October 27, 2020

Developing self-trust in midlife


“The more uncertain the world is, the more important it is to trust yourself.” – Mercedes Finlay

Self-trust is the backbone of the Power Years™. It is what allows you to take risks, and let go of what’s not working anymore. It supports bold choices and quietly creating a truer, more fulfilling life. Self-trust gives you the courage to face challenges and uncertainty, and to ask the hard questions. Without it, it’s far easier to stay committed to the status quo, worried about what everyone else will think.

But how do we develop self-trust?

If you don’t know about Brené Brown’s Marble Jar theory, I highly recommend watching Brené’s talk, “The Anatomy of Trust”. Even if you’ve seen it, it’s worthwhile to watch it again. In this engaging talk, she explains how trust is developed not in the big gestures but in the smallest of moments. Every moment that builds trust is a marble that gets added to the jar. Over time the jar fills up. But what actions specifically build trust? Brené breaks down trust into five concepts represented by the acronym, BRAVING.

Here is a brief description of each concept (paraphrased from Brené’s talk):

B – Boundaries — having clear boundaries, communicating them, and holding them.

R – Reliability — doing what you say you’re going to do.

A – Accountability — being willing to own your mistakes, apologize for them, and make amends.

V – the Vault — holding and respecting confidentiality.

I- Integrity — “choosing courage over comfort, choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy, and practicing your values not just professing your values.”

N-Non-judgment — being able to ask for what you need without judgment.

G – Generosity — thinking the best of me when I make a mistake.

Each of these is necessary in order for there to be a trusting relationship with another person and with yourself.

We can only have trusting relationships with others if we first have one with ourselves, says Brené. If trust is about braving a connection with someone else, it’s first necessary to brave a connection with yourself.

The marble jar experiment

Knowing that self-trust is the goal in midlife and especially important in these “uncertain times”, as we’re about to go into a potentially long and challenging winter, I thought it would be an interesting experiment for each of us to create a marble jar for ourselves.

Every time you do something self-loving or self-respecting, add another marble to the jar. By the time spring comes, won’t it be amazing to see how many times over you’ve filled that jar? Just imagine the impact of all those small moments of building self-trust adding up.

This feels like a new way to think about self-care and a new way to be accountable to yourself and celebrate yourself.

Every time you create or hold a boundary…add a marble.

Every time you keep your word to yourself…add a marble.

If you don’t keep your word to yourself but acknowledge it and find a way to make amends to yourself…add a marble.

If you are discerning with your stories and who gets to hear them…add a marble.

Every time you practice your values…add a marble.

Every time you hold yourself with self-compassion instead of judgment… add a marble.

And, every time you think generously of yourself…add a marble.

I know for myself, it is helpful to journal each morning as a reminder about how I plan to “brave connection with myself” that day. For example, looking at my schedule and asking myself, “what boundaries are needed today?”, “how will I show up for myself today?”, “what values of mine will I practice today?”, and “what will self-compassion look like today?”.

Before bed, I come back to the journal as a way of being accountable for what I wanted for myself and checking in, with self-compassion and generosity, to see where the gaps might have been. This also helps me understand what I might think about doing differently the next day.

Let’s fill those jars and build even more self-trust because these are your Power Years™!

Are you in?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this idea. Comment below and let me know if you’ll be joining me.

Sara Smeaton Coaching SS-177 Photo by Marina Dempster
Hi, I'm Sara!

I'm here to reclaim the term 'midlife' and embrace the power these years offer us.

Get to know me

Join the conversation
Does this post connect with you?

Leave a public comment below. 

Leave a Comment

Sara Smeaton Coaching SS-177 Photo by Marina Dempster


Sara Smeaton

Sara Smeaton is a certified professional coach and facilitator who helps midlife women follow their dreams after forty. She works privately with clients in Canada, the US and the UK.

Book your free "What's Next?" Power Call.