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Learning to Trust: Let Go of Your Fear and Let Your Guard Down

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“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” ~Ernest Hemingway

In love and in life, our vulnerability is one of our greatest strengths. We often believe that we risk too much by being vulnerable, but, in fact, the opposite is true. When we build a wall around us to protect ourselves from our big, bad fears, we miss out on so much.

When we live with the mindset that something may be taken from us (physically or emotionally), or that we need to be in control of everything that happens, we endure fear on a daily basis.

It’s exhausting to live this way. It makes us cynical, suspicious, and unable to follow our hearts because we are afraid of what might happen.

So what exactly are we protecting ourselves from when our walls are up?

  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of being ridiculed
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of being wrong
  • Fear of committing ourselves and having to follow through
  • Fear of being taken advantage of

These fears are so normal that, unless we become self-aware, they can permeate our everyday interactions. It’s not just about trusting people either, but also life situations and opportunities that come our way. When the barriers are up, our lives become needlessly limited.

We don’t bother talking to that person because we’re certain they won’t be interested in a date. We don’t show how much we care about a person because we’re afraid they won’t love us back. We don’t go for that job or that course because we’re scared we won’t get an interview.

Nobody likes to feel exposed, but if you are someone who has suffered at the hands of betrayal, trust issues become even further magnified.

Learning to be vulnerable after deep pain can feel impossible. But it doesn’t have to be. If you consciously choose to stay open and trusting, you will find that your world changes for the better in ways you may never have imagined.

Of course, it is always right to use our instincts as our guide. You should never set yourself up to be shot down emotionally by someone who doesn’t deserve your trust. But equally, you should not let negative past experiences allow you to believe that it’s not safe to trust again.

My ex-husband left me three years ago after having an affair. It cut deeply, but I healed and moved on.

I’m now in love with a man who was also cheated on, by his ex-wife. When we got together, the bond we found at the beginning was never one of bitterness and mutual wallowing, and that was a big attraction for us both.

It could have been so easy for our common ground to be past pain, but we had so much more. What we have now is an amazing relationship filled with love and trust; but that only comes from allowing yourself to be vulnerable, despite what has happened in your past.

We could never have found each other or shared such depth of love if we’d had protective walls built up.

Because I am so happy now, my joy makes me very aware of all that I could have been missing, had I let any of the big, bad fears stop me from finding love again.

I’ve also had to restore trust in my ex-husband because he is the father of my children. When someone has betrayed you, it can be easy to see their every act, decision, or motive as suspicious in some way. But to do so is to build up that wall again, which blocks the possibility of positive as well as negative outcomes.

I’ve had to trust that he wants the same as me when it comes to our children, and dare to be vulnerable and speak up when things are not right for them. As a result, they have handled the divorce and the changes to their lives relatively smoothly.

In order to get to a place where you are comfortable being vulnerable and trusting a person or situation, you must first be honest with yourself.

It is not weak to admit to ourselves that we fear rejection. Better to admit that than to tell yourself, “She’s not my type,” “I don’t have the time/money to do that course,” or “Men can’t be trusted.”

Once we look the big, bad Fears in the eye and see they are simply trying to protect us from being hurt, we can simply say, “Thanks, but no thanks. I’d like to see what’s beyond that wall.”

Photo by Damian Gadal

Avatar of Marissa Walter

About Marissa Walter

Marissa Walter is a writer, mother, and the creator of Break Up And Shine, a website inspiring those suffering at the end of a relationship, to see it as an opportunity to create their best life. She is planning to publish her first book in 2013.  You can follow the blog at www.breakupandshine.com  or contact her on twitter @breakupandshine.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Z

    I’m so happy to see tinybudddha address infidelity and the after effects. The amount of pain and trauma it causes can make one lose their faith in love. It is something that shakes your belief system to the core and takes years to recover. Thank you Marissa for sharing your experience.

  • lv2terp

    I love your post!!! It spoke to me on a deep level, thank you for sharing your wisdom, and experience! :)

  • Kate

    it’s so important to learn to be vulnerable. It’s a sign of strength rather than weakness. Thanks for the post.

  • Srikanth

    Thank you Marissa for such a wonderful insight on love and life. Quintessentially it reminds me the nature of life is paradox. The following statement is very opt and bolsters me to accept and willing to be vulnerable. “In love and in life, our vulnerability is one of our greatest strengths”.

    Where there is a light there also a shadow. The level of one’s awareness and willingness allows him/her to see both and make a right choice to accept and let things go.

  • Devs82

    Amazing post! Great depth and truth in it

  • C

    Wonderful post! Sharing a related quote by Dr. Brene Brown: “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy — the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

  • Guest T

    I have tears in my eyes. You have no idea how much it resonates with me in this
    particular moment. All the fears you listed is what I have been grappling
    with limiting my life to the four walls of my room. Opportunities are out there
    just on the horizon- just have to reach out, which means breaking down the self
    constructed walls and willing to expose myself to the fears of rejection and
    ridicule.

    Thank you for reminding how debilitating these fears are that I wrap around myself
    like a protective shield. It’s time to open up and trust a little bit; trust life.

  • http://twitter.com/cavebaker Liz Davis

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m inspired to open up and be vulnerable!

