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5 Signs You Don't Trust Yourself. 3 Ways To Change That.

"Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life."—Golda Meir

Inspiration

As someone who pretty much makes a living out of sharing all of the things that I've learned about relationships, if there's a consistent thread that ran through pretty much all of my dysfunctional ones, it's the fact that, at the foundation of each and every one of them, I didn't trust myself very much—even before they started. The reason why I didn't trust myself is because I didn't take out the time to really get to know me and my wants and needs before attempting to get to know other people.

Most of us would agree that trust is a core principle for all healthy connections, whether they are personal or professional. When you trust someone, it means that you are confident in their character and integrity. It means that you know they are reliable. When you trust another person, it means that, if anyone is gonna say what they mean and mean what they say, they are the one individual that you don't have to worry about; if anyone can be depended upon to have your back, they are it.

Unfortunately, a lot of us put this kind of confidence in the wrong people because confidence does not lie within us first. We don't trust our own judgment. Our gut instincts. Shoot, we barely even trust what our mind, body and spirit tell us that we need (especially over what our appetite tells us that we want). Unfortunately, the fallout of all of this is that, when you don't trust yourself, you can end up trusting the epitome of the wrong kinds of people. You can also end up making some pretty bad decisions too. And the fallout of all of this is you end up distrusting yourself…even more.

I know this isn't a topic that's discussed nearly as much as it should be. So, in the effort to make sure that you trust you before anyone or anything else, I've provided a few signs that you probably have trouble trusting yourself, followed by three ways to break free from that totally counterproductive mold.

You Can’t Make Decisions Without an Entire Tribe in Tow

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Accountability is a good thing. More of us could stand to apply it our lives far more often, to tell you the truth. But it's one thing to be open to having people reel you back in or call you out on your ish; it's another matter entirely if you're mentally and emotionally paralyzed without 5-7 of your friends helping you to make a decision.

A lot of times, if a person requires an audience in order to make choices in life, it's because they want others to like what they are (or aren't) doing. They are so consumed by that, their own happiness doesn't even really factor in all that much.

So yeah, if you need a bunch of people to "get", understand or co-sign on what you are—or aren't—about to do in your life, that is a very telling indication that you don't trust yourself very much; that you think the opinion of others is more important, impactful and relevant than your own. (Pretty scary, huh?)

You Flip-Flop. A LOT.

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I've got a friend who I pretty much always wait until her third declaration before I take her seriously. Why? Because she's one of the biggest flip-floppers that I know. Literally, over the course of one day, she can make three different declarations and profess wholeheartedly that she means each one.

What causes someone to be like that? Typically, they are very feelings-oriented and outside-influence swayed. What I mean by that is when they are up, they are going to make a choice based on that feeling but if they feel down 10 minutes later, they are going to make another decision about the very same matter. As far as outside influences go, if they decide to do something and then they read an article about how their favorite celebrity decided to do the opposite based on a similar scenario, suddenly, they think the famous individual—someone they don't even know—probably has more wisdom and insight than they do. (Yeah, that's pretty much a crap shoot most times, if you ask me.)

The problem with being a constant flip-flopper is two-fold. First, it channels mass confusion throughout your psyche. Second, it keeps you from making real progress. After all, the definition of decision is "determination, as of a question or doubt, by making a judgment". Did you peep that? A person who makes a decision does it by being determined to do so. They aren't easily swayed once they make a judgment call. That's because they believe that what they are doing is right for them—no matter what is going on around them (or how often their feelings change because of it).

You Rarely Try New Things

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When's the last time you went to a new place, tried a new food or attempted something that was totally out of your comfort zone? If you're staring blankly at the screen because that's how long it's been for you, you've just ran into another sign that you don't trust yourself, nearly as much as you should.

Although some people probably think that sticking with the same ole' predictable patterns and routines is about "knowing oneself enough to not venture out", it's actually the opposite. A part of what it means to trust yourself is that you have a level of confidence that assures you that stepping out and doing new things is a good idea. That, no matter what happens, at the end of the day, you'll be just fine. If you don't know anything else about yourself, you are able to 100 percent trust that.

You’re a Closet Envier

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Envy is evil. Straight up. It's all about being so focused on what someone else has going on that you're not able to pay attention to the good things that are happening in your own life. In fact, envy is so ridiculous that it's mentioned in the 10th Commandment (Exodus 20:17)—"Thou shall not covet." (Coveting is envying, by the way).

