I came across this quote again, “Trust yourself, then you will know how to live.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. That is one of those statements. The kind you read, say hmm, and keep on walking, only to hear it resound in your head, turn around and walk back and look at it again. I wonder in truth how many of us trust ourselves? A lot of attention is given to how others betray our trust in them, but how much attention is given to our own trust in ourself? Or maybe, “Do I trust myself?” or “How much do I trust myself?” “Would I trust myself in this or that situation?” Now, admittedly, this may be an exercise in examining your own navel…. Stop here if you think so.
I know one of the biggest turning points in my life was when I had to wrap my brain and heart around the idea that everybody was doing the best they could. That day and every other day. So often in an argument, I would think “Well, why isn’t he or she doing better than they are? How can they not get this?” It didn’t matter what the fight was, really. We saw the situation differently, both of us thought we were right and the other wrong. So many things enter into that equation. Failure to perform up to expectations, failure to recognize when you and I are wrong, failure to apologize, failure, failure, failure. But there is a sting in betrayal that doesn’t show up anywhere else to my mind. “I trusted you.” “I depended on you.” “We had an agreement.” “You let me down.” “You failed.” Ouch.
But what if they truly had done their best that day? They failed. They fell down on the job. They didn’t succeed. But what if they had done the best they could do that day, that situation? What would that feel like then? If you could take a moment, stand to the side and just observe. And, what if they really had given their best? Maybe not their best of all time, but their very best they were capable of on that particular day at that particular time? Then what? Would you still feel the same feeling of betrayal? I do not see how you could. If, in all honesty, they had given their very best, what more could you ask of them? Do you know anyone who is not giving their best, who is not trying to do the best they can? Do you approach a situation or a problem and say, hmm, I have to solve this, I have to do something about this, but I’m going to do a half-ass job? Really? About something you care about? Someone you care about?
So, how much more should we trust ourself? You can’t blame it on communication. I mean, if ever there was clear communication it would have to be between you and yourself, yes? Ah, but then we can get into all those hide and seek games of psychology. Not interested in that today. Ideally, all inner thought would be clear and sharp, but so often it isn’t. We conceive of an ambition or a goal and then talk ourselves out of it. We blame others for our self doubt. We want to do something and we stop, maybe think it through, argue with ourselves, “Should I?’ “Shouldn’t I?” “I deserve this.” “I want more than this.” ‘This is all there is.”
I have made some big mistakes. Some true whoppers. I have real regrets for things I have done or said and I try very hard never to repeat those. But, here’s the thing. At the time I made those mistakes, I never meant to. They were honest failures on my part. But because I made that mistake or those mistakes, I find it hard to trust myself, much less others. Because even with my very best intention, I blew it and I live with that self-knowledge. Mind, I’ve done really good things as well. Some really great things or acts of kindness or bravery or hard work. They just never get quite the same attention as do my failures and maybe those good aspects of ourselves should get more attention, if possible. Regardless of outcome, I put in the same effort. What if I trusted that I had done my best that day or that time? Maybe I didn’t know enough or as much as I know today, but at that time, that day I did my best. And, what if he or she did too?