  • Marissa Walter

    You’re welcome! Yes, it’s so easy without self awareness and a good foundation of healing and perspective to become hardened after betrayal. We are not meant to suffer that way x

  • Marissa Walter

    thank you and you’re welcome x

  • Marissa Walter

    thank you Liz, that’s so wonderful to hear x

  • Marissa Walter

    You are so welcome, it means a lot to me to share what I have learned on my healing journey.

  • Marissa Walter

    Thank you, I love that quote. And yes, shutting ourselves down after betrayal is so much more painful than the pain we imagine we will receive by opening up!

  • Marissa Walter

    Thank you x

  • Marissa Walter

    Thank you, that’s exactly as I see it xx

  • Marissa Walter

    You’re welcome Kate x

  • A

    Thank you so much for sharing this – well, really everything on Tiny Buddha, really! I read your articles every week.

    Thich Nhat Hanh often writes about how we should learn to die, and how if we don’t know how to die, we can’t live. Though I believe he meant our physical bodies and consciousness, I think this applies our psychological barricades too. Let your defense towers crumble and let your life grow in their stead. Take those stones and build a cozy home with an open door!

    I recently had a moment of the deepest clarity I’ve ever experienced, where I let go of everything I thought I already had struggled through and conquered: all fears, all stories, all defenses and saw the preciousness of life and love. It was an everyday moment – no more special than another, but it was one of the most profound and beautiful I have ever experienced. I saw that if I could relax into moments in my own peace, I could be finally begin to really see others, accept them and give to them openly. I saw how beautiful, perfect and fragile life is – and how battles for permanence and old ego defenses blinded me and kept me from joy, and they did not even protect me from the deepest pains.

    I know I will fall off the letting go wagon time and again, but I can now attest that it is possible.

    The seeds of awakening are in us, as are those of suffering. Don’t look outside for answers – look in. And don’t give up, no matter how scared you are. Each fear you face brings you more courage – and true vulnerability (not helplessness) is courage.

  • cookiemonster

    I’m still breaking down the wall that I have built up around myself over many years. I was brought up in orphanages and had to mis-trust people as an act of survival and also, being let down time and time again by many people didn’t help.

    I have a wonderful partner who I love to bits and he has made me tear down the wall, brick by brick, and the sense of relief you get when this happens is immense. However, I’m still very wary especially in the workplace. Still working on the social situations bit too so a way to go.

  • H

    I read this article every week or so to remind myself that it’s ok to be vulnerable. It has helped me so much with my happiness and current relationship with my boyfriend. I’m not sure where I’d be without reading this! Thank you so much!

  • AJ

    Gosh, I feel so much better after reading this article. I know that in order for my relationship to prosper, I must be willing to let my guard down. However, it is so difficult when you have been disappointed in love before. This article makes me feel much more willing to open up my heart. My girlfriend is amazing and I refuse to lose her because of I’m afraid.

  • Arthur Gonzalez

    Hi!! I would like to know wear do I start. I’m in a relationship now and it’s hard for me to trust. And I Realy love her with all my heart. And I want to put my guards down 100%. How do I do this it’s keeping me from being happy. Thank you Arthur gonzalez..

  • afgh

    Thank you for this piece. I really believe that I can take the wisdom here and apply it everyday and grow. You have no idea the hope of healing that this gives me. I have deep wounds from childhood that have been weight-bearing supports to my walls, and I’m tired of it. So much effort and so much I miss out on because of those walls. Maybe today begins the removal.

  • Nick

    Well viewing life as a paradox is the viewpoint of a very introverted person, you believe everything should be ideal and so do I. More extroverted people simply view life as very complex but still making sense.

  • Amber

    I love love love this post! You have a way of explaining things very simply, yet very effectively!

  • Ladyesquire

    Thank you so much for this post, I have been thinking about this all weekend and your post just said everything that I have been thinking. I fear rejection, I fear betrayal, I fear being hurt and all of theses fears are because of my past relationships. From this day forward I will not allow my past to dictate my future and to keep me from my happiness. I just starting dating a really nice person and I want to give him a fair chance I do not want him to have to deal with the consequences of someone else actions.
    I am happy for you and I am happy that you allowed yourself to open up again and find your JOY.
    THank you so much for this!!

  • Shukri

    I need help with learning to trust others & not think so negatively that someone will betray me. I have had betrayal happen to me which caused me to live a life of fear in trusting others. My issues are fear of being ridiculed & taken advantaged of which people have taken advantaged of me. But it’s interfering with my life & hard to love people or be in a relationship since I want that I’m trying to fix this. This post spoke loud & clear to me tonight.

  • buhle

    Thank you so much for this post its such an eye opener. I’m currently struggling to trust my partner and the main reason is that he used to be one of those guys that believed in multiple women and he was infact in a relationship when we started dating and although we resolved those issues I constantly wonder if he has changed. Are men like that capable of changing? I recently went through his tablet and found that he flirts with women on social networks and in his emails I found a conversation between him and an ex girlfriend who recently contacted him. Nothing suggested they had done anything but he did say to her that his love life sucks an that really hurt me. When I confronted him he just played everything of as innocent. I really love this man but can’t help but wonder if I can ever really trust him.