Who Do You Trust?

I was horse mad as a child.

I was born and raised in Australia until the age of nine and, along with a modest collection of pony books and stickers, I had an imaginary horse I kept tethered in our backyard. Truth be told I had about fifteen imaginary horses – all with their own names – but that’s another story.

More than anything, I wanted to ride a real horse.

When I was about eight, I came across a brochure for a kids’ activity camp. I can’t remember how but it immediately caught my eye because there on the front cover was a photo of children smiling as they rode horses through the countryside.

This is it, I thought: this camp is my ticket to Ponyville.

My parents agreed I could go (I suspect I nagged them a LOT) and the day finally came when I bid farewell to all fifteen of my imaginary horses (took a while) and headed off to realise my dream. In no time at all, I thought, I’ll be one of the happy kids cantering blissfully through the sunny landscape.

It turned out to be one of the darkest weeks of my young life.

I can’t remember much about the camp. I know it was big and overwhelming with lots of older kids. I know I felt shy and scared. I can’t remember where it was or what time of year.

What I do remember is a pair of twin girls with red hair about my age.

The reason they were memorable is because, from the time we got up in the morning until we went to bed at night, they followed me around, calling me names, making spiteful comments and ensuring my life was utterly miserable.

Their bullying was relentless and I felt so diminished by it I stopped talking. I had no voice to ask to go riding so I never did fulfil my ambition. I never told my parents what happened. In fact, I never told anyone until I was having counselling as an adult.

To be clear, this is not a sob story designed to elicit an outpouring of sympathy. I’ve processed this experience thoroughly and don’t feel at all vulnerable sharing it with you. The reason I’m telling you is because, as a consequence of this and other negative experiences in childhood, there’s still a small part of me that really likes to come home, close the front door and shut the world out.

And I’m aware many people who struggle with emotion-driven overeating feel the same.

Getting to Know your Wary Side
If you were bullied as child, or if the people around you when you were growing up weren’t trustworthy, you can develop a side to your personality that believes no one is worthy of your trust. This Wary Side cautions you to be careful in your interactions with others in case you’re taken advantage of or you get hurt. In this way, it believes it’s helping you. “That’s a good thing”, you might say, and it some ways it is – it’s not wise to blindly trust everyone we come into contact with.

What’s the Downside?
The Wary Side is suspicious of everyone’s motives and is constantly on the lookout for evidence of dishonesty and disloyalty – and will find it. If a friend lets you down in some way, instead of stopping to consider if their error was simply because they’re human, the Wary Side can have you cut ties with them altogether. It doesn’t evaluate if there’s a strong underlying trust in the relationship, it just wants to protect you.

The Wall of Protection
Taken to extremes, rather than help you construct clear and safe boundaries, the Wary Side erects a wall around you that doesn’t just keep the untrustworthy people out, it guarantees no one can really get close to you. Which is fine and dandy except human beings are all about connection, and without it you feel lonely and isolated. In an attempt to deal with the disconnection and loneliness, you turn to food. While that might help you detach from the feelings, it doesn’t help you resolve your trust issues.

The Trust Inventory
It’s a good idea to think back over your entire life and all the people you’ve come into contact with. How many of them were truly untrustworthy? I can hear some of you answering “all of them!”. But let’s be realistic. If you were to draw a pie chart of all the people you’d met in your life, what percentage of them would have proved themselves untrustworthy? 7%? 5%? 2%?

Close, Closer, Far Away
Think about the people in your life right now. If you like, you can get a piece of paper and draw a small circle in the middle with your name in it. Then you can draw another circle around that. Who might be in the circle closest to you? You can keep drawing circles outwards and figure out where you’d like to put people. Some might be far away, others closer – you get to decide. Some people lack the awareness to understand they violate personal boundaries, others try intentionally to hurt – it’s OK to keep people at a distance if you don’t feel safe with them.

There are many people in this world who are not only trustworthy but have the potential to enhance our lives in amazing ways, as we can theirs. We can’t let the Wary Side make us see only the worst in people, otherwise we miss out on the best. If we let negative experiences put us off everyone, food becomes the only thing we trust.

While we don’t have to trust everyone, it’s worth working out who we do trust and where our boundaries are.

My Wary Side may like to close the front door and shut the world out, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what’s inspiring, life-affirming and downright fantastic about people.

For me, that’s worth trusting.

***

“Who Do You Trust?” is the topic for this month’s eatonomy group. For more information, please see the Community page.

34 thoughts on “Who Do You Trust?

    1. You’re so right, Sadje, it does take courage but I think it’s possible to gradually build trusting relationships and our lives are richer for it. Many thanks for your comment, it’s good to hear from you.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This post is so wonderful Julie! As a child, I found it very hard to trust. I required people to prove to me, over and over again that they’d pass the impossible “trust test.” I believe, my extended family helped with that but as a kid, I didn’t trust anyone. Believe it or not, I was this way until I met my husband. Mind you, I didn’t trust him either at first lol. But five years into our marriage, I realized the only person I was hurting was myself. I wanted meaningful relationships and that required my participation and taking a leap of faith.

