Trust is a tricky thing, and it becomes even more complicated for those of us who have been hurt in the past. For those of us who have ever felt used, lied to, or have found that someone we believed in was never who they claimed to be. Trust is a difficult thing to hold on to after life has given us reason after reason to be skeptical of those around us, and even of ourselves.. After all of this, we begin to associate trust with naivety. Some of us decide that to trust is a weakness; that if we put our faith into someone again, we’ll end up looking like a fool.

How can we learn to trust again without feeling so vulnerable or naive?

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts the other day, and the episode I came across was a lecture by Dr. Jordan Peterson, called “Structuring Your World View”. Before I continue on with this post I want to say that I can not recommend Dr. Peterson’s lectures enough! As a psychologist, he has some amazing insights to share, and this episode in particular gave me the clarity I needed when I found myself in a hazy place. He is one of my inspirations for pursuing a degree in psychology and becoming a therapist.

One phrase that Jordan Peterson said in this lecture stuck with me, and that is “You trust people because you are courageous.”

The reason why I believe this is so crucial to understand is because when I have been brave enough to trust in others and even myself, some amazing things have happened. The decision to trust has undoubtedly led to more opportunities, from forming new and valuable relationships to discovering my own capabilities. Even if it’s intimidating to put yourself in such a vulnerable place, it is absolutely worth it to take the leap.

In contrast, the times where I have been the most unhappy are in no doubt the times where I let a cynical, distrustful mindset take over. That is exactly what has happened to me in the past. I found myself choosing to stay in my inner circle because of the poor experiences I had with letting new people in. Although we begin to see choosing wariness over trust as a defense mechanism, becoming too distrustful of others can lead to a path of loneliness and missed chances. Although I’ve never been on the extreme side of this, I have known people who have let their past hold them back from jumping in to new relationships or experiences. It’s hard to see the people you care about lose faith in others, especially when you know that they how much happier they could be if they would learn to trust others.

That’s not to say that we should put blind faith into anyone and anything, but we can’t keep our walls so high that no one can ever find a way in.

I like to think of it as this way. You may not always know whether or not your decision to trust someone is worth it, but you’ll never know if you don’t give it a chance. If every time a new person came into our lives and we shut them out, we might be missing out on a new great friend, a significant other, or someone who simply enhances our life. Likewise, we will never know what kind of impact we could have made on them, either.

No matter how daunting it may feel to put ourselves in a place where we feel uncertain or afraid, it’s essential that we never mistake trust as a weakness. To trust again doesn’t make you weak; for some of us, it’s the bravest choice we can make.

Changing The Way You Define Happiness

What does it mean for you to be happy?

For many of us, happiness is something we chase every day of our lives. Our own definitions of happiness are described by a list of achievements and assets we desire to call our own, and even after we reach these goals, the list seems to reach beyond infinity.

It means having the ideal body, obtained by endless hours of pushing ourselves to the limit in the gym, followed by scrutinizing our bodies in the mirror until we find something new to ‘fix’.

It means creating the perfect facade in our online profiles to convince our family and friends that we are living our absolute best lives. Sometimes we do this by posting pictures from last years spring break with the biggest smiles on our faces, or by flaunting how insanely in love we are with our significant other.

It means landing our dream jobs, often because they have higher salaries, and the feeling we get when we can finally say “Look, I made it!”.

We tell ourselves that it will not hurt to chase these goals and successes, certain that once we reach the next step we will finally be happy and content with ourselves. Just one more pound, just one more time, just one more day spent doing something we don’t want to do in hopes of creating a better future. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with pursuing any of these goals- in fact, a great sense of pride can be accomplished in working towards a better version of ourselves. This drive to better ourselves is what we need to keep ourselves moving.

The problem is that in constantly finding things to change about ourselves, our definition of happiness becomes perfection. By thinking that what we have in the moment is never enough, we are condition ourselves to think that we can never be happy in the present moment.

This is when it becomes necessary to draw the line between maintaining a healthy amount of motivation and chasing an unrealistic state of perfection. Because obsession with the distant future plants a seed in our mind that is difficult to uproot. It leaves us in a constant state of unease, trapped by the belief that we can never be happy by simply loving ourselves and our lives for the way we are now.

Sometimes it takes stepping back and assessing our current situation to realize what is worth pursuing, and why exactly we want to pursue these goals. Are we seeking change because of an intrinsic motives, or extrinsic motives? In other words, is it because it will bring us joy- or because we are seeking validation from others? Once we identify the true reasons we want to change, we can determine whether or not it will provide us with long lasting happiness.

The best way to find happiness is to stop associating it with perfection, and start associating it with peace of mind. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that it is okay for each of us to move at our own pace and choose the paths in life that we wish to take. Is is not until we learn to accept ourselves and our current condition, flaws and all, that we can finally be happy.