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The Dangers of Bypassing Trust

The Dangers of Bypassing Trust

How Bypassing Trust Affects Our Performance

(15 minute read)

Before I turned in for the night, after seeing The Big Short with my family, I did what I love to do when I’m home for the holidays: Put on my favorite red flannel pajamas that my husband absolutely abhors and I can’t get enough of and snuggle into my Mom’s cozy bed for some mother daughter time, which is welcomingly never about when I’ll finally get around to having kids. Instead, we talk about work and relationships and my red flannel pajamas. Sometimes we talk about yoga or what she’s learning in Ed. Psych, short for Educational Psychology.

Dorey, my black lab slumped over onto my lap like a puddle of Jello. I always love when she does this; when she rolls onto my lap like a trained dolphin and throws her sinewy legs into the sky. With the comfort of my immodestly slumped over dog on my lap, I confessed to Mom that I felt like I was losing my mind. And not in the way you’re thinking. It wasn’t an I’m too busy and I’m losing my mind. It was more of an I’m losing my mind in a way that I can’t even describe without feeling overwhelmingly embarrassed. Like lazy fog hovering over a river, some things just weren’t there anymore, and yet they were there, just under the fog.

I started to tear up before the words could even escape me, which I hate about myself but I’ve learned to love. “I’ll be speaking and in no particular moment and for no particular reason, my mind goes completely blank, like I’m sitting on a chair in a dark room and I have eight limbs for arms, each limb stretching in an opposite direction, reaching for the words I wanted to say just seconds before; reaching for my train of thought. Where was I going? What was I saying?” After seeing the movie Still Alice, I thought, well, there’s a chance I might actually be losing my mind. Losing my words.

To give you some background, my Mom’s an academic. She’s in a Ph.D. program studying Educational Psychology, researching a theory called Flow, broadly defined as the secret to happiness. If this theory is new to you, I recommend you watch this excellent TED talk on Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Mom also works with Olympic and college athletes, giving them tools to help access their peak performance. So she’s qualified to be my Mom but also to give me great advice as an academic. My prayer was that if anybody in the world had an answer as to why my mind was going blank, it would be her.

I wanted to understand why I felt like I was losing my mind, and so frequently it felt that way (as of late). I desperately wanted to “let it go,” whatever it was, whatever I was holding on to that made my mind go blank; I wanted to resume normal life with normal conversation using normal lexicon. And I know some people can do just that, “let it go;”and I wish I could. I went to yoga with the intention of retrieving my mind if it would like to return, I committed to my So Hums in meditation twice a day hoping an answer might come to me. I became so exhausted and frustrated in trying to find this answer, like digging through piled high heavy moving boxes to find the one thing you wished you hadn’t packed away before the move at the bottom of the last box.

I become obsessed with finding the answer to my random and panicked blank outs; I devour my mother’s mind like my very own webMD. Except she doesn’t always conclude that it’s cancer. Though for a while, I do consider that this occasional dark room in my mind could be something more serious than not.

We began deducing the handful of possible reasons why my mind, at random times, feels like a gaping void with no words or thoughts to fill the dark space. As you can imagine, it’s extremely scary to be twenty nine and feel like something’s not right up in the attic.

So we started with the worst case, which we decided was a neurological issue derived from two serious head injuries: one from getting hit smack in the face with a bat from my college softball coach, shattering every bone from ear to ear, the other, a snowboarding accident when I landed so hard on my head that I cracked the back of my helmet. We thought, it could be stress, maybe. Possibly an overload of work and I’m mixing things up. But I know how committed I am to not over-committing; I very much believe in the power of no. And as you can see, with the hedging in all of my guesses, “maybe it’s this…possibly that…,” none of these cases felt like they were reason enough for me to all of the sudden start losing my mind in an indescribable way.

