Yesterday, I was watching The Five on FNC, and the panel briefly touched on a poll that revealed 1/3 of Americans do not trust each other. Read article here. The reality is, (and we don’t need a poll to tell us this) we are a fear driven society. Fear of failure, rejection, being duped, feeling regret. That’s why the “Self-Help” section of the bookstore is expanding by leaps and bindings. This fear can be paralyzing, and our over-exposure to media, broadcasting tragedy and crime, does not cultivate a trusting audience. I’ve always felt that I’m overly trusting, so I make myself watch breaking news and Law and Order SVU, just for good measure. The fact that I even trust the results of this poll is frightening.
I think it’s important, however, to make the distinction between distrust and cynicism, because I believe the latter is what we really suffer from. Fear is a feeling. Cynicism is a belief. Our thoughts becomes feelings, which become actions, so really, cynicism is at the root of our country’s trust issues. We’re trained to be cynics. It’s engrained in us. From internet scams to cheating ex-boyfriends, we’ve all fallen victim to moments that left us feeling foolish. Like we should have known better. Many of us live by the saying “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
But isn’t that sad. We begin questioning every good deed and kind gesture. When a man smiles at me on the subway, I immediately think he’s a creep who’s going to follow me home. Or I have some fabulous first dates with a new fling, and wonder when his secret fiancé will reveal herself. Our beliefs are formed from a collection of past experiences. Things we have seen, heard, and participated in ourselves. With the growth of social media we feel more connected to other people’s realities as much as our own. So now, their beliefs fuel ours.
And I whole-heartedly believe that what we set ourselves up for success as much as failure, and the more distrust we hold, the less trustworthy people in our life will be. So how do we break this cycle? Is it possible to rewire our thinking? Can we rid ourselves of cynicism while holding onto reasonable caution? I bring up excellent points that not even I know the answers to. However, the first step is looking at yourself, and becoming someone others can trust. ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ is what they say. But I really think George Michael said it best… “I gotta have faith.”