How I’m Learning to Trust Myself

We were crammed into a hospital room when I finally spilled my guts to my dad.

I’d been wanting to talk to him for a long time now—my husband and I were in the process of making a big decision and it didn’t feel right to do it without asking his opinion first. But he’d just had open heart surgery and I had barely come up for air, after sinking to the deep end of my fear of losing him.

This felt right. This felt good. I needed his advice and I was so thankful I could ask for it.

So I told him the story. Beginning to end. My husband sat next to me, filling in any details I left out. I felt so safe, even crammed into that stuffy white-washed room; even with the faint smell of chicken and fluorescent lights burning overhead.

My dad listened. He’s a psychologist. That’s what he does.

photo: Lei ♥ [foto SOOC], Creative Commons
photo: Lei ♥ [foto SOOC], Creative Commons
When we both finished, we paused and took a breath, and looked at him. This was the good part. He was going to tell us exactly what to do. I just knew it.

“What should we do?” I asked.

“It sounds like you’re in a really tough situation,” my dad said. “But I’m sorry, I’m not going to tell you what to do.”

Wait. What?

“I know you want my advice,” he told us. “But you don’t need it.”

My heart sank. I wanted so desperately for someone to tell me the “right” thing to do so that I could be sure I was doing it. I wanted him to point out something we had missed, whatever it was that made this whole thing seem so murky and confusing. I wanted him to take what was gray to me and make it black and white.

Instead he told us that, sometimes, with difficult circumstances, there are only difficult answers. And that no matter what he supported us. He believed in us.

“I think you already know what to do,” He said. “Trust yourself.”

And yet, at the same time I felt sad my dad wasn’t giving me the answers I was looking for, I also felt empowered and  honored. It was like he was saying, “Sure, I’ve lived more years than you, and if I saw any major red flags, I’d tell you.

But the truth is—your wisdom comes from the same place as my wisdom. You need to learn to trust yourself.”

Here’s the crazy part: When I took his advice—when I did what I felt in my gut was right—things didn’t fall apart like I was worried they would. In fact, they turned out pretty good. They weren’t perfect, by any means, but they’re still unfolding and I’m still learning and growing and I’ll know even better next time.

The best part is: I’m slowly beginning to trust myself.

Ever since, I can’t help but wonder if this advice—the non-advice—is the best advice my dad ever gave me. It makes me want to give the same gift when others come to me asking for direction or input; and it makes me want to think twice before I ask someone to make a decision for me I should be making for myself.

“Should I quit my job?”

“Am I ready to get married?”

“Should I get a masters degree?”

“Where should I go to college?”

Because there is no better gift than learning to trust yourself, and that gift can only come with time and practice; and because I wouldn’t have gotten that practice without that little push from my dad. I just want to keep reminding myself: “Difficult circumstances only have difficult answers, but…”

“You have to learn to listen to yourself.”

So if you’re facing a difficult decision right now and you aren’t sure what to do, let me give you some advice:

What I think isn’t nearly as important as what you think. The “right” answer isn’t nearly as important as learning to trust yourself. Listen to yourself. Make the best decision you know how. Get feedback, definitely, but also lean into your choices and to your consequences, trusting that the outcome is not a fixed point in history. It’s slowly unfolding over time.

If you’ll stop for just a minute, you probably know the right thing to do, don’t you?

Now you just have to do it.

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Allison Fallon

I write books. I help people write books. I believe a regular practice of writing can change your life.

16 thoughts on “How I’m Learning to Trust Myself”

  1. As a daddy myself, this story touched me in a special place… especially the part that both you and your husband went to speak to him… that alone would show a good daddy just how humble and mature you guys really are. When you are willing to go ask someone trustworthy for advice, it shows that you really are already on the right path and have a heart that is still and soft and tender before God. It’s the person that sayis in their heart “I already know what I need to do, I don’t need anyone’s advice, it’s my life”… that’s the immature, hard headed person that will cause themselves and others innumerable hurts. I should know, I was that person that always thought I knew best. Thank God for His mercy and for the lessons learned at the Hard Knock School of Life. I’ve said it numerous times, and it bears repeating; I love your guys transparency, it’s encouraging me to express and write in the same way. Thank you.

    1. Georgio — that’s a cool perspective. I never thought about it that way before. The relationship shared between a dad and daughter is a really special one. Good for you for recognizing that.
      Glad this post blessed you.

  2. I love that your Dad is secure enough to not need you to need him. Ya know? What an incredible, freeing piece of advice he gave! I have an awesome dad too and so many times am reminded of how lucky we are!

  3. I think a lot of times people already know what to do they just need/want the affirmation. That’s really neat of him to recognize that you can handle stuff on your own, or at least some of it.

  4. Get out of my head! 😉 I have been going back and forth about a particularly difficult choice (hint, it is the same question as one of the three that you wrote here) and, you’re right, I do know what to do. I just need to take a deep breath and gather the courage to do it. This is definitely one of your best posts. Thanks for passing on such great wisdom.

  5. Hi Allison,
    I am reading your post after a weekend of more horrific circumstances….the kind that have kept coming, and coming now for years, not months or weeks, but years. Yet, although I am in my last years of life I truly know God is using these circumstances to heal me of a broken spirit. And, in the past year I especially hear Him say what you have written, ‘Trust yourself’, ‘I am with you’, ‘You hear Me’, ‘Don’t be afraid!’
    For anyone out there who is a senior citizen–relax in the Fathers arms! We have an eternity ahead of us! And whatever you are asking Him to heal in you….He is doing it! Don’t judge yourself based on your circumstances….God won’t be impressed with fame or fortune. And He doesn’t turn away from us in our times of lack….He never focuses on what surrounds us, He is looking into our eyes, our face cupped in His hands….we can say to Him, ‘Abba, Daddy!’
    Thank you Allison for continuing to hear and then sharing His thoughts with us! Thank you!

  6. Thanks for this Allison. Over the past few years I’ve been learning more and more the importance of trusting myself, and yet I still often don’t.

    Also, it’s good to have you back in my inbox. Welcome back.

  7. I love this blog post- it’s so, so true. I’ve been realizing that over the past two years as well that I just need to listen to my gut (a.k.a. the Holy Spirit) about who I should & shouldn’t date, where I should move, what job I know I should take, what hard decisions I need to make etc. Usually, deep inside, we know what brings us more peace. We just have to listen to it. So thanks for telling people about this. It’s powerful.

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