Finally we arrive at something called relationship-inferred self-efficacy and after Mom explained it to me, fireworks shot off in my head. “Yes this is it!” I jumped onto my knees and woke Dorey in a startle using my best impression of an enthusiastic Italian, excitedly throwing my hands towards her with every syllable exclaiming, “This is exactly what’s going on! I can pinpoint the exact moment it happened.”

First, let me explain what relationship-inferred self-efficacy means, because you’ll find very little when you Google the term. And then I’ll tell you about the moment, the it I uncovered.

Relationship-inferred self-efficacy loosely means: How a person of influence, perceived power or trust feels about me, directly influences how I feel about myself. For example, a coach that believes in me, or doesn’t, directly affects how well I’ll play in a game.

Relationship-inferred self-efficacy is important for us understand, especially for me, as a woman and dragon rider, who craves to do everything in life boldly and thoroughly, and as well or better than any man would, which is honestly why I resist my proclivity for showing emotion every time I share the pain points of my story. It’s just seems so predictably sensitive. And vulnerable.

I want to help you understand how relationship-inferred self-efficacy takes place in your own life, so I’m going to share an example from my own. And once you understand the foundation of relationships and trust, you’ll understand how to target the people who have influence over you, and then you can decide if you want to take back your power or let them keep their influence. 

“Once you learn how to target the people who have influence over you, you can decide if you want to take back your power or let them keep their influence.”

Think of someone that you believe has power and influence over you; a coach or a professor, it could be a boss, a colleague with accolades that give her credibility. In this particular experience, it was a colleague with credibility; she had earned the trust from a circle of people I knew and already trusted, so I bypassed learning to trust her because I already trusted the people who trusted her. I understand how this might feel confusing at first.

I’ll tell you about this experience I had with a colleague named, let’s say, Rachel.

I bypassed the trust-building stage with Rachel because I assumed she must be influential if we carry a similar circle of friends. In one Google search, I learned of her career roles and found that the people who were in her circle were people that I trusted (and probably also bypassed trust-building with). Rachel’s CV looks pretty influential. So I decided to bypass the trust-building stage and surrender my complete trust in her, which is not necessarily a bad way to live, usually.

The most important thing to note here, is that I bypassed establishing my own trust with Rachel because I assumed other people’s trust in her made her credible enough to earn influence. In bypassing this trust-building stage, I saved myself time and gambled on her credibility, that what she claimed about her accomplishments and her circle of friends were true. I think a lot of us do this by the way, bypass trust-building, because it’s easier to do than sit down over tea and get to know one another, and this bypass is often expected of us in a world that operates so quickly. It’s just another life hack; a friendship hack, a mentor hack.

So remember the term relationship-inferred self-efficacy? It means how you feel about me influences how I feel about myself.

So Rachel gave me some negative “feedback” after an event that I worked hard on. I spilled my guts out as a speaker and she had harsh things to say to me; not one nice thing she could think to say, and ironically that’s the same time my mind started to blank out.

The only way I can describe how her words made me feel was it was like standing in an AA meeting and listening to the group criticize me for a bad delivery of emotion when I’d just wept and testified my deepest struggle in front of a room of people I’d just met. Totally awful, I know, and because I assumed her trust and allowed her to have influence over me, her harsh words burned these black holes into my head.

Let’s be honest. Rachel was offering criticism, not feedback, though her comments she said were genuine. I allowed her criticism to sting me to the core. If what Rachel was telling me was true, and it seemed true at the moment, I must have messed up. And if I messed up, I need to make things right again. But what did I do wrong? 

I know that I’m not “perfect.” I’m still learning, I’ll always be learning, and I hope my honest stories inspire other people to live their highest, fullest expression of themselves. I share with radical honesty, with vulnerability, so we can all learn from story; and I hope you’d do the same for me.

So here’s what I did wrong. Or what I did right, because I always learn from doing something the wrong way first. I spilled my guts out during a speech and took someone’s criticism to heart, someone I perceived I trusted. And when I trusted her, I gave her influence over me, power over me. When I did that, that’s when her opinion, her “feedback,” became important to me.

