This article is the compilation of our learnings from 9 global dinners held in 2019.
This month we hosted dinners in 9 cities around the world on the topic of TRUST. From Perth to Bogota, Toronto to Sao Paolo, we gathered around the table to share our most intimate stories around the times trust has been broken, how much trust (and lack of) we experience in our lives, and how we envision the role of trust with ourselves and others in the future.
There are many different kinds of trust (trust in oneself, others, in a higher power or universal life form) but for this piece, we’ll be focusing on the trust we place in others, as it was this form of trust that brought forth the most spirited and contentious discussions across our dinner tables.
Now, our key takeaways:
We learn what trust means at home — For better or worse, our relationship with trust is shaped by our earliest childhood experiences. For those who grew up with trustable, loving and affirming parents and caregivers, life permeates with a sense of support and safety. These women enter into the world with a solid foundation of trust upon which they can build connections. On the other hand women whose parents or caregivers were either absent, highly critical or abusive grew up without assurances of their emotional security and safety. Lacking in a foundational sense of trust from their formative moments of childhood, many of these women have found it difficult to foster trust, both in themselves and others, well into their adult lives.
We’ve all had trust broken in our lives — No one has been left unscathed. We all know what it feels like when we place our trust in someone or something — a friend, a partner, an institution — only to discover that our feelings have been neglected or ignored. It is a denial of our fundamental needs to be loved, seen and cared for by others. Whether it’s a friend who broke their promise, a partner who cheated, or a new lover who “ghosted,” times when trust has been damaged are hard to forget. The hurt from broken trust rattles us to our core, and makes us feel scared to trust again in the future.
So, we’ve developed certain “trust defense mechanisms” to keep ourselves safe — Once trust has been broken, we’ll do anything in our power to ensure that we won’t feel that pain again. For some of the women around our table, that meant putting up an emotional “wall” to safeguard their hearts and minimize emotional exposure to the outside world. When that wall is up, we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable with others, and we certainly don’t trust anyone else with our feelings. For others, safety comes through trying to control everything and everyone around us. Whether that’s micromanaging employees at the workplace or keeping strict “tabs” on every tiny thing their partner does or does not do, the attempt to control ensures that we will never feel like a victim again. However it manifests,, the feeling of not trusting is inherently constricting — it keeps us tight, rigid, suspicious, and disconnected from the world around us.
But ultimately we need a level of trust to operate as functional and happy social beings in the world— Trust is intrinsic to the human experience. We need to trust others in order to connect, to evolve, and to survive. Although trust means different things to different people, we reflexively assume that the people in our lives relate to trust in the same way we do without ever clarifying or communicating our trust needs (which can be a recipe for disaster!). For instance, for you it may be easy to trust others so you open up without difficulty (and expect others will have a similar experience to you), while your friend might place trust squarely on herself because of strikingly negative experiences she has had being vulnerable in the past. Yet, trust is a “two-way” relationship, one in which we both need to trust others and expect others to trust us. With so much room for error and hurt feelings, trust requires open and honest communication, compassionate boundaries and most importantly, vulnerability.
Trust means choosing to connect — Ultimately, in order to love and be loved in the ways we crave, we need to place our trust in others, but that does not mean trusting blindly. To the contrary, trust should be discerning, cognizant of proper boundaries for oneself and the recipient, and be grounded in deep self-awareness and love of oneself. Trusting is a conscious decision, and it does involve risk. It requires relinquishing control and stepping into deep vulnerability. When we put our trust in someone, it might go well….but it also might not. Yet, it’s worth the risk, because when we choose to trust, we also affirm the choice to stay open, to expand, and to step into our highest power. Choosing to trust means choosing to live lovingly and courageously even in the face of fear.
Post-Script: The Trust Cake
Trust is like a multi-layered cake — consisting of trust in life, trust in oneself and trust in others, one “trust” layer serving as the foundation for the layer above, all stronger in concert with one another.
Trusting in life is about leaning into uncertainty and knowing that we will be okay, and life will not let us down no matter the outcome (e.g., Trusting that, whether it’s through pregnancy or adoptive options, life will provide an avenue that will fulfill my loving intentions)
Trusting in oneself is about listening to and honoring our intuition, about setting clear boundaries and speaking our truth (e.g., Leaving an unhealthy relationship when we know it is what is best for us, or not having that third glass of wine when we know it will give us a headache the next day!)
Trust in others (*see “Social Beings” above)
How can you express your trust needs to someone you care about? Share something you have not shared
How much do you trust yourself, others and life itself? Are there any areas that could benefit from more trusting? How can you trust more, while still feeling empowered?
Written by Sybil Ottenstein and Veronica Marquez in collaboration with our hosts Neeti Savla in Mumbai, Meaghan Kelly in Montreal, Amy Subach & Danya Rose-Merkle in Portland, Rebecca Roebber in Seattle, Claudia Espinel and Angelica Chayes in Chicago, and Cecilia Sibony & Ariela Wenger in LA