Self-Trust: Lead Thyself

Do you trust yourself?

Are you trusted by others?

I’ve had the privilege of speaking to many strong leaders in business, government, finance and education, and asked a question that’s changed my understanding of leadership and the role of trust – particularly self trust.


The question:

“If you had to make an important decision and the information told you one thing but your intuition and gut strongly told you another, what would you do.”

The answer: Every single one of them said that they would listen to their gut.  They also emphasized the importance of gathering data.

Take away:  The best leaders listen wholeheartedly to themselves and to others.

Over and over I’ve heard the story: The ability to trust myself is what made me a leader.   What about you? Do you have deep trust in yourself?


Developing Self-Trust

The Miriam Online Dictionary gives the following synonyms for self trust:  aplomb, assurance, self-assurance, self-assuredness, self-confidence, self-esteem. To me they don’t completely describe or explain what self trust is… and seriously, what the heck is aplomb? (I’m thinking it’s not something that is purple and sweet to eat.)

On a scale of 1 – 10 where would you rate your self- trust right now? Would you like to improve that score?

Here are some things you can do to increase your self-trust.

1. Develop an unconditional positive self-regard.

Carl Rogers, founder of the Humanistic approach to psychology talked about the need for unconditional positive self-regard. It doesn’t mean that you won’t continue to improve yourself, however when you completely accept and love yourself, you open yourself to trusting your instincts and judgments rather than being controlled by others.  You can start by monitoring what you say to yourself.

2. Only promise out loud what you can deliver.

It’s great to set goals and there has been a lot written on the power of focusing on what you want to achieve. What is often overlooked: setting unobtainable goals and failing does to our self-trust.  I don’t want you to quit making BHAGs (Big hairy audacious goals), however I want you to break them into small bite size goals that you can achieve. With each victory you will trust yourself more.

3. Work from your strengths

If my self-trust is build around my ability to write a symphony then I will forever doubt myself. Learn what your strengths are. Instead of trying to improve your weaknesses, build on your strengths and use them to honor your position and what you can achieve in the world. If you don’t know your strengths, then ask those that know you best and have unconditional self-regard for you. Accept your strengths.

Try this “beta version” of SPARK, a wonderful free way to get feedback on your strengths.

4. Be congruent.

Congruence + self-love = Authenticity

Don’t be afraid to show others who you are. It is strength to show your vulnerabilities, not a weakness. Read Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability. When you try to be someone you are not, you are telling yourself that you are not good enough. You come across as being phony and you get the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.

~ Brene Brown ~


Self trust is not arrogance. It is born of knowing yourself and respecting, loving, the person you see in the mirror.

The bottom line: If want to be trusted, learn to trust yourself first. 

Lea Brovedani

About the author - Lea Brovedani

Lea Brovedani, The Trust Architect, is the author of TRUSTED: A LEADER’S LESSON as well as the mini-ebook, Rebuilding Trust (on Amazon Kindle). She is a Preferred Partner in the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Network, speaking and training on this essential ingredient for building vibrant teams and companies. To get Lea to speak at your event or train your organization, contact us!

View more posts from Lea Brovedani

Comments for this article (18)

  • This is one of the favorite pieces that I’ve written since learning to trust myself has been a long and sometimes painful process. I’d really love to hear from others. What about you? Do you trust yourself? If yes, why? If no, why not?

    • Maria says:

      It’s hard to trust oneself when only the self can trust and it isn’t trustworthy. I don’t, I know I should know better and although I do, I don’t feel it. Something is off, as if part of me believe that I don’t deserve trust and so I act accordingly. Thank you for the great article. Time for me to put it to work.

  • Lea, when you say ” Every single one of them said that they would listen to their gut. They also emphasized the importance of gathering data” – but what did they actually do after that? Did they listen to their gut, or take some other direction? Because the things people say – especially in a world so devoid of emotional intelligence – is usually quite different from the things they’ve actually done.

    My work is in direct marketing – and the premise of direct marketing is to get people to respond. In our digital world that means clicks; now a click isn’t a word, it’s an action. And the real power of direct marketing is that you get genuine data. Not just “market research” that tells the boss what he wants to hear. Real, hard, incontrovertible facts from the people who have shown a genuine interest in your product.

    So when it comes to someone trusting me, I put the question the other way around. Is the person I meet capable of trusting me? The moderators on the Emotional Intelligence group are most certainly in this category – if they trusted their group members they’d not need to moderate every comment, would they?

    The people I am truly interested in are those who have the ability to trust me. Depending on their culture or business, it takes but one question from me to divide the sheep from the goats. And in some way or other it comes down to their need for data – or their ability to trust their own judgment.

    • Hi Gemma. Thanks for the comments. I agree with Steven Covey on the different trust areas, self-trust, relational trust, situational trust, organizational trust and societal trust. Are you talking about relational trust? Love to hear from you.

      • Lea,
        the definitions don’t bother me. Essentially you’re trusting them first, and trust is trust wherever it’s found. Each situation has its own unique demands – and if you meet them first, the rest all fits into place.

        If the trust is not at a personal level, then you will need to trust those who act on your behalf. If for example it’s data they’re trusting, did they generate it for themselves – otherwise do they know its provenance? Do they truly trust the people who generated it? Data is too easy for mendacious people to manipulate – and pass off as genuine. The plight of the Eurozone is the result of such gullibility.

  • Christelle says:

    So true. If it doesn’t start with yourself… You can’t practice it in the world

  • Tim says:

    GR8 article and very refreshing. I feel, vulnerability is the place of freedom from pretense and I often think that this state of ourselves could inspire people to trust us at the relational level. I do not know if trust is a capacity or an experience of an individual who becomes aware of a need that can be served through others( awareness of vulnerability but open and transparent to receive help). I am learning that trust is mutual, I have a responsibility to inspire trust in others as much as others have to respond and be open to trust.In a marketing context, it is the brand name that represents the quality/authenticity that draws trust from customers to buy the product/services.

  • Richard says:

    some time we don’t understand we can you talk self esteem

    • If I understand your question you are asking the difference between self-trust and self esteem. It’s a great question. It is common for one to affect the other. Our self trust is based on our ability to be true to ourselves and follow through on what we commit to. It is based on building our confidence in overcoming certain obstacles and consistently doing what we say we will do. Our self-esteem is our perception of ourselves. Self esteem can be affected by social norms and what we believe ourselves to be. Think of poor self esteem sometimes experienced by teenagers. They may have high self-trust but poor self-esteem because of their believed norms of appearance and behavior.
      Does that answer your question?

  • This article was great. I also shared it with others, hoping this will help them too. Thank you

  • elbi says:

    How do I teach this to freshman college students? They will read this, but how can we apply it? They are at a most vulnerable stage: they are coming out of teenage life into adulthood, and trusting themselves is key. Will you suggest an activity to use when teaching this to them? fabulous article.

  • Jaime says:

    Leah, bravo on a wonderful article! I love the Maya Angelou quote and the naked man offering a t-shirt! I have always been empathic and intuitive but people have told me things that are counter-intuitive to what is happening over and over in my life and I made the mistake of trusting them and going against myself. In the end, not trusting myself has been the issue. I like the part of researching too. That is a vital piece for me in terms of trusting my gifts but remaining humble, too. I’m really focused on self trust right now and it’s been uncomfortable to set boundaries and disagree with certain people, but your article really helps! I also appreciate your vulnerability. Namaste, leah!

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