So, how do you know for sure that envy is something that you struggle with? You're constantly comparing yourself with others. You have a hard time being genuinely happy for people and their triumphs. You are always trying to set your life to the pace of someone else's. You think that success means outdoing someone instead of living your own best life. You are a copier. You dislike others for no real good or valid reason. In short, you're a hater.

Ugh. Just reading all of that can show just how draining envy is. It's also an enemy of your spiritual development because it can have you out here feeling like God loves someone else more than you; that He's looking out for someone else more.

Someone who trusts themselves doesn't have time for envy because they are confident in their own gifts and abilities. The end result is they are too busy creating their own glow-up to be concerned or worried about someone else's.

Your Voice Isn’t Loud Enough

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Back in the day, there was an episode of A Different World where Tisha Campbell played a student by the name of Josie who had HIV and Whoopi Goldberg played her professor. An assignment was given to the class to write their own eulogy (you can watch a clip of it here). As Josie was fidgeting to get through her presentation, which included sharing that she had HIV, Whoopi's character told her, "You are a voice in this world." She sure was because, all these years later, I still remember that scene. That's how powerful a story can be.

Above my bed, there is a quote that says, "Your story matters. Tell it." Your perspective, your experiences, your personality—there's something about all of these things that are yours and yours alone. They are what make you a rare commodity on this planet. But who's gonna know just how significant and relevant to the culture you are if you're not speaking up?

A lot of people have a hard time trusting themselves because, quite frankly, they aren't sharing enough of who they are and what they have to offer with others. You can't trust yourself if you don't believe what Josie's teacher told her—"You are a voice in this world". What are you waiting for? Speak up. (A good read on this topic is "The Power of Your Voice: 3 Steps to Finding and Embracing It".)

How to Trust Yourself—First, Take Great Risks

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It's kind of weird that a lot of us are able to trust other people when we don't even trust ourselves. But when you think about those who you do put your confidence in, how did it get to the point where you felt sure that you could? You took a chance on them, right? You told them a secret and they kept it to themselves. You asked a favor and they came through. You needed them to be an ear and a source of support and they made themselves available. In short, you took a risk and they didn't disappoint.

The same way that you extended yourself to others to see if they were worthy of your trust, that is the same thing you must do in order to trust yourself more. This means you need to meet new people, attempt something that you've never done before and again, be intentional about going beyond your comfort zone, both personally as well as professionally, from time to time.

If the thought of doing this terrifies you, but you're going to try it anyway, that is already a step towards building trust and self-confidence. The cool thing about taking risks is they can open the door to new opportunities, teach you lessons about yourself and others, and prepare you for taking even greater chances in the future. As a result, fear will fade. And that's always a good thing.

Next, Develop Your Strengths

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A huge mistake that a lot of us make, far too often, is we focus on our weaknesses far more than we do our strengths. But if all you do is focus on what you can't do well, you're never going to refine and perfect what you do.

A good example of this is me and my brother. I have a gift for writing; it comes effortlessly to me. Something I have the talent for is singing. My brother is the opposite. He's had great success as an artist, but if I looked at him and said, "I'm going to abandon my natural writing ability to become a better singer", while I might've gotten better, I know for a fact that I wouldn't have seen the kind of success that I have had as a writer.

Strengthening weaknesses is cool. But man, take it from me—if you put more sweat equity into further developing your strengths, you'll be unstoppable in so many ways. The trust that you have in yourself and what you can accomplish will go straight through the roof!

THEN, BE YOURSELF. UNAPOLOGETICALLY SO.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." He is so right. I venture to say that a lot of people are out here, totally distrusting themselves, and it's all because they are paying more attention to what society, their family and their peers are telling them to be rather than 1) pondering who God created them to be and 2) looking within to figure out the kind of person they want to be.

I can personally attest to the fact that when you're intentional about being your true and authentic self, not everyone is going to like it. A part of the reason is because genuineness is foreign to a lot of folks; it's uncomfortably different. In fact, I've got a quote by a writer named Shannon L. Alder that's the signature on one of my email accounts. It says, "Being different is a revolving door in your life where secure people enter and insecure ones exit." Say that, Shannon.

Always remember that trust is about strength, ability, sureness and integrity. If you focus on developing these things in such a way that you can be proud of yourself, what others think (or don't think) won't matter nearly as much. You'll accept that who's meant for you will enter, who isn't will exit—and both are for the best. Because life is too short and you are too special to be out here pretending to be someone else, simply to please others. You'll know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you've got to trust yourself enough to be completely and unapologetically yourself. And graduating to that kind of mentality will bless you tenfold!

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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