28 min read

The Art of Trust

I realize now that what I really wanted was to outsource the work of really seeing people. But seeing people, and I mean really seeing them, can't be outsourced.
The Art of Trust
Photo by Alex wong / Unsplash

Trust feels fragile, doesn't it?

Hard to build. Easy to break.

We're sure they care about us, but would someone who cares about me do that?

We're sure we know exactly who they are - until they do something that tells us otherwise.

"A person's word is their bond."

"If they'll lie about one thing, they'll lie about anything."

"Once a cheater, always a cheater."

The list goes on.

How long does it take to start questioning the people we care about?

Questioning our own judgment?

Questioning what steps to take, when.

When to believe, what to believe, and how we know we're right for believing it.

Anyone will tell you what trust is.

How to bend it. How it breaks.

No one tells you how to protect it from the natural wear and tear of humans being human.

And no one teaches you the art of trusting yourself.

If trust is the glue that holds interpersonal relationships together, what happens when it's challenged or broken?

How does the relationship keep from falling apart?

How do we repair it? How do we move on? Forgive?

Is it ever okay to forget?

How do we keep our faith in humanity? Our faith in ourselves?

Trust is a fragile thing...

Until we redesign it to start working for us.

The Death of Trust

I'm going to give you a full guide on how to trust yourself and the people around you. But for any of it to make sense, I first have to tell you how I figured it out.

We can say I grew up under tyrannical rule. Trust in that house meant to do what was expected of me - including telling the truth. If I didn't, I wasn't trustworthy. And to be clear, I didn't get a say in what was expected of me.

It wasn't up to me to decide who I wanted to be. What I wanted to do. What I wanted to think. And if I got caught skirting the rules there was hell to pay. But the conditioning stuck.

As a young adult, I had the most rigid outlook on trustworthiness and lying out of anyone I knew.

And I judged others based on them doing exactly what I expected of them, based on my moral compass and mine alone. They didn't get a say.

It's funny how we become the things that hurt us without even realizing it, isn't it?
Anyway, I held up to my own expectations by that point. I was audaciously honest with my friends & significant others. I was transparent. And I had an honesty code.

There was no such thing as me being dishonest with my circle unless I was protecting someone else. Even then, it better be something worth lying for because you're fucking with my favorite possession: my integrity.

If there was something I was considering doing, I'd ask myself, "am I willing to say it out loud?"

If the answer was no, I wouldn't do it. Plain and simple.

I'd find another solution that wouldn't require me to lie. Trying to do it and not get caught wasn't even an option I toyed with or considered.

Needless to say, I had an easy enough time gaining the trust of others, in the sense that people didn't have to spend much time guessing with me. My word wasn't questioned. "If Tori said that's what happened, that's what happened."My word was my bond. It was the most powerful possession I owned and I protected it over everything.

I was loyal to "the truth" over everything.

If you wanted to know how I felt about you all you had to do was ask. Didn't matter if I hated you or was in love with you, either way, you're getting a straight answer. If we were dating, I didn't have an issue telling you where I was, or who I was with. You want to see my phone? I'll hand it right over.

I might not be doing things you like, but I wasn't doing anything I wasn't willing to have a conversation about. That - to me - is what mattered. That was the difference between honest and dishonest people. And I was as honest as they came.

Being trustworthy wasn't just about speaking the truth, though. It was also about behavior.

Do you behave in a trustworthy manner (the way I've defined it)? Or do you behave in a way that makes me insecure, and that causes me and the people around me harm? By the time I was 22, I had a rigid, black-and-white sense of right and wrong.

You don't lie. You don't steal. You don't cheat. You earn respect. Etc.

But it got more granular.

You apologize exactly this way or you didn't mean it.

You treat people you love exactly that way or you didn't mean it.

The truth is exactly this thing. It's not up to perception.

If what you did doesn't line up with exactly what you said, you must be lying.And when anyone I cared about acted outside of my moral compass, they could expect me to hold them accountable.