When I’m vulnerable, the only people I should allow influence over me are the people I trust. And if I trust everyone, can you imagine what my feedback loop looks like? Make sure to do this….Don’t forget to say it this way…It’s better her way…?

I say “I love you” a lot, and I mean it, but I reserve, “I trust you,” for the people I have built trust with. And rightfully so, because I’m my best and highest self when I’m able to filter out the noise.

Joel Osteen

“When I’m vulnerable, the only people who have influence over me are the people I trust.”

I went back and forth, trying to accept Rachel’s criticism and then rebuking it, eventually denying Rachel’s words and kindly revoking her power over me. I realized that I got to where I am today by being the truest version of myself. I don’t always have to apply everyone’s advice.

Rachel’s criticism got under my skin and into my head. Our relationship affected my performance. I started to script my speeches carefully, trying to control and strong-arm the Divine word I so loved to intuitively channel during speeches, which used to feel like one big beautiful conversation with a large group, and then for a while during practice runs, became like television broadcasts, memorizing lines and acting them out for my trusted friends’ feedback.

Here’s crazy: I memorized a 45 minute speech in my head by training for a half marathon on a treadmill. I’d run for hours a day, memorizing the papers in front of me, one by one. And I did memorize them, all 45 minutes of speaking; I’d wrangle up any friends that would listen to me and practiced my lines and beats like I was performing Shakespeare. Over dinner, during my community journaling group, I’d practice any chance I could get.

And you know what my close friends who I had taken the time to build trust with said to me? “Emily, we love you but forget this speech! Go back to go with the flow.” Their advice was tough to swallow at first, given how committed I was to memorizing every line over the many seemingly pointless miles I ran in one place, but eventually I made the effort to go back to being my prepared go with the flow self.

And as much as I’d committed to going back to my old self, as easy as that sounds, something in my brain still felt off; I was still missing my words, unable to reach my flow. I felt like my authentic self wasn’t enough anymore. Even the go with the flow moments felt scripted. I was having a hard time shaking off Rachel’s criticism, until finally, when I could understand why this was happening to me.

When Mom mentioned this was a case of relationship-inferred self-efficacy, she nailed it on the head. What Rachel said to me had influence over me because I assumed I trusted her, I never built my own trust for her. Her strong opinion threw me, made me doubt myself; her criticism had me reaching for words that used to come naturally, forgetting sentences that had aways flowed freely. The fog quickly lifted for me.

This scenario is common for many of us; oftentimes, we give critics way too much power over us, diminishing our own power. My hope is that by understanding relationship-inferred self-efficacy, we’re able to evaluate who we give our power to, and then allow their words to effect us and our performance based on whether we trust them or not.

If you’re not sure how to distinguish whether you trust someone or if they’re merely acquaintances, Brene Brown has a complimentary class, The Anatomy of Trust, that I found to be a wonderful resource.

When I recognized the influence I gave to Rachel by bypassing the trust-building stage in our relationship, I decided to take back the power I had lent to her because it was evident we never built trust in the first place. This doesn’t mean our relationship is over, but in order to proceed, we must start at square one again, building trust for one another.

There’s never a moment you’re not a shining star when you’re brave. I’ve always believed that, even in the moments of self-doubt. Even when someone I thought trusted told me otherwise. Resolve to being brave, because it’s always the best we can do. And that’s always good enough.

Kind Contributor Emily Nolan

Emily Nolan is a professional model, teacher and founder of nonprofit, TOPLESS yoga, a globally recognized empowerment event used as a tool for practicing radical self-acceptance. Emily hosts The Hum, a women’s fellowship retreat which emphasizes listening to our Hum within. Through her mission-based work, Emily has sparked a global conversation around body image.

Nolan is currently writing her first book, Pretty Brave.

Find Emily Nolan at @iamemilynolan // emilynolan.com.

Join Emily on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter

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