As you progress in your female leadership journey, feelings and thoughts of self-doubt may creep in.
Those all-too-familiar feelings disconnect you from your unique Personal Power and diminish self-trust, one day at a time, until you suddenly find yourself lacking the self-trust you knew you once had. Yay, trust issues! 😉
So, how do you cultivate self-trust that can withstand the challenges of being an ambitious female leader?
As a fellow female leader with nearly a decade of leadership experience, I'm here to demystify the complexities of self-trust. In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover important details and steps to restore your self-trust and step into your unique Personal Power. We'll deep dive into:
Top reasons for self-doubt and lack of self-trust related to female leadership.
How self-trust fosters a more fulfilling life, beyond your work.
10 ways to cultivate self-trust that lasts.
What Action Steps to take.
By the end of this blog post, you'll have the resources you need to develop lasting self-trust.
Let's jump in, shall we?
Table of contents
What is Self-Trust?
Self-trust means consistently staying in alignment with who you really are. It's the embodiment of integrity and reflects the relationship you have with yourself. It's not confidence, but the foundation for confidence and clarity.
What does healthy self-trust look like in practice? You...
Have strong self-awareness related to your beliefs, emotions, and body-mind connection.
Know and embody your personal values.
Regularly connect to your intuition and inner wisdom to step into your Personal Power.
Give yourself respect and compassion, regardless of the outcomes of your efforts.
Understand and honor what's best for you—your life and career—undeterred by others' opinions.
How Can Building Self-Trust Make Life Better?
If you've experienced it, you already know that excellent self-trust feels amazing. What are some of the benefits beyond the feeling?
1. Self-trust Boosts Your Decision-making Skills
Trusting yourself allows you to make confident decisions, take calculated risks, and navigate uncertainty. All in the day's work of a leader! Confident decisions are guided by your knowledge, values, and goals, instead of relying solely on external advice.
It also helps you to access your intuition. When you trust your intuition—and balance it with data—you can tap into your inner wisdom. This leads to more positive outcomes and a greater sense of accomplishment.
2. Self-Trust Codifies Your Confidence
Excellent self-trust significantly impacts your ability to face the ebbs and flows of life. You know and honor your self-worth and that translates into a calm, radiating presence. And by believing in your abilities, judgment, and intuition, you view setbacks as valuable learning experiences and overcome obstacles without spending time overthinking.
It helps keep you motivated to continue taking action toward your goals.
3. Self-trust Deepens Resilience & Makes You a Better Risk-Taker
By trusting yourself, you can handle challenges or setbacks, bouncing back and continuing to persevere with a growth mindset. Self-trust inspires you to take on new opportunities, move out of your comfort zone, and grow as a human being.
4. Self Trust Helps You Reconnect with Your Unique Personal Power
When you trust yourself, you rely less on seeking validation from others. It empowers you to step into your Personal Power. You become less influenced by others' opinions and more confident in your own choices, actions, and skills. You also make choices that align with your values, energy, and goals. Embrace that power within you. It's your constant companion that nurtures a more fulfilling and meaningful life. Plus, authentic leadership is a significant predictor of thriving teams.
5. Self-trust Enables Trust On Your Team
Self-leadership is built on excellent self-trust, which is the foundation of leadership effectiveness and contributes to a high-trust company culture. When we trust ourselves, we demonstrate confidence, integrity, and leadership, which inspires trust from others and healthy relationships.
The result? People in high-trust company cultures report 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and 40% less burnout than people at low-trust companies.
Take a moment to check in with yourself. What above resonates with you? What would you like to experience more of? How would you show up differently in life and leadership?
Why Do You Lack Self-Trust?
Where does lack of trust—especially self-trust—come from?
Everyone experiences self-trust issues, and for female leaders, it's a hot, yet controversial topic entrenched in the pervasive Confidence Culture. There's an abundance of coaching, courses, and training programs for an individual approach. Yet, very little is being done at the organizational level to address barriers to gender equality, like unconscious biases and stereotyping, work design, and the privileging of line roles over functional roles. And the fixed focus on confidence at an individual level has long-term negative effects on women (and their mental health) in the workplace.
