The Impact of Trust on Burnout

Learning the role of trust in burnout can be a key step in recovery.

Horizontal image of climber climbing up the wall
Horizontal image of climber climbing up the wall

Are you a trusting person?  The question isn’t whether you’re trustworthy but rather how easy do you find it to trust others.  The answer to this question may be the key to why you’re stuck in depression or why you’re relatively resilient to it.  The reason is all about your beliefs.

Trust is a Belief

Whenever you say you trust someone, you’re stating a belief.  Your trust, properly understood and tested, has limits and conditions.  When you say that you trust your accountant, you’re saying that you trust them to do your taxes.  When you say that you trust your babysitter, you’re saying you trust them to safely watch your child.  However, you likely wouldn’t let your accountant watch your child or your babysitter do your taxes.

Does your belief mean your accountant can’t make a mistake?  Of course not.  However, trusting your accountant is a simplification.  If you can’t trust your accountant, you’ll have to learn enough about your taxes to verify their work.  The desire to offload the responsibility for understanding the complicated tax code is why you hired an accountant in the first place.

Trust with Betrayal is Better

If you know that, at some point in your life, your trust will be unfounded, and someone will definitely betray your trust, should you still trust?  The answer is still yes.  The benefits that you get from appropriate trust outweigh the occasional betrayal.  The value of trusting others is that you don’t have to verify everything, which is time-consuming and exhausting.

Certainly, if you’ve recently been betrayed, it’s hard to accept that you should have trusted in the first place.  Surely the consequences of the betrayal mean that your net psychological gain-loss statement is negative.  It can be – and at the same time, overall, your trust has served you well.  Think of all the things that you didn’t have to verify.  How many meals at restaurants did you not have to prepare?  How many airplane flights ended successfully without you having to fly the plane?

As painful as a betrayal is – whether intentional or unintentional – it often doesn’t stand up against the weight of the verification and loneliness that becomes the only other option.  Betrayal is an important signal to improve whom you trust, for what, and for how long.  At the same time, it’s important to not sink into the belief that you’ll never trust again.

Trust That It Can Get Better

Burnout is only developed or sustained when there is a belief that things will not get better.  Burnout says that nothing you do matters, because you don’t have control or influence over the outcomes.  However, the alternative belief, that the current situation is temporary and things inevitably will get better, can immunize you from being infected by burnout.  The belief – the trust – that things will get better means whatever negative you’re enduring today, including a betrayal, is brief and temporary.

Trust Touches Everything

If you’re struggling to develop positive beliefs, you can start with beliefs that are easy.  You can believe in gravity, or that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.  For most people, these are certainties that are easy to believe in.  From there, we move to the things that we inherently trust.  While this varies based on individual backgrounds, you may believe your parents will always love you, your friends will always accept you for who you are, or you’ll always “land on your feet.”  From there, it’s possible to extend trust, slowly and carefully, into areas where you’ve been betrayed, and into the space that it will get better, thereby using the power of trust to ward off burnout.

For more information on preventing – or recovering from – burnout, visit

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