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Believing in yourself: A CPA’s guide to self-trust

Shutterstock_1181443744The alarm clock beeps annoyingly at 6 a.m., and I lay frozen knowing that the decision I make today will determine how the next chapter of my life plays out. A few months ago, I realized I wasn’t happy with my role at work. Each day, I dreaded getting out of bed and looked forward to the weekend like I’ve been jailed all week. So today, I plan to decide once and for all if I’m going to quit my job and find something new.

But doubts and questions creep into my brain. What if I don’t like my new role? What if I’m not good at anything else? What if no one wants to hire me? I think, that’s it. I’m staying where I’m. It’s stable, and I will learn how to tough it out. I breathe a sigh of relief and contentedly maintain my status quo.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Have you made choices that were based more on what you were trying to avoid than what you could gain? The reality is that most of us use a fear-based decision matrix to choose the option that will cause the least amount of disruption in our lives. It’s not that surprising when you consider how we’re raised — “Don’t touch that stove, or you’ll get burned.” We inherently associate decision-making endeavors with a need to avoid a negative outcome.

How can we shift our mindset to an opportunity-based decision matrix? One where we consider the possibilities of success when determining which option to choose, instead of trying to avoid a negative response or outcome.

The answer might surprise you. We need to develop self-trust. Some of you just cringed reading that, and a few of you probably thought “Whoa. What does this have to do with my potential?” But stick with me for a bit longer, and I promise this will make sense.

It all starts with self-trust, which may not be what you think it is. Most of us believe that self-trust has something to do with confidence or self-esteem, but it’s so much more than those things. Brene Brown shared ground-breaking research around the topic of trust. In her book, “Rising Strong,” Brown defines trust as having key elements that are reflected in the acronym B.R.A.V.I.N.G. — Boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault, integrity, non-judgment and generosity.

By segmenting the idea of trust in these elements, we can begin to understand how trust can be broken and what needs to happen to repair it. Cultivating self-trust begins by being honest about how you’re doing with each of these elements:

  • Boundaries: Have you set limits for yourself then consistently ignored them?
  • Reliability: Did you commit to doing something to support yourself then were unable to follow through?
  • Accountability: Have you failed to make amends for mistakes you’ve made or not taken ownership of your behavior?
  • Vault: Did you share something you wish you would have kept to yourself?
  • Integrity: Have you chosen comfort over courage when it really mattered?
  • Non-judgment: Did you pass judgment on yourself for the way you felt or for acknowledging what you need?
  • Generosity: Have you thought the worst of your own intentions or words?

When we think about the way we treat ourselves in terms of Brown’s B.R.A.V.I.N.G. model, we can identify areas where we may no longer trust ourselves. And when we lose that self-trust, fear reigns supreme in our decision making. We begin to make choices that help us run away from something we fear instead of running toward an opportunity. The good news is: self-trust can be rebuilt!

By identifying the elements where our self-trust has been broken, we can intentionally work to repair those elements of belief.

A few of my own decisions resulted from fear and were driven by my lack of self-trust. Specifically, I was constantly passing judgment on myself for everything — from being pregnant and single at 18 to not passing the CPA exam on the first try. This judgment clouded most of my decision making. I was unendingly focused on how to be what I thought others wanted or needed me to be instead of what I wanted to be.

Not all my decisions were bad decisions, and I’m beyond grateful for the way my life has turned out so far. However, I know I missed incredible opportunities because I was afraid of the outcome. My lack of self-trust cost me some really cool adventures!

So now that we know why we make fear-based decisions and that those choices cause us to miss out on adventures or opportunities, what do we do about this?

  1. Take a self-trust inventory. Using the B.R.A.V.I.N.G. acronym, find out ways in which you may feel like you have broken your trust with yourself.
  2. Set intentional goals to re-build the trust elements you identify as being strained or broken.
  3. When the next decision comes your way, permit yourself to see the opportunities each choice brings. Stay away from “the worst thing that can happen” mentality. Instead, think about the best thing that could happen.

Believing in yourself and making opportunity-based decisions, instead of fear-based ones, will lead to uncovering your limitless potential. Trust me!

For more on letting go of fear and learning to trust yourself, tune in to Lindsay Stevenson’s interview on the Go Beyond Disruption podcast.

Lindsay Stevenson CPA, CGMA, Vice President – Finance, 1st Financial Bank USA.

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