And by hold accountable, I mean I would bully them into agreeing that they were fucked up for whatever "wrong" they were doing.

I wasn't trying to be a bully. To me, it was "tough love". That's what I'd been taught. You fight the people you love to be the best version of themselves. That's what accountability looks like. Fighting. Calling it out.

I was loving people the best way I knew how. By bullying them to protect them from themselves. Whatever the hell that means.

I'd claim that it's not that hard to be a good person and follow the rules of good people. And that if they found it difficult the only reason could be that something's wrong with them. Not me for speaking the truth.

"You don't like the truth? Change it. Don't get mad at me for saying it out loud."

I was ruthless. If anyone called me mean or implied I was mean, I was deaf to it.

They're victim shaming. I knew what right & wrong was. And I was in the right. That's what mattered.

Nobody ever warned me that being so "right" would eventually feel so wrong.

So isolating.

Because being "right" doesn't feel so good when it means everyone you care about has to be wrong.

It doesn't feel good when you've pushed everyone away for the sake of being "correct"...

All based on a set of rules you adopted from someone who used them as an excuse to hurt you for being imperfect.

One day I met my reckoning. I found myself in the middle of an involuntary 3-month hard reset (spiritual awakening/mental breakdown/whatever).

Something inside of me had broken.

It was pure anguish. And I found myself questioning everything I thought was right and true.

Questioning who I was.

Along with everyone around me.

I felt at odds with the world because I realized I was the only one following all of those rules to a T. And everyone else couldn't be wrong, could they?

I knew some really great people. Really loving, kind, generous, awesome people.

How could they be bad while being all of those things, too?

My set of rules stopped making sense. My entire worldview shattered.

I didn't know what was good or what was bad anymore. What was right or what was wrong.

I'd realized how hurtful I'd actually been. I thought I was the good one. didn't know who I was anymore.

I didn't know who I wanted to be.

I didn't know how to trust anyone. Anything. Not even myself.

From there, a spark of light. Tori. If you think EVERYONE is untrustworthy, maybe your definition of "trustworthy" is the thing that isn't serving you.

And from there, my work began.

The Rebirth

I don't know if it's more the autism or the ADHD for me, but when I get my hooks into a mystery worth solving, good luck pulling me away from it until I figure it tf out.

"Can I find a way to trust & connect with people without being disappointed and afraid?" was a mystery worth solving.

I needed to understand every nuance of what was and wasn't working about my view of trust and trustworthiness. The answer needed to fit like a perfect puzzle. No gaps.

I'm good at this work, too. Problem-solving. Figure-outing some shit.

This time around, I didn't need everyone else to be perfect, or for me to be perfect. I was starting to let go of that already. That rigid idea of an all-righteous moral compass that everyone must abide by lest I hate them broke my spirit and my relationships.

I was sick of hating people. Of being angry and afraid of people. I just needed to feel safe again.

And I was open to that safety looking like anything. Anything at all.

As long as I felt it. As long as I could relax and stop questioning everything.

Little did I know, that felt sense of safety within myself and with other human beings would be the greatest gift I've ever given myself.

I'd never felt it before. Didn't realize how badly I needed it. Now, I wish it for everyone. I didn't realize how much more I'd end up getting as a result of safety.

How much fuller my relationships would feel.

How much more confident I would grow.

How much more I'd be able to trust myself and my own judgment.

How much safer I'd feel in my own body with my own flaws and insecurities.

So... how'd I get there?

"You Talk Too Much"

It started when I remembered some really wise advice I'd gotten years before:

"Tori, you talk too much. Learn how to keep your mouth closed and your eyes open. You'll learn everything you need to know about people that way."
- Some white guy named Troy from "the hood"

I hated it when he said it. It sounded jaded. I didn't want to be jaded.

To me I was giving people an opportunity to be the best, most honest version of themselves by speaking up about my concerns - however harshly. Any alternative felt like giving up on them.

