Negative core beliefs and how they run our lives
It's been a LONG time since I've put up a blog post. Life has been wonderfully full with two small children and a busy practice helping clients transform their lives but I do enjoy putting pen to paper, or in this case, fingers to key (ha!) to put down the ideas that are almost always swirling in my head.
Today I want to talk about negative core beliefs, or schemas. A negative core belief is an "I" statement that pertains to how you feel about yourself, or others, or the world you live in. There are many examples, such as "I can't trust anyone" (belief about others and the world) or "I'm incompetent" (belief about self). These negative core beliefs run like a virus in our personal operating system and cause errors (I hope you get the metaphor!) in terms of how we think, feel and behave. The consequences of having these negative core beliefs run unchecked can be devastating to the vision of what we want for our lives.
I'm going to focus on two particularly intense beliefs and how they present in our every day life. "I'm not good enough" which can also look/sound like "I'm not lovable, I need to be perfect, I'm a bad person, I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy of good things, etc." and "I don't matter" which can also look/sound like "I'm not important, I'm not heard, My needs don't matter, Noone cares about me".
First of all, about 90% of all of my clients that I've ever seen, fall into one or both of the aformentioned belief systems. So if you too, identify with either of those core beliefs, take heart in that you are not alone. Not by a long shot.
Let's talk about someone that that has the "I'm not good enough" schema. This person is oftentimes a first born child, or first born of a different gender (ie. the first boy born after 3 girls is a first born in many ways). They have felt a sense of never being able to meet the expectations (often completely unrealistic) of their caregivers, teachers, other elders, coaches etc. Perhaps they were raised with critical parents; and to the extreme of emotionally/verbally/physically abusive parents. Or were disciplined in a way that communicated to them that they were bad, shameful, or "should know better". There are many different ways this seed can be planted.
How that seed germinates and grows and blooms can look different for different folks. For one person, it may show up in the relentless pursuit of perfection. They have now become their own worst critic and "nothing is good enough". This may manifest in depression, anxiety, workaholism, an eating disorder, addiction to plastic surgery (and other things that "perfect" their outside appearance), uncontrollable criticism and/or judgment of others, a constant feeling of shame (there's something wrong with me), addictions, the list goes on. Someone that doesn't feel good enough struggles with feelings of chronic shame, either overtly or covertly (they've compartmentalized it, or are overcompensating to quiet that shame voice part). They often will not shoot for the stars when it comes to their values and goals because deep down they may not believe they deserve it all, or that they are worth of having it all. Perhaps you have this core belief but it only presents at work. Or in your marriage. Where you are triggered holds keys to the wound and thus the healing. Regardless of where this shows up for you, it is imperative that you address this wound; it is preventing you from living a truly happy and peaceful existence.
The second belief that I most commonly hear in my practice is "I don't matter" or some iteration of it. Not surprisingly, this is often a second born child (or third, or fourth, etc. especially if all the same gender as previous child/children ie. the second girl) as they by the nature of things, do not get as much attention as the first born did when they had their parent(s) all to themselves. There are less resources, physical and emotional, to go around once you add another child and not all parents are equipped to balance the needs fairly amongst multiple children. Speaking as a mother to two boys, I can certainly attest to the fact that I pay close attention to making sure each of my children feels seen and heard but no matter which way you slice it, my first born got more of my attention! This child may have grown up with neglectful parents, parents that were otherwise distracted (by work, drugs, marriage/relationship problems, an older sibling that had more intense needs), may have also experienced abuse. Maybe they didn't feel safe expressing their needs, or learned that there wasn't room in the family system for them to have needs. Hence, the development of the schema "I don't matter".
This belief can show up in many ways.The most common way I've seen it show up is the type of relationships the "I don't matter" believer finds themself attracted to or inextricably drawn to. Perhaps to someone that is critical (an "I'm not good enough" person is a common match we'll talk about another time) and maybe a little entitled (puts their feelings first). Perhaps to someone that takes advantage of their kindness. "I don't matter" people often turn into people that struggle with people pleasing and codependency. Even when they choose a fairly healthy partner, these folks struggle with setting boundaries for themselves and saying "no". They fear rejection and anger, so they put their own needs aside to keep the person in question close. Whew...as you can imagine, self-abandoment is a recipe for rage brewing! Anxiety, self-harming, a sense of unease in one's skin, a sense of not knowing one's true authentic voice....these are common by-products. Healing this wound is imperative to your self-worth, your relationship with yourself and with others.
Let me know in the comments if you struggle with these beliefs and how they've shown up for you. I've done EMDR with many clients with these beliefs and have seen complete transformations take place. They leave my office re-born as someone with a true inner knowing of being good enough and having self-worth and self-respect. It's not uncommon for them to not need therapy anymore in a fairly short period of 3-12 months (though I should mention it is variable for everyone depending on a multitude of factors) after having faithfully attended traditional therapy for years. I often hear from these clients months later that they are still doing better than ever and that they are so profoundly grateful for EMDR and the work they did. If you see yourself in these descriptions, reach out to me via email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 904-599-8320 for a free 20 min consultation. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have.