This Simple Mindset Shift is at the Heart of Change

by | Oct 27, 2019 | Anxiety, Trust Yourself | 10 comments

“Much of our anxiety and inner turmoil comes from living in a global culture whose values drive us from the essence of what matters. At the heart of this is the conflict between the outer definition of success and the inner value of peace. 

“Unfortunately, we are encouraged, even trained, to get attention when the renewing secret of life is to give attention. From performing well on tests to repositioning ourselves for promotions, we are schooled to believe that to succeed we must get attention and be recognized as special, when the threshold to all that is extraordinary in life opens only when we devote ourselves to giving attention, not getting it. Things come alive for us only when we dare to see and recognize everything as special.” – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Giving attention instead of getting it. Self-trust and well-being hinge on this shift in mindset. But what does it mean to give attention? It means many things:

1. It means we turn inward and give loving attention to our four realms of self: our physical body, our emotional life, our mental space, and our soul.

2. It means that we give attention to that which nourishes and sustains us by feeding our passions and our creativity.

3. It means that our primary intention in any endeavor – whether in love, work, parenting, friendship, or art – is to give. We replace the mindset of trying to get approval with the mindset that we are here to offer our gifts and serve as best we can. This mindset shift alone is one of the keys to breaking free from perfectionism which, at its core, is the belief that if we’re perfect we will get love, secure happiness, and avoid pain.

This is What Self-Trust Looks Like in Action 

Before I share more on these concepts, I want to share a recent parenting moment that elucidates this concept. Our older son, now fifteen (he was five years old when I started this blog!), is taking a class on becoming a drone pilot at the end of which he’ll have his Part 107 certification, which will qualify him to work professionally. Everest loves all things aviation, drones included, so this class is a dream for him. He had a midterm exam last week, and, as this is a community college class, the exams are at a high level. When he came home from classes that day he said, “I got an 80% on the exam!” He had a big smile on his face, so I knew he was pleased.

Now, being a recovering perfectionist, I watched my mind tumble over itself as I made sense of him being happy with an 80%. I had to bite my tongue from saying, “But that’s only a B minus! Are you okay with that? I’m sure you could have gotten an A!” I didn’t say a word. Instead, I told him how happy it makes me to see him so happy, and then I sat back and marveled at his lack of attachment to getting perfect grades.

The bottom line is that he’s not there for the grades. He’s there because he loves to learn. He’s taking this class because flight is what brings him joy, he’s on the path to becoming an airline pilot, and along the way he can make some money and learn a lot through flying drones. Since he wasn’t raised in a system that showers on approval for “good grades” and disapproval for bad ones, and with a temperament that isn’t prone to perfectionism, he’s free to learn for the joy of learning without fixating on outcomes. This is what Mark Nepo is describing above, and this is what lives at the heart of self-trust.

But this isn’t easy. We’re conditioned from the time we’re born to externalize our sense of self-trust and to equate our value and our self-worth with our achievements and accolades. As young people, we’re told from every available source – parents, teachers, religious figures, media, peers –  that we can’t possibly know what we like, who we love, how we learn, and what activities light us up. This inevitably results in low self-trust, which then makes it difficult to make decision, like ourselves, and chart our own course.

The Following are Symptoms of Low Self-Trust:

• You easily absorb other people’s lives and stories. For example, if you struggle with relationship anxiety and you hear about someone who left their partner because they “weren’t in love enough”, you immediately feel anxious because you believe that that’s going to be your story.

• You have a hard time separating your parents’ opinion from your opinion. You know that you need to individuate and find your own “coat of arms” (value system), but you don’t know how to do that.

• You struggle with intrusive thoughts and frequently lose touch with your inner guidance system that knows yourself and can confidently answer the ruminations of an intrusive thoughts. In other words, you get stuck on spin cycle in your mind and lack the tools and inner trust that can shift you back to the center of yourself.

• You’re not quite sure of your values and your opinions, and you’re easily swayed by others’ opinions, falling prey to what I call the Leaf in the Wind Syndrome.

