it’s called cognitive distortion.  

Cognitive distortions are essentially flawed patterns of thinking that can distort our perception of reality. They’re like lenses that color our view of the world and ourselves, often in a negative way.  

You make a mistake at work and think, “I always mess up. I’m terrible at my job.”  

Or you have a disagreement with a friend and think, “This is it. They’re going to end our friendship. I always ruin relationships.”

After receiving feedback on a project, you think, “If it’s not perfect, it’s a complete failure.”

Instead we need to put it into perspective, Is it really true that everyone thinks you’re incompetent? Could there be an alternative explanation?

If you struggle with this too, check out my episode from season 1 on how to be more optimistic.

4. You’re Constantly Seeking Approval

You want other people to validate your choices, your thoughts, your emotions. Do my friends like my partner? Does my family like my outfit? Do other people think I should take this job? We all have this, we want to be liked and accepted and we want others to agree with us, and support us, and approve of us. 

But when you’re looking for other people to validate your choices, you start making choices for them, and not for yourself. 

6. Your Inner Critic is in Charge

We all have some negative talk. The inner critic will say things like you’re not good enough, you’re too pushy, people will laugh at you, you never do anything right. It’s mean, it’s abusive even – we would never talk like that to others, but we’ll say those things to ourselves. 

The worst part is, we believe it. We feel like we really don’t deserve love or happiness and that leads to feeling like we shouldn’t trust ourselves. 

So what do we do about all this? 

1. Recognize what you’ve been through

I’ve noticed over 20 years of working with patients that often when people don’t trust themselves, it’s because they’ve had something happen to them in the past. They had some kind of pain, hurt, trauma.  So of course, you don’t want that to happen again. 

Part of trusting yourself again is recognizing and acknowledging your history, and the pain, and what you’ve been through.  How it impacted you. And how you want to move forward with it. You can’t always let it go completely, but you can change the effect it has on you, the impact it has on you.  

It’s not that you can just think it away, sometimes it takes some advanced techniques that target your subconscious mind but whenever I’ve worked with someone through something they’re holding on to, they say they feel lighter and more at peace with their future.

2. Prioritize values over goals

If you’re having trouble trusting your decisions or your ability to reach certain milestones and goals and achievements, try prioritizing your values instead of your goals. 

Often when we don’t think that we can do something, or we feel like a goal is out of reach, or we don’t have the confidence to move forward, it stops us from trying. 

If you can focus on your values, why you want to move forward, what’s important to you in life, then it allows you to practice trusting yourself with things that aren’t going to let yourself down. As long as you’re acting with integrity, you’re not failing. 

3. Give yourself a break

I don’t mean a literal break, although that’s good too. I mean an emotional break. We can be so hard on ourselves. And the more we beat ourselves up about how ‘I should have done that’ or ‘I can’t believe I did that’, the harder it is to trust yourself. You’re essentially training your brain that you can’t get anything right. 

Why are we so hard on ourselves? Usually it’s because we’ve internalized voices over the years. Voices that are telling us to get better, or what we’re doing wrong, or how we’re too old or too young.  

It’s interesting, in all my years of talking to people about self-compassion and their inner critical voice, I keep hearing the same things over and over again. The critical voice is repetitive, and contradictory, and flat out wrong. 

Practice giving yourself some love. A pat on the back. Forgiveness. Understanding. 

I did a more in depth episode on this, it’s called stop the self-sabotage cycle

4. Be an explorer

When you’re learning to trust yourself again, it can be scary to think that you might make mistakes. So start off expecting that you don’t know everything. That it’s OK to make mistakes because you’re learning. Take small steps. 

If you’ve ever been hiking, think of it this way. When you’re climbing up a rocky path you don’t just run. You step on a stone, check if it’s stable and then put your weight on it. If you reach the end of a path, you turn around.  You’re not looking to be perfect. You’re just trying to explore. 

5. Actively Build Your Confidence

It’s one thing to take small steps and try but if you want to really get better at trusting yourself, you have to actually believe in yourself.  And sure that can come with time and patience but I think it comes more easily with active training.  What I mean is that you need to do proactive steps to build your self confidence – knowing that you can do it, that you can recover from a misstep, that you can bounce back from a set back. And that happens only with conscious effort. You essentially have to surround yourself with evidence that you are trustworthy. Some people do affirmations, or journaling. For me, I try to find something that proves what I want to believe. And then I bombard myself with that evidence until I start believing it.

BONUS tip.

Be aware of your emotions.  Sometimes we confuse intuition and trusting ourselves and gut feelings with things that hold us back, like fear or pain or embarrassment.  Being honest with yourself about what you’re feeling can really help you to differentiate what is a reaction and what is in true alignment with your values and your ideals. 

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Travel adventurer, joy seeker, book lover

Hi, I'm Rishma.
Your BFF + New
Life Strategist.

I ran a thriving healthcare practice as a Naturopathic Doctor and Acupuncturist for over 20 years. I also earned my PhD and spent time in academic research and teaching positions. Now, I read scientific studies because I'm passionate about personal growth. I use the insights to help me, and our community, live our own XO life.

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