I asked questions about self-trust to Michelle Hurlburt, Founder, CEO, and Life & Leadership Coach at 3DLife Inc.
In this interview, she talks about the causes of a lack of self-trust, the first steps people can take to start trusting themselves, and the habits we can all do to maintain that self-trust.
Her answers are educational, insightful, and inspiring. They will hopefully help you unlearn misconceptions you have about this important topic.
Here is what Michelle wrote:
1. How would you define self-trust, and what is your relationship with it?
I believe self-trust has three main components:
Understanding and believing deep down that you ultimately know what’s best for you – over and above everyone else – and that the answers to all your questions lie within you. (and if they don’t – that you can find them out)
Being able to make decisions (even when they’re hard) and follow-through on the actions you want/need to take to live true to yourself.
Allowing yourself to feel and work through the ups and downs of life - feel the emotions - knowing you will come out on the other side a stronger, more compassionate, and a better version of yourself.
My relationship to self-trust has been a long and arduous one. When I was younger, I looked for the validation and approval of others, and I rarely considered myself as the go-to person for the answers I was looking for (except for a couple intuition/gut feeling experiences between the ages 18 and 38 that I actually did listen to). But I didn’t trust myself for the longest time. I was on autopilot – driven by my lack of self-awareness, my limbic system and brain stem. I labeled many of my wants and desires as needs, especially when they were associated with friendships and romantic relationships. As a result, I made a lot of mistakes, burned some bridges, and abused a lot of alcohol. I just didn’t trust that I was enough. I chased perfectionism, leaned heavily on overachievement to establish my value, and strived to please everyone. I had an insatiable drive to somehow prove to myself and others that I was “worthy”.
I finally hit a wall when I was about 39 (and yes, alcohol was involved), and I thought, “I can’t do this anymore - there has to be a common denominator as to why I keep getting in the same binds” – and there was. My lack of self-knowledge and my lack of trust in my inherent value and worth kept leading me to look for it outside of myself.
That’s when I decided to withdraw from life (a bit) and start my journey toward figuring out who I truly am and who I want to be in this lifetime. It’s been a challenging, emotional, eye-opening trip - but AMAZING too. It’s led me to where I’m now at in my life and who I am as a human being. I’ve never been clearer, more confident, nor more committed to myself and my life purpose as I am at this moment in time. And I know it’s just going to get better and more incredible.
2. How can you tell when someone doesn't trust themselves?
Based on my experience, education, and intuition, some of the signs are:
The NEED for external reassurance, approval, and validation – sometimes making you do or say things you regret or don’t feel good about. (you may even feel ASHAMED)
Second-guessing yourself and what you want – not being sure about what you should do or who you should be. (this indicates a lack of SELF)
Not making decisions for your life unless you’ve passed it by multiple people. (who may or may not be close friends or family)
FOMO (fear of missing out) thoughts that drive you to do things – even when it’s something you don’t really want to do.
Having very few (or no) limits and boundaries – people-pleasing, saying Yes all the time, and then often kicking yourself in the ass after you do.
Trying to meet everyone else’s expectations or live up to what you believe they want from you, but not having your own expectations of or standards for yourself.
3. What could cause a lack of self-trust?
The foundational beliefs we develop about ourselves and the world around us are formed between the ages of 0 and 7. So it’s not like we have much control over what we learn to believe or understand at that point. Even as adults, we’re often unaware of these auto-pilot habits and beliefs. (unless we do the work, of course)
As a result, a lack of self-trust can be caused by many factors that all play a tremendous role on whether we develop self-trust as we grow. Including, but not limited to, the following:
How we were raised and the beliefs our caregivers expressed – both verbally and non-verbally (the adage, “actions speak louder than words” comes into great influential play here)
Our cultural and societal influences and norms
The types of environments we experienced during our school careers – open, trusting, encouraging, and flexible versus closed, distrustful, discouraging, and rigid
How people have treated us – with lots of love, nurturing, and support or little-to-no love, nurturing, and support
The experiences we had when taking risks – if we felt it paid off or that it failed
While these are just some of the factors that may impact how our self-trust develops (or not), they don’t dictate that we can never learn to trust ourselves. Obviously, there are many things beyond our control when we’re children, and while that stuff can follow us into adulthood, we can make a conscious effort to unlearn what isn’t serving us, understand it, and grow from it so that self-trust becomes one of the skills we can call upon when we need it.
4. What first steps can people take to start trusting themselves?
First, make the decision to start the self-trust change for YOU and for YOUR life.
Secondly, give yourself permission to imagine what YOU want and who you want to be in your life. At this time, keep the HOW at bay – just DREAM. (without worrying about how it will happen)
Then, reflect on what’s serving you and what’s getting in your way in life (i.e. personal habits, people – including friends, family, colleagues, etc., your job, and self-talk thoughts). Do more of what is helpful to you. Do less or let go of what is unhelpful.
Also, start listening to yourself when it’s time to make a decision. You have the answers within you – but you must learn to pay attention. In the wise words of James Clear in his book Atomic Habits, “Start small, small, small.” Practice this step on less consequential decisions before moving on to bigger ones. But practice. Practice. Practice.
