If they are being honest, many people will say that they have trust issues. Issues trusting their partners, their parents, their bosses, and even themselves. Trust issues, indeed, heavily impact the most intimate of our relationships because these are the relationships that we are the most vulnerable in. They also impact our relationship with ourselves.
As a result, we may lie about who we are or our intentions, or we learned to withhold information and our true, genuine self from others. Our identities were erased as children, and now, as adults, we practice self-erasure by acting out our trust issues, tolerating situations or people we should not, or being overly anxious about who we are.
The Origins of Trust Issues
When we are little, we depend entirely on our caregivers to provide safety and comfort. We rely on them to reflect our emotional states back at us so that we learn what is good, what is bad, what is appropriate, and what is inappropriate. Problems arise when our caregivers are unable or unwilling to do these things. We become unable to trust that we will be okay if we explore the world because our caregivers did not accurately reflect, comfort, or sustain us.
Consequently, as adults we are unable to trust those around us because, historically, those who were the closest to us did not meet our needs when we needed it most. We dampen our emotions and reactions so that we will be acceptable to people who cannot accept us. Alternatively, we learned that we can only trust our caregivers and no one else, not even ourselves, because the world is simply too dangerous.
In adulthood, this plays out in several ways. We feel unacceptable, so we have trust issues in intimate relationships. We feel as though we are unable to share our ideas at work for fear of being bullied, singled out, or shown that we are unacceptable in other ways. We are emotionally unavailable to our partners. Or, we always giving in to their needs and their wants.
So, what are the trust issues and how do they play out?
Three Common Trust Issues
1. I Am Unacceptable
You are afraid that people will reject, discard, ridicule, hurt, or use you. You learned that it is safer to keep it all inside: your true emotions, thoughts, needs, wants, and preferences. Trusting people may take a very long time, and you are unsure what the criteria for trusting someone even is.
Situations involving others are stressful, and your anxiety interferes with your personal life, work life, school life—and you are afraid that every relationship will end the same. You are unable or unwilling to effectively communicate. Your relationships suffer and you know it has something to do with you, but you don’t know what that might be because you are consumed with the fear of being unacceptable.
2. I Trust Too Quickly
Here, you are so desperate to be accepted, that the moment anyone shows interest in you, you inappropriately open up to them, often within the first few times of meeting. You tend to overshare. Or, you expect for the other person to immediately care about you very deeply.
People who are overly protective have boundaries that are too hard, but people who trust others too quickly may lack them altogether. It may be seen as inappropriate but you can’t help yourself, and you seem to overwhelm the good people away. Those who remain are predators who act their own issues out on you, repeatedly retraumatizing you in the same way you were traumatized as a child.
3. I Have to Do Everything Myself
Here, you didn’t withdraw from the world, but you can’t trust people to do things for you. You are worried that you may be seen as controlling or overbearing—but you only learned to trust yourself. Perhaps you had to take care of other siblings, or the household, or even your parents. You may be a fixer, someone who is attracted to broken people who you cannot fix but it doesn’t stop you from trying. Or you may be so fiercely independent you come off cold, hard, and unapproachable.
Final Thoughts and Some Hope
Whether you don’t trust at all, don’t trust yourself, or don’t trust others, or perhaps trust too quickly, you can overcome this. Your childhood does not need to define how you trust now, or whatever trust issues manifest in your life.
If you trust too openly and feel like you have a target on your back, practice putting down some boundaries and see what happens. Some people won’t like it, but those are problem people anyways. If you don’t trust others at all, try being a little more open and see what happens. You may find that healthy people are attracted to healthy, authentic openness. If you have problems trusting yourself, take a small risk today that will show you that you can make decisions for yourself, and the world is not as frightening as child you learned it was.
As an adult, you have control now, and your trust issues no longer have to define you.