You might be reading this because someone told you – you have trust issues. But what’s that actually mean? How do you know if it’s true? What are the signs of trust issues? What should you do about it?

Maybe you’re reading this because you’ve noticed something in yourself that doesn’t feel quite right. It’s also possible you’re starting to see a pattern developing in your relationships. 

Tough Love Alert:

Maybe you’re beginning to realize you’re hurting yourself (and possibly others).

Whatever “it” is, it derails potentially healthy, fulfilling relationships by sabotaging them. 

You’re bold. 👍

Full respect! Exploring the dynamics of trust in your life will require you to seriously look at yourself with gut-level honesty. 

So, how do you know if you have trust issues? If you have signs of trust issues, how do you overcome them? And how do you begin to enjoy healthy connections and enduring bonds with people in your life? 

  • First, to clarify things, let’s drop the word issues from trust issues and simply examine trust
  • Second, can we agree that trust is the foundation of interpersonal relationships? Wait, isn’t love or something the foundation of relationships? You can love someone but not trust them. You can also trust someone but not love them. Trust is a BIG DEAL all on its own.
  • Third, let’s work from a rock-solid definition of trust. Trust is believing someone is honest, reliable, and dependable. They offer safety and security. Trust has been described as a firm belief in the ability, strength, reliability, and truth of someone or something.[1]

☆ Trust is the doorway all relationship-building thoughts, feelings, and experiences must pass through. ☆

Signs that you might find it difficult to trust people…

You have unacknowledged or unresolved past experiences, including:

  • A parent(s) who was unreliable, was too trusting or didn’t trust others.
  • Acute or chronic trauma, abuse, or neglect during childhood/young adulthood.
  • Circumstances characterized by instability or unpredictability.
  • Lack of support. You felt “forced” to be self-reliant to survive.
  • Betrayal or desertion by someone you trusted.

With others, you tend to do the following:

  • Perceive them as inevitably betraying or hurting you. (Without any justification.)
  • Assume the worst about them. (And not acknowledge positive traits.)
  • Project past wrongs inflicted by others onto trustworthy people.
  • See them as always lying, manipulating, or trying to deceive you.
  • Not distinguish basic human flaws from serious breaches of trust.
  • Need to control their behavior or their perception of you.
  • Sabotage relationships preemptively or to “confirm” your suspicions.

You tend to perceive yourself as:

  • Unrealistically helpless, fragile, weak, vulnerable. (Inferior.)
  • Unrealistically self-sufficient, self-reliant, invulnerable. (Superior.)
  • Undeserving or incapable of emotional or physical intimacy.
  • Undeserving or incapable of a happy, trusting, secure relationship.
  • Unable to be yourself because you fear being “exposed” and rejected.
  • Unable to “calibrate” your trust based on others’ trustworthiness.

Okay. There are 18 researched characteristics of how mistrust can be caused and how doubt shows itself in relationships. These lists are not exhaustive. 

Not everything in these lists will apply to you.

Can you identify with some things on those lists? Are you already connecting some dots? Be bold. Be honest. Consider the role trust plays in your life and how trust plays out in your relationships.

Be gentle with yourself.

Trust can get warped by things you had absolutely no control over in your past. You may not even realize how they’ve affected you and your relationships. Believe me when I say I’m genuinely sorry. Trust me when I say the way forward with healthy trust is something you DO have control over. 

⇨ There might have been some trustworthy people in your life who you couldn’t bring yourself to trust. It’s not a pleasant realization. But you can have “reality-based” relationships built on earned, healthy, mutual trust. ⇦

Addressing Trust Issues: 

Daring To Move From Invulnerable To Vulnerable

1. It starts with you deciding what it looks like for YOU to be a trustworthy person.

Set the bar in your own life. This will be the standard you use to judge the trustworthiness of others. What does this look like? Be honest, reliable, dependable and loyal. Allow yourself to be open and available to the people who count on you. Be the kind of person you would trust.

2. Remember the dynamics of interpersonal relationships.

Individuals who don’t have “trust issues” still have to navigate trust problems. Interpersonal relationships are inherently risky, and that’s okay. Yes, the closer you get to people (and the closer you allow people to get to you), there is a greater chance to be hurt. (Strangers and acquaintances usually aren’t close enough to inflict much damage. But that’s the point – can you find a healthy way to let people deeper into your life?)

3. Learn the difference between healthy boundaries and unwarranted walls.

Emotionally isolating yourself from people is an attempt to protect yourself from hurt. In reality, blocking out potentially hurtful people also keeps out potentially healthy people who could help you and enrich your life. (They both use the same door. Having healthy boundaries is like having a smart, muscular bouncer letting the right people in.)

4. Get in the habit of telling yourself the truth about yourself.

This is your “inner voice.” Use it to speak truth about yourself to yourself. As you become confident and comfortable in your own skin, you’ll approach relationships from a place of hope, not fear.

5. Take it slow with people you don’t know.

If someone hasn’t demonstrated their trustworthiness, don’t invest your thoughts & emotions, your history & hopes in them just yet. Invest yourself in small, appropriate amounts and watch how they respond. 

6. If past traumas create problems in your present life and relationships, get the help you need.

You may need to acknowledge and process some things in your past with the assistance of a professional. Consider this an investment in yourself. [Check out this list of counseling and mental health resources.]

The pain you feel from the people who betrayed and hurt you is real. What you do with that pain is critical. 

You can hold its weight close to your core and allow its gravity to pull on and distort all your relationships. Or you can learn from it and let it go. Sometimes people are deliberately deceptive. Sometimes people change or just turn out to be different than we expected. But some people are honorable and dependable and bring delightful things into our lives. Even though you’ve been burned before, be courageous. Try to make room in your heart for hope.

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” – Carl Bard

Sources:

[1] Effective Engagement Requires Trust and Being Trustworthy

    Trustful Behavior Is Meaningful Behavior

    10 Benefits of Happy Relationships

    Trust In Contemporary Society

    Do You Trust Your Partner? | Psychology Today

    NIMH: Helping Children and Adolescents Cope With Traumatic Events

    Study Explores Trust In Online Gamers’ Psychology

Resources:

How To Tell If Someone Is Trustworthy – First Things First

Trust is a Most Precious Commodity – First Things First

15 Ways: How To Build Trust In A Relationship

4 Things You’re Actually Saying When You Say You Have Trust Issues

Relationship Anxiety: Signs, Causes, & 8 Ways to Overcome

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