Before addressing self-trust issues, it's important to recognize that you are not solely responsible for them. When you struggle with self-trust, it may not be an issue of self-trust at all, but a reflection of the structural injustice, organizational barriers, and lack of senior leadership awareness and action. Bringing that awareness with you is key to limiting any responsibility you might take on that is not yours. And holding those boundaries.
While we strive for more structural justice in company culture (why I partner with remote companies on People & Culture topics like this), you own self-trust at the individual level. But how can you tell if you're experiencing self-trust issues? You may:
Replay a past decision over and over. "Did I make the wrong decision?" echoes in your mind and you spend hours, or even days, playing out different scenarios.
Believe the negative thoughts you're telling yourself. Your Inner Critic is running the show.
Suppress your difficult feelings to portray strength and self-control at the cost of hiding your authenticity.
Practice future suffering in the present. You worry about all future hypotheticals and everything that could go wrong.
Have a fearful mind—being afraid to make a decision or take decisive action. You have a fear of failure or making a mistake.
Doubt your opinions and judgments. You feel that others' perspectives are more accurate.
Follow guidance from others, even when it's unhealthy for you. You minimize your needs.
Fixate on your areas of improvement, rather than your strengths and positive impact.
Take a moment to check in with yourself. What above resonates with you? What would you like to experience less of? How would you show up differently in life and leadership?
How to Tell If It's An Organizational Issue or An Individual Struggle
When you notice signs of self-trust issues, you can use Brené Brown's B.R.A.V.I.N.G. tool to get a clearer sense if it's an organizational issue, embedded in your company's culture, or a struggle you're facing individually. I've expanded on the original acronym and found it to be extremely valuable. Remember, it can also be both at organizational and individual levels.
If you're new to Brené Brown's B.R.A.V.I.N.G. inventory, here's a quick overview of the seven elements that can act as a measure of trust:
B.R.A.V.I.N.G. for an Organizational Measure of Trust
Did they respect the code of conduct and company values? Were they clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay?
Were they reliable? Did they do what they said they were going to do?
Did they hold themselves accountable?
Did they respect the vault and share accordingly?
Did they act from their integrity (in alignment with company values and guiding principles)?
Did they ask for what they needed? Did they practice nonjudgment when you talked about how you felt or asked for what you needed?
Did they extend the most generous interpretation of your (or your team's) intentions, words, and actions?
B.R.A.V.I.N.G. for an Individual Measure of Trust
Did I respect my own boundaries? Was I clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay?
Was I reliable? Did I do what I said I was going to do?
Did I hold myself accountable?
Did I respect the vault and share accordingly?
Did I act from my integrity?
Did I ask for what I needed? Was I nonjudgemental about needing help?
Was I generous towards myself?
10 Ways to Cultivate Self-trust
In this article, the focus is self-trust (a future article on the organizational side is definitely on the list). Let's dive into 10 ways you deepen your sense of self-trust.
The first step in nurturing self-trust is to deepen self-awareness.
By understanding your thoughts, emotions, feelings, and actions, you can make more informed and authentic decisions, resulting in increased trust in your abilities. Developing self-awareness also helps you understand your values, align energetically, and find clarity. It makes it easier to prioritize what matters most and align with your true self. In turn, you feel more fulfilled and satisfied, because work and life are in alignment with your personal values.
Here's an activity to deepen self-awareness. I love using it as an end-of-workday ritual.
Reflection through Journaling
Reflection offers valuable insights into the human mind—your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It's an opportunity to look at past experiences and decisions, their outcomes, and the factors that influenced your choices. It also allows you to connect to and move through your feelings and emotions. Difficult ones, like fear, doubt, or anxiety, that may have influenced your day. When you take time to process difficult emotions you can find healthy strategies to better manage them in the future.
