There are times when optimism can shift into delusional optimism, and this can lead people to be too trusting of others. That is, we may cling to visions of a positive person and disregard reality, facts, and other clear evidence that point to who a person really is. When we build someone up in our mind to be one thing, we want to remain hopeful that version of the person will become reality if it's not—and often that doesn't happen.
How does a person become too trusting of others or delusionally optimistic?
Let’s first unpack how trust is built: When we meet people whose behaviors, values, and beliefs align with our own, we tend to find a sense of safety with that person. That safety—whether false or not—is connected to trust.
Once trust is already built in a relationship, we may be more prone to defend bad behavior or give chances at redemption.
People who display manipulative behaviors can be quite charming, which can lure others to trust them. Then, once trust is already built in a relationship, when the person begins to display characteristics with which we do not align and show themselves to be manipulative, abusive, or otherwise disrespectful, we may be more prone to defend them and their behavior or give them chances at redemption. That's largely because we already made up our minds about who we think they are when we decided that they could be trusted. Furthermore, since we've already seen positive behaviors from a person, it can be tough to believe that they're someone you can't trust if they've behaved in an untrustworthy manner at any given point.
How can you spot when you might be too trusting and potentially missing crucial red flags?
I can point out two particular signs that I notice, as a practitioner, that are common to folks who might be too trusting:
1. You make excuses for other people’s poor behavior
A very common sign of being too trusting is when people commit acts that provide you with evidence to support that they’ve done something harmful, and you still make excuses for their behavior to give them another chance.
2. You feel like you're often taken advantage of in your relationships
This is a sign that you could work on implementing boundaries and making decisions that won't drain your energy or otherwise cause you harm. So, take for instance a friend who’s always asking to borrow money but never pays you back. Their intentions are clear, but your poor boundaries and trust for them blocks you from seeing that you're being taken advantage of.
So how does someone work through this? The goal is not to become closed off and develop rigid boundaries that push people out, but rather to become more in tune with yourself, your needs and what you deserve in order to create healthier effective boundaries. Here's how:
1. Be in tune with your needs and ask yourself if you are getting what you need out of your relationships.
We can assess what our needs are by determining what we like and what we don't like, or what makes us feel uncomfortable. We cannot change others, and folks will show us who they are through their actions. Once that happens, instead of creating ideas of who they can be in your mind, be in tune with reality and accept them for who they are. Then work to set limits and protect yourself from possible harm.
2. Be in tune with what you deserve.
Sometimes, when we have poor self-esteem and self-worth, we allow ourselves to experience poor treatment from others. To stop this cycle, write down affirmations about what you think you deserve—not just in your relationships, but in general—and begin working to ensure your actions are in alignment with your word.
3. Trust your gut.
Sometimes we know when something is wrong and our gut is informing us that either someone doesn’t feel safe or that we need to make a change. Your gut generally guides you from a place of peace, whereas anxiety drives you from a place of fear. When you feel a sense of peace about how you feel about a person and how you’re being treated without having to make excuses for them, then lean into self-trust and erect boundaries to protect yourself.
Remember that boundary work is lifelong work. You may not become a pro at developing healthy boundaries overnight, but with time and consistent practice, you will find yourself becoming optimistic for a better life, rather than delusionally optimistic for things to change when the signs are clear that they may not.
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