The world is full of pretty people doing interesting-looking things with their lives and making big piles of money doing it. This would be fine if they were doing it quietly but life being what it is, they are held up across the media as poster children for the kind of life we should all want.
We know nothing about them, of course. Whether they are good, kind, smart, generous, patient, or wise. It’s irrelevant. They look good and they can buy lots of things and in today’s world, this is the metric for winning at life.
My counsellor is running online coaching sessions. The timing is convenient. What else are you going to do while sheltering from the plague?
The end goal is personal growth and evolution. Which makes it pretty much like every other coaching and therapy session but this time I’m doing the work.
I often don’t. Getting clean with the nitty-gritty means I have to expose my imperfections. My eating disorder dislikes it intensely. Perfection is its mission statement. It’s fine with the diet of comparison that it consumes every day.
If reading was enough, I wouldn’t still struggle with the underlying belief that has driven me for most of the life and that informs so many of my actions and reactions.
If reading was enough, I’d be better. I’d have fixed all my problems. If writing about it was enough, ditto. Since I’m taking a course, we can assume I still struggle.
I’ve worked on a lot of the adjunctive stuff. Dealt with the side issues, strangled the behaviours. Facing down a problematic underlying belief is harder. It takes courage to dig deep. It has to be done though; core beliefs inform all the beliefs and behaviours that come after.
I am not enough.
I feel it in my marrow. I do the positive affirmations and write about my feelings and try to live a good life but under it all, the belief still lies there. It drove the eating disorder. It drives my anxiety. It informs the people-pleasing and extreme conflict avoidance.
I suspect I’m not alone.
It’s hard to identify core beliefs. They’re sneaky. They hide in the dark spots in the mind, in the depths of the soul. Working backwards is a good way to figure them out. Look to your actions. What you believe is easier to figure out when you look at what your beliefs make you do.
This, however, is not the end. Identification is only the first step.
Because identification is where a lot of people stop. I’ve done it myself.But if you don’t identify the core belief, it will keep informing your actions, old ones you thought you abandoned or new ones that still cause harm. What it will not do is go away by itself.
For me, the core belief is I’m not enough. There is, deep inside, a piece that believes I’m worthless and on sufferance. This is why I generally don’t stand up, enforce boundaries, or think I deserve consideration. You don’t make waves if you believe that you’re only marginally tolerated.
Too many of us believe in our basic insufficiency. It comes from a variety of influences and while knowing what those are is helpful, if only to prevent the problem on a going-forward basis, it’s also slightly irrelevant. The damage has been done.
My counsellor suggested that beliefs are like trees. You can try to address them by pruning them, by making cuts here and tweaks there to try and improve the overall shape, but you still have a tree. You can try cutting them to the ground but because the roots remain, new shoots can spring up. You have to remove the tree from the forest.
So, where does one get the axe and shovel?
How do you make yourself believe what you don’t believe? How do you stop believing the things you do?
It’s a challenge. It’s why I worked so hard on certain things as a parent. Because the fundamental beliefs people develop about themselves are vitally important. I wanted my children to believe they were enough.
Although beliefs feel like serious and forever things, they aren’t. They can be changed. It just takes time.
I have believed in my basic fatness for decades. I believed I was overweight. I believed I was large – freakishly so. I believed my legs were borderline deformed. I’m starting to believe other things about my weight and my body. It has, however, taken years of daily work. But the corrections and rethinkings are almost automatic now.
Which leaves me space to work on the really big thing that I don’t want to work on.
How do you go about altering your beliefs in the specific? There are various ways. The previously mentioned thinking-correction is one. Challenge the thoughts. Push back. Confirm if they’re truth or lie.
Another recommended technique is vision boards. I’ve done one and I didn’t even realize it. It’s just a bulletin board with quotes and pictures that remind me that I’m a work in progress that deserves props for making the effort and suggests different actions and areas of importance. Turns out that’s all that’s required.
Everything I’ve looked at suggests vision boards work. They work because they let you see what you want to make real. It’s a physical representation of what you want your life to be.
The idea behind vision boards is that when you surround yourself with images of your ideal life, who you want to become, and what you want to have, your life changes to match those images and those desires through the power of visualization. *
You’re supposed to put the boards somewhere visible; I’m at my computer a lot so this makes e-boards a reasonable option. Making a vision board only to store it in a cupboard and forget it will not offer much in the way of help.
The point is, there are things you can do. You don’t have to live with toxic and harmful beliefs. You do have to do the work, whatever that looks like.
Five steps to creating a vision board:
1. Assemble a collection of images that fit in with the thoughts and emotions you are trying to convey. Go big. More is definitely better in this case. Now is not the time to be parsimonious.
2. Edit your choices. Pull out ones that speak to you clearly, that resonate and seem to support the vision you’re trying to create.
3. Put the board together. Add the pictures. Add writing and embellishments if you wish. The board should reflect how you want to feel and what you want to accomplish.
4. Put yourself in the centre of the board (this is optional and to be honest, putting myself in my board is a thought that makes me cringe but apparently, this can be quite a powerful and helpful addition).
5. Display the board. Don’t hide it away in your closet (there may be some collages littering the walls of mine). Make it prominent. Look at it. Think about it. Let it influence the ways you think and act.
More about vision boards.