Reflecting is about learning, growing, and making conscious choices moving forward. I recommend creating a daily habit—even if it's 5 minutes. Consistent daily action makes the biggest impact over time. Add it to your work calendar. Honor that time. Settle down in a space you love and ask yourself questions like:
I love this activity from a decision-making perspective because we make so many decisions throughout the day, and often, we don't think about them afterward.
Practice Self-compassion (and Embrace Imperfection)
You may be thinking, "I'm already super self-aware." Fabulous! How self-compassionate are you? When was the last time you berated yourself for a mistake? How much time did you spend overthinking? Self-compassion can help you embrace perfection and transform negative self-talk into a healthy relationship with yourself.
Self-compassion offers you the space to treat yourself with kindness and understanding. Like how you may respond to a loved one. It means acknowledging that you are human and offering yourself understanding and forgiveness. It nurtures a healthy sense of self-worth, which contributes to your ability to trust yourself.
Self-compassion is one of my favorite practices because everyone brings judgment to mindfulness. It's a part of the human experience—the human mind is wired for survival—but it can limit the effectiveness of a mindful practice reinforcing things like self-criticism, anxiety, and doubt. Self-compassion is the foundation for emotional health, and it enables you to embrace vulnerability.
If you haven't claimed your FREE Personal Power Practices, now is the time! The Evening Practice is a guided self-compassion practice.
Retrain Your Brain with Thought-spotting
Retraining our brain with thought-spotting involves observing and questioning our thoughts, underlying beliefs, and inner dialogue. It has nothing to do with judging your thoughts—it's about bringing curiosity and presence. By identifying and challenging negative self-talk and patterns, you can reframe your beliefs and build new neural pathways to replace old habits, thoughts, and patterns.
Start with Mindful Thought-spotting at Work
I came up with this practice to bring awareness to my leadership mind and remain centered during conversations. Here's how it works:
When you're in a meeting and listening to others speak, take notice of the thoughts that are surfacing.
Write them down, or mentally take note.
What is the nature of the thoughts? Related sensations in the body or emotions?
What insights are they offering you? Are they true or a story you've created?
How would your leadership (and life) be different if you changed that story?
Do this for 2-3 weeks. You'll begin to notice patterns that can help you understand how you think, stories that influence your responses, and opportunities to change underlying beliefs.
You can do mindful thought-spotting with family and friends. You can even do it when you're by yourself. Go for a walk and observe the thoughts—it's illuminating!
Understand and Honor Your Needs
Recognizing and fulfilling your needs across the 8-dimension of well-being is essential. By understanding and honoring your needs, you can function optimally and subsequently act with integrity.
Need more clarity? This free quiz can help you understand where you are in your journey.
Expand on Your Unique Strengths
Focusing on your energizers and strengths can contribute to a clearer sense of self-trust. By expanding on your unique strengths, you can feel more self-assured and confident in your abilities.
Write down and revisit what energizes you. The strengths you posess. Positive feedback you've gotten from your team, friends, and family is a great place to start.
Spend Time in Solitude
In our busy lives, we rarely find quality time for solitude and self-reflection. These moments of stillness offer you space to connect with your inner self and access the wisdom of your intuition.
💚 Some of my favorite nature adventures—climbing, hiking, and swimming—in Spain 💚
Tap Into Your Intuition
Have you ever had a feeling deep down? A sense that something doesn't feel right or that a certain path is the right one for you? This is your intuition speaking to you. It's that inner voice guiding you towards better decision-making.
But, many of us struggle to trust ourselves and rely on external validation, data, or overthink our choices. But the truth is, your intuition is a powerful tool that can lead you to more confident decisions.
How can you tap into your intuition and learn to trust yourself more?
Create Clear Boundaries for Yourself
Creating clear boundaries and guidelines for yourself is a crucial step in trusting yourself to deepen your self-trust. Here are some strategies to help you create and maintain clear boundaries and guidelines:
Align your boundaries with your values and your company's values. This will help prevent burnout from decision fatigue and value misalignment.
Set personal boundaries. Your boundaries are the basis for healthy relationships and protecting your emotional health and mental health. They define what is acceptable to you and what is not. Take quality time to identify your emotional, physical, and mental boundaries. Document and communicate them with your team.