Next, like focusing on smaller decisions first, start taking small risks to get out of your comfort zone. Try something new or get back into doing something you used to enjoy that you haven’t done for a long time, for example.
Finally, when you’re fearful of something – ask yourself – is this a real or imagined fear? If it’s real, look back on what you imagined for yourself and use your enhanced listening-to-yourself skills to decide what the best option is for you. If it’s an imagined fear, do the same thing. Ask yourself, “How does doing this ‘thing’ move you closer to who you want to be in this lifetime?” and listen to your gut to help you choose your next step.
5. What habits can people do to maintain that self-trust?
Great question! Let me share a little disclaimer here before I make some suggestions: The following habits, routines, and practices may or may not be for everyone. Each one of us, as we explore and learn more about ourselves, will discover tools and strategies that fit our unique personality and interests. But here are a few that I personally use and that I know have been helpful to clients I’ve worked with:
Mindfulness-based and mind-body connection practices such as yoga, deep breathwork, and being in nature
Challenge your self-talk thoughts (you really don’t have to believe everything you think)
Ask yourself daily, “Why NOT me?
Find something you LOVE to do – then block off time for it and do it regularly
Stop asking others what you should do – there’s a difference between asking for help because you need it and seeking validation and approval
Make small steps toward having a conversation with anyone who undermines your self-trust to let them know how you feel or let them go (surround yourself with people who believe in you instead)
6. What tools would you recommend for people who want to learn more about self-trust?
We live in a world where information is literally right at our fingertips – we can Google just about anything and get an “answer”, and there is myriad of blogs, YouTube channels, and social media accounts out there to choose from when looking for information. But not everything that comes up is reliable or real. That’s why I’m such a big proponent of making sure that what I read and watch, and who I listen to come from reliable sources - people who have clearly done the work so they can provide the best knowledge, expertise, information, suggestions, insights, and practices to their audience. I certainly encourage your audience to do the same. That being said, my self-trust recommendations are:
Dr. Nicole LePera is a psychologist in California and focuses on the concept of self-healing through reflection, journaling, and meditation especially for those who have experienced trauma in their life (and let’s face it, most of us have at one point or, unfortunately, on an ongoing basis). Learning to trust yourself is part of the healing process. She can be found on Instagram at @the.holistic.psychologist or you can visit her website: https://theholisticpsychologist.com/. She has recently written a book called, How to Do The Work. (I highly recommend it!)
Dr. Brené Brown is a vulnerability and shame researcher and professor in Texas, and her work was what started me on my own self-awareness and self-trust journey almost a decade ago. The very first book of hers I read was, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t): Making the Journey From ‘What Will People Think’ to ‘I Am Enough’. I can’t express how grateful I am for that book. I also highly recommend doing a deep dive into her website to check out her other books, podcasts, and offerings: https://brenebrown.com/
I’m also in love with the brain and neuroscience, so this HuffPost blog written by Dr. Elisha Goldstein struck home with me when I read it: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-neuroscience-of-learn_b_4844774.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my 3DLife™ Clear, Confident & Committed 1:1 coaching program for educators! This personal growth journey has helped my clients dig deep to develop a greater understanding of who they are and what they want in life, as well as learn to trust themselves at a much higher level. To learn more, check out my website: 3dlifeinc.com
Michelle Hurlburt is the Founder, CEO and Life & Leadership Coach at 3DLife Inc., a personal and professional growth and well-being company for educators.
Her vision is to help 100 growth-driven educators each year to get off autopilot mode, prioritize their well-being, and create a 3DLife™ so they can lead with purpose, live a meaningful life, and have a massive impact on their students and the world around them.
She is an educator with 18+ years of experience, an expert in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), and a serial entrepreneur. Michelle has been using her personal journey, unique perspectives, in-depth questioning skills, and insatiable drive for growth to help people "suck the marrow out of life" (Thoreau) as a personal and professional coach for the last 5+ years.
Her vision and mission to support educators to become the best version of themselves, and to feel effective, valued, and fulfilled in this lifetime gets her out of bed - inspired, motivated, and ready to build a 3DLife™ world - every day.
You can connect with Michelle through her website 3dlifeinc.com and her social media pages:
Facebook — @3DLifeMichelle
LinkedIn — @michellehurlburt
Instagram — @3dlifeinc
Twitter — @Michelle3DLife
About the interviewer
My name is Jeff Monnery, a videographer and documentarian whose mission is to ensure people are given the choice to make positive changes toward self-empowerment. I am the founder of Spoken Out Stories, a video series about stories of people who lived a hard experience in their life, and found their way to move forward with courage, determination, and optimism.
You can connect with me through my social media pages:
Instagram — @jeffmonnery
Twitter — @jeffmonnery
Facebook — @JeffMonnery
LinkedIn — @jeffmonnery
About An Unlearning Initiative
An Unlearning Initiative is an interview series of people sharing the experience and expertise on various topics around mental health, self-empowerment, empathy, and love.
It is about giving others diverse perspectives from around the World to help unlearn misconceptions and enlighten people toward a better understanding of what is around them.
You can connect with An Unlearning Initiative through these social media pages:
Instagram — @anunlearninginitiative
Twitter — @AnUnlearning
Facebook — @anunlearninginitiative