I wanted to hold people to a standard of saying exactly what they meant at all times and following through on that. Of knowing exactly who they are and being able to articulate it clearly.

I wanted to give them the opportunity to tell me themselves.

But I realize now that what I really wanted was to outsource the work of really seeing people.

But seeing people, and I mean really seeing them, can't be outsourced.

Just like there are no words to describe the complexity of certain things, like love. There are definitely no words to describe the depth and complexity of a human being. Who they are, the nuances of how they feel, and what to expect from them.

This is why nobody likes writing their social & dating bios. We don't have the words to accurately tell people the depth of what to expect from us.

This is why we can hire someone write an autobiography and after selling millions of copies the world still won't really know us. Not in that way, anyway.

Troy was right. I had to start shutting up and start seeing people.

People are less like books, more like motion pictures.

The more you run your mouth, and insert your judgment and suspicion and callouts, the more you miss, when the answers to your questions are literally staring you in the face.

But if you shut up and just pay attention, people tend to show you exactly who they are. It's just a matter of how long it takes.

So when I remembered the advice Troy gave me, something about it felt... important now. I'd gotten it all wrong before. So... might as well see if this felt right.

I surrendered to it. I started shutting up more. Observing more. Asking more questions out of genuine curiosity instead of suspicion. Receiving more answers.

Sometimes not asking anything. Letting people tell (or show) me when they were ready. Letting them show me as they went, on their own time.

Before I shut up, when I was all self-righteous and mouthy, I didn't see anything. I couldn't. I wasn't looking.

But after?

It didn't just feel like I could see people. I could see through walls. Any wall they held up, like a superpower.

I knew the things they weren't saying out loud.

Doing the work of seeing people has its perks.

"Hey, I have something to tell you..."

*tells me thing they were afraid to say for days, weeks*

"Oh, I know"


"Idk man. I just knew. You okay? Thanks for telling me."

It's true, everyone has tells. And if you let them, they'll show you exactly who they are. But here's the thing...

Before you can trust anyone else, you HAVE to trust yourself.

You have to trust yourself to see them clearly. Including the things they aren't saying out loud. I built upon that first lesson over time. Several more came. Like:

  • I can't change people. Trying to just hurts them, and me. I'm done trying to do that.
  • If people are going to be who they want to be regardless, I need to figure out how to stop being angry with them for it.
  • I'm not God. I need to stop thinking MY way is the ONLY right way, instead of understanding that it's just the right way for me.
  • I'm entitled to grow on my own terms. So is everyone else.

Eventually it all solidified into a new, multi-pronged definition of trust.

The ability to see who people are, accept them exactly as who they are, and set boundaries that help me feel safe in their presence, and them - safe in mine.

This definition of trust has completely transformed my life.

It's made me a better, more compassionate person. A better friend. It's calmed my nervous system, especially in times of uncertainty.

Strengthened my capacity for empathy. Helped me navigate the beauty and messiness in the people around me without losing my shit, becoming jaded, and pushing everyone away.

The more I grow into it, the fuller, happier, and healthier my interpersonal relationships grow to be.

People rarely surprise or disappoint me anymore. It is hard for me to find a human I can't hold space for.

It's easy for me to spot where boundaries need to be set to keep us both safe.

I'm not fighting to change people. They get to be who they are. I get to feel safe with them. I get to treat them in a way that helps them feel safe with me, too. Because I'm not freaking tf out like I was.

I wish this for everyone. Everyone.

Including you. So, if you're ready, make sure you're subscribed, and we'll dive into how to do this.

Trust is an Inside Job: Developing Your Practice

When you reframe trust as something that serves you and the health of your relationships, you're taking back power and control. It's an inside job now.

It's not about the mystery of who anyone else is or forcing them into a box that doesn't fit them. It's not about getting them to compromise or sacrifice themselves for the sake of living up to your worldview.

It's about you and the things you're in control of.

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