Learn to say no (or not yet). This is the most liberating way to set boundaries. You create space for more impactful and fulfilling opportunities when a 'no' is the way to go.
Seek support. You're not alone! Surround yourself with wonderful people who respect your boundaries. Seek out a mentor or coach who can offer guidance, encouragement, and accountability as you commit to clear boundaries.
Take Decisive Action, Then Strive to Learn And Improve
The worst thing you can do is take no action. Taking decisive action, even if your choice turns out to be imperfect, helps build self-trust. But, sometimes that's easier said than done.
Why? Fear of the unknown. Sticking to what we know feels safe and familiar. But staying in your comfort zone limits your potential for growth and improvement.
Here are a few ways to take action and cultivate learning and improvement within yourself and your team:
Have a goal in mind and take time to gather information, consider your options, link them to company priorities, explore the impact and reversibility of the actions, and then implement the action steps. You have the knowledge and intuition to make the best decision in the moment.
Explore new ideas, perspectives, and possibilities. Try different approaches or seek out alternative solutions. Partner with others to gather diverse perspectives.
Adopt a growth mindset. Understand that you are not fixed in your current abilities or knowledge. You have the power to learn, adapt, and improve over time.
Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and see setbacks as valuable learning experiences. Document what you learn and apply it to future situations.
Seek out constructive feedback from trusted partners who can provide valuable insights. Welcome feedback as an opportunity to learn and grow. Feedback is not a reflection of your worth. It's a valuable tool for self-improvement.
Be patient throughout the process. Change and improvement don't happen overnight. It takes time and effort to break old habits and develop new ones. Celebrate small wins along the way and acknowledge the progress you've made.
Hold Space Daily to Step Into Your Unique Personal Power
A daily practice of holding space for yourself cultivates self-trust. When you practice stepping into your unique Personal Power every day, you build a strong connection with your inner wisdom and present-moment awareness. It enables you to step back into your Personal Power when you slip out of it. And the sensing and returning to your Personal Power is what gives you a grounded, enduring sense of self-trust.
Take the First Step Toward Self-trust
As you grow your self-trust, start by understanding where you are today. Here are seven questions to help you begin to recognize your level of self-trust:
What level of self-awareness do you have related to your beliefs, emotions, and body-mind connection?
What are your personal values? To what extent do you embody them?
How strong is your fear of failure? For example, how often do you replay past decisions over and over, bogged down by fears of having made the wrong decision?
What does your inner voice say? What words does it use? To what extent do you believe those words?
Do you experience eager anticipation when it comes to making your own choices or do you rely on others' opinions and judgments?
How often do you spend quality time connecting to your intuition and inner self—to step into your Personal Power?
When you make a mistake, how do you practice respect and compassion for yourself?
Next, pick one area you'd like to focus on for building self-trust. Have your goal in mind? Fabulous! It's time for goal setting.
I love using the SMART goals framework because they create better clarity, track progress, outline action steps, and build a sense of achievement. Your SMART goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Now it's time to outline your Action Steps, providing a clear path toward success. I recommend including:
Specific actions you are going to take and when you will take them. Pro tip: You can use some of the outlined activities above.
How you'll keep your goal in mind and remember to take action (calendar reminders, task lists, etc.).
What resources or support you need, including a partner to encourage you.
How you will celebrate your progress. A consistent sense of achievement, no matter how small, is key to achieving your goal.
How you will spend quality time to 1) practice self-compassion when you make a mistake, and 2) learn from that moment.
Be Bold and Reclaim Your Self-Trust
Have you done it yet? Have you started cultivating your self-trust?
This is just the beginning.
Shifting your mindset, daily practices, and energy is the foundation of moving into your unique Personal Power.
This shift helped me—an ambitious female leader—progress into senior leadership roles and lead confidently without the burnout.
And I teach just that in the Boldly Unbounded Leadership Lab—a 6-month container with other ambitious female leaders that will move you from stress, doubt, and fear into calm, clarity, and confidence.
Ready to harness the energy of your unique Personal Power?