• You have a hard time making decisions. You agonized over where to go to college. You sometimes struggle with what to eat a restaurant.

• You care deeply about what other people think and are addicted to external approval.

In my Trust Yourself course, I share the story of how I broke free from this conditioning and the step-by-step mindsets and tools for reversing the focus of your attention from external to internal, from getting to giving. I teach you how to fill your well of Self and what it means to attend to the four realm: body, heart, mind, and soul. It’s these mindsets and actions that teach you how to know yourself, love yourself, and trust yourself. This is the equation I teach in the course, and it’s the medicinal antidote for what you received in your growing up years.

To learn more and read testimonials from past participants (I’ve been running this course since 2014 and have guided thousands of participants through these steps), click here. This live round will begin on Saturday, November 16, 2019, and I very much look forward to connecting with you there.



  1. This is such a beautiful reminder, Sheryl! I have friends from college coming to visit soon and I’ve been unconsciously spinning my wheels worrying what they’ll think about my life as it is with a new husband and child. I’m grateful for the advice to shift from getting their approval to giving myself a break, dropping the need to be perfect (compassion) and giving them warm hospitality as best I can at this juncture. Thank you, as always, for your work and your gifts.

    • That’s a beautiful reframe of your intention, and exactly what it looks like to shift from the external to the internal!

  2. What if you followed your parents guidance when deciding if to continue with relationship? What if your parents advice was crucial in decision to pursue the relationship (and get married)?
    What would that mean for the relationship?

    • If the relationship is healthy and loving it means that you’re being invited to grow your self-trust and not project your intrinsic anxiety onto the relationship and your decision to commit.

      • My husband is healthy and loving, but the constant ambivalence and doubt makes it really hard to know if I can return these feelings and not just forcing myself because it’s good or I should.

        • It takes work and real mindset shifts to embrace real love.

  3. I have been dealing with sudden, onset relationship anxiety and intrusive thoughts since late June/Early August. I thought it was my intuition-which was the worst. I was head over heels in love, no doubts in sight for my then fiance. We started the process in buying a house, moving, and got married in September. It took coming across one of your articles of “Intuition or Fear?” Reading that was my first piece of relief I had found in months. I wasn’t eating, couldn’t work, my mind was in a constant groggy feeling/battle with itself. There were no fights or anything to cause any relationship anxiety. I was still confused until I came across your blogs. I read all over your website almost every day. At 23 and experiencing this when I never have before I was terrified because I have wanted to marry my wonderful man for so long, now all of a sudden these thoughts were eating me alive. I didn’t want to leave, I wanted my certainty and love to return. I could go on. I still face issues with the intrusive thoughts/feelings I keep trying to work through by breathing through the feeling, showing fear i’m not afraid, reaching into my inner self on unresolved issues from my past, all the things you talk about and though I have seen an incredible change in myself to feel almost myself again, I still fight with the intrusive thoughts and feelings almost like i’ve hit a wall I can’t get through. Earlier I was looking through your site again looking for which course I should think about taking, after reading this there are about three points that sound exactly like me. I’m thinking this is the course I should take. Any advice for which would be best for me? Thank you so much for what you do. I swear all my praying and you has saved me from myself and from leaving my wonderful husband. Even if my intrusive thoughts still eat at me.

    • Since your primary struggle is with relationship anxiety I would recommend starting with the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety course, but if you sense that self-trust is at the root of your intrusive thoughts then you could certainly start with this one. I encourage you to get quiet, turn inward, and trust yourself as far as which one to take ;). Basically, you can’t make a mistake as either course will help you break through to the next level of your growth.

  4. Thank you for this beautiful sharing . I took the trust yourself course recently as well as the relationship anxiety course and still feel really struggling with both .
    I’m scared to stay as don’t feel right(in love atrracted, excited have constant break up thoughts) and scated and not sure enough to leave , and feel very stuck when only want to move forward get married and have kids ! I don’t trust myself or how I feel Any advice ?

    • How have you been doing with committing to the daily practices? The information is helpful, but it’s the practices that will help you break free from the anxiety and intrusive thoughts.


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