    I was bullied as a child. Let’s face it, my parental situation made me different and in being different…..I was targeted. It is why I am such a soft touch when it comes to kids from dysfunctional homes or victims of bullying. I honestly think I missed my calling as a child advocate lol. Thank you for such an interesting read!😀

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    1. “I wanted meaningful relationships and that required my participation and taking a leap of faith” – you’ve put that so beautifully, Erin. It’s so hard to trust when we’ve been treated badly, but if we don’t take the risk we miss out on so much. Thank you for your comment – I appreciate you sharing your experience and I think many people will relate to it.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I know you didn’t post this looking for sympathy, but I’m still so sorry you went through that bullying at the horse camp. I can’t understand why the counselors didn’t intervene. Still, your point is a good one: we do tend to let those bad experiences shape the way we look at the world, and especially our ability to trust others. Thanks for sharing this post…I think it will help a lot of us!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was a really horrible and shocking experience for my 8-year old self, but something that needed to be processed later in life to work out how that – and other negative experiences – affected my ability to trust. Exactly as you say, these experiences “shape the way we look at the world”, sometimes in a way that’s not helpful to us. Thank you for your compassion, Ann, and for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I wasn’t expecting to have such an emotional reaction to your post, Julie! It’s a good thing – always helpful to let those suppressed feelings bubble up and be heard.
    I was badly betrayed by a mad I loved, and it almost cost me my children, my career, and my home. A therapist told me I could choose my reaction to it: Choose to still be a trusting person (overly trusting … that’s how I’d ended up in the mess) or choose to be more careful.
    It was an easy choice. What I’d learned was that while there was one person doing his best to destroy me, there were dozens of others – some I barely knew – leaping in to help me. I learned to trust in community and in the good of most people.
    I can’t link any of it to my eating habits, but as always, you’ve given me new insight and I truly appreciate it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m relieved your emotional reaction was a good thing and you’re OK acknowledging your feelings! It’s good to hear that such an awful experience – one that, as you say, nearly cost you everything – hasn’t made you mistrust people altogether. It’s so terrible when someone who’s supposed to care for you abuses your trust in that way. How wonderful that you were able to recognise it was just one person doing the damage, while there were many others helping and supporting you – it can be difficult to find that perspective. I love how you’re able to say you “learned to trust in community and in the good of most people”, despite such a powerfully negative experience. Thank you so much for sharing this, Karen, I think many people will relate to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow Julie. This is such a wonderful post. Sharing it with the world is such an indication of you coming out of that particular incident. And that is exactly how I find out if I have come out of an experience. The moment I can talk about it, I know I am done with it. When I know I can’t talk about it yet, I know it still hurts. I cover it up and just let it be. But I know I will get over it in due course.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Experiences such as these are so shaming, we often want to keep them hidden. I think there’s something empowering about processing them and owning them – that’s how we heal the shame. I really like how you say “the moment I can talk about it, I know I am done with it” – the experience no longer has power over you, you’ve done the work you needed to do to heal it. I appreciate you sharing you thoughts on this, Deepa, and adding to the conversation – thank you.

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  5. Thank you for sharing!!… I am not into religion but I believe there is a saying “God promised you a safe landing, he did not say the journey would be a smooth one”.. 🙂 I believe if one follows one’s heart, one will not go wrong… 🙂

    “I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you can appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together”… Marilyn Monroe

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful post, Julie. I’m so sorry to hear of the horrible experiences you endured and it’s inspiring to read how you have used those experiences to help form the well-grounded, wise, other-oriented person you are today. Trust, like so many other things is life, can be a choice and your post shows how it can be a choice than enriches not diminishes us, Lxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s by no means the worst thing that’s happened to me, Lol, but it was a really horrible experience at a young age. Thank you for your very kind words, my friend – not sure I’m always well-grounded or wise but, like most people, I do my best! Lovely to hear from you, many thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Words could have been parts of my story. Trust comes very slowly but I don’t think that a problem in this day and age. Lot’s of strange people out there. You mentioned eating…….still a crutch for me in my dark hours. Nothing can fill the gap like food. Not even love, I have plenty of love in my life. It’s when the depression sets in that it gets dark.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m so sorry you had to experience such nastiness. You know, I’ve been having similar conversations with my mother for the past couple of days. It’s been a combination of this legal case I’m involved in (against a surgeon who did my first surgery), an online friend falling for a scam, and us being ripped off by a dodgy plumber. I’ve become far more wary and suspicious over the years, but it’s tallied quite nicely with me becoming more confident and assertive. I’m more able to stand up for myself and for others, so I don’t feel quite as vulnerable as I always used to. I think that helps me to still keep part of myself open, to often anticipate the worst but hope for the best and be open to trusting. You’re absolutely right, we don’t want to close ourselves off fully, or too often, because there are wonderful people out there, there’s compassion and generosity and trust and lots of positive experiences we may miss if we shut ourselves off. Another fantastic, thought-provoking post, Julie  ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think if you know where your boundaries are and you know you can defend them if you have to, it’s safe to be trusting. Often people think defending your boundaries is an act of aggression or defiance but, as you explain, it’s just about being assertive. I’m sorry to hear about your battles, Caz, but I’m so grateful to you for sharing your experience – thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What a story. I can only imagine how soul crushing it must have been for someone who was so excited about the camp/ horses. Have you ever been on a horse?

    I see what you are trying to say, but I slightly disagree. Maybe I’m just unlucky, but plenty of people prove untrustworthy every single day. Maybe my standards are too lofty? I keep an open mind, and I don’t shut everyone just because. I’m fine having a connection or two and keep the others outside, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I suppose to a certain extent it depends on our individual definition of trustworthy. I’m sorry to hear you encounter so many untrustworthy people. I did ultimately get to fulfil my ambition to go horse riding – when we moved to the UK I went riding in Hyde Park for many years and I also worked every Sunday in the stables, mucking out etc. Thank you for your empathy and for sharing your thoughts.

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