Simple steps for evaluating, defining and adjusting your relationship with self.
When was the last time you really took inventory or notice of how you felt about yourself. Not from the perspective of judgement, but from a place of true observation?
Getting to this place is possible, and can really lead to a path of self-discovery that may have been too cloudy to see before.
I've read a lot about the impact of domestication on our souls and our lives. Simply put, from an early age we are taught what to do, how to do it - when to speak, told when to stop crying - through no fault of our parents, or those who raised us, it is a natural part of upbringing. Many things learned in order to be able to head out into this big bad world on our own, including the stories we make up about ourselves and our abilities.
What I have learned as I've become a parent, and adult (probably in that order) is that it's very easy to inherently pass down components of our upbringing that didn't really serve us well.
My husband is a great reminder and mirror to me of when I am imposing my anxiety and fear on my children. Not quite a helicopter parent, but nevertheless - there is a certain modus operandi that creeps in i.e. a particular way or method of doing something, especially one that is characteristic or well-established.
What does all of this have to do with core beliefs, you might ask? Let's consider domestication the place where the table is set, for the way we move through life. It's time to eat, and you have no silverware.
As an adult child of an alcoholic, there are components of my childhood that have very much influenced my choices in relationships, especially the one with myself. The corresponding core beliefs that were born out of the narrative and response to trauma that I've created since then - are things that I've worked through in therapy. The silver lining being an opportunity to heal, reflect and create new core beliefs.
So what are core beliefs? I found this resource very helpful from therapistaid.com
"Core beliefs are a person’s most central ideas about themselves, others, and the world. These beliefs act like a lens through which every situation and life experience is seen. Because of this, people with different core beliefs might be in the same situation, but think, feel, and behave very differently."
Facts about core beliefs:
People are not born with core beliefs—they are learned.
Core beliefs usually develop in childhood, or during stressful or traumatic periods in adulthood.
Information that contradicts core beliefs is often ignored.
Negative core beliefs are not necessarily true, even if they feel true.
Core beliefs tend to be rigid and long-standing. However, they can be changed.
"Even if a core belief is inaccurate, it still shapes how a person sees the world. Harmful core beliefs lead to negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, whereas rational core beliefs lead to balanced reactions."
The tricky thing about core beliefs, particularly harmful ones, is that they can be insidious. Self awareness is an instrumental component of shifting out of a place of judgement for who you are, to a genuine curiosity for why you believe what you do about yourself and the world around you.
Common harmful core beliefs:
Helpless “I am weak”
“I am a loser”
“I am trapped”
Unlovable “I am unlovable”
“I will end up alone”
“No one likes me”
Worthless “I am bad” “I don’t deserve to live”
“I am worthless”
External Danger “The world is dangerous”
“People can’t be trusted”
“Nothing ever goes right”
Interpersonal Problems These beliefs may manifest in your life in a variety of ways:
Difficulty trusting others
Feelings of inadequacy in relationships
Overly confrontational or aggressive
Putting others’ needs above one’s own needs.
Difficulty handling stress
For me, as a result of a variety of experiences - I've struggled throughout my life with not feeling emotionally and physically safe at times. This has led to trust issues and a variety of other experiences that cemented that core belief for me. When a triggering event happens, that aligns with the belief - it can lock in that belief as truth.
See? I knew this would happen again. Our core beliefs hold an energy signature to them. We transmit that signal outwards through thought, furthermore attracting more of what we don't want into our lives.
It's never too late to turn things around. So, here are a few steps to help getting you started on this journey of reprogramming.
Step 1: Pay Attention
In the next week, I really want you to pay attention to your internal narrative. This is the subtle voice/thought that pops in and out of your day, sometimes without even realizing it. Keep a journal handy, and jot down whatever comes up.
Nothing is going to get any better.
I am never going to meet someone.
I knew I couldn't trust him.
Yeah, but we both know this 'feeling good' is temporary.
No one listens to me.
Whatever it might be, just pay attention and jot it down. Don't judge it one way or another - but catch the things you might have on repeat that aren't serving you in any positive way.
Step 2: Explore
After you've spent some time paying attention, it's time for some discovery. Sit down with your list and begin to associate each of the 'scripts' with a core belief. For example:
1. Nothing is going to get any better= A core belief that on some level you don't deserve any better.
2. I am never going to meet someone = I am going to be alone because I am unlovable.
3. No one listens to me = I don't feel seen or heard, my views aren't important.
Step 3: Confront
For each of the harmful core beliefs you've identified, it's time to continue the discovery. Under each, write two or three past memories you may have that aren't pleasant.
For example: No one listens to me = the core belief that my views aren't important.
This one could result from being told to be quiet or no one paying attention to your ideas growing up, shushing you or perhaps a moment of embarrassment in class when someone called your ideas stupid. Yep, think about it - there is probably something there. Memory shrapnel. Dig for it. You have to get to the root of it, if you don't want it to grow back.
Step 4: Rewire
When you are done confronting the associated narrative attached to your core beliefs, it's time to choose. What do you want to feel? What would you tell your best friend? Could you ever imagine telling your best friend that they are unworthy of love and therefore will be alone? No. You wouldn't. So, it's time to start calling out your inner bully.
TIP: Struggling with this? Reverse engineer it. Make a list of all the things in your life that AREN'T what you want, explore how you got there, the 'excuses' you make for how you got there are often tied to your core beliefs and corresponding memories. Be honest.
Confronting opens up awareness, awareness leads to a path of healing. The rewiring comes into play because our brain is stubborn and programed to the path of least resistance. I.E. the thought you've always had, as a result of a core belief, is simply - habit. So, in step 1, you went through the process of observing and journaling, with this step comes the process of observing and retraining your brain. Except this time, you won't journal it, you'll actively call it out.
When the thought appears, call it out and replace it. It will seem weird at first. You probably won't really believe the words you are trying to force in, but trust the process. A simple "That's not true" and a redirection works too. Over time, you will teach your brain that you are in charge, not the other way around. Our brain is a tool that we've programmed. And you my friend, are ready for a system upgrade.
Don't overcomplicate it, just follow the steps. Forgive anyone that you've held hostage in your mind that may be part of the 'stories' you've created associated with your core beliefs. Release them to release the thoughts. Release yourself and forgive.
Core beliefs create the foundation on which our reality is formed. If you feel undeserving, you won't receive. If you feel unlovable, you won't feel love. If you believe no one can be trusted, your external world will grant your wish like a genie in a bottle.
You are not a product of your environment unless you accept as a core belief that you aren't worth more.
Note: Trauma can take many forms, and I am by no means trivializing your pain or experiences. These wounds take time to heal, and I encourage you to seek professional help while trying to work through the things that need healing. In the meantime, I am sending you all of the love in the world, while reminding you that you are worthy of feeling whatever your heart desires.
Next up in this series is: Identifying your core values. A gut check to determine if what you value as a person, is aligned with the choices you're making and the circumstances you find yourself in.
Until next time, I'm holding space for you and your journey.