Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Unchallenged Beliefs About Ourselves.

Our ideas about ourselves are formed in early life; we internalise negative messages received from without - from parents, or parental figures. We fold those messages about our nature into our own sense of self, and go on to carry them virtually unchallenged, often laced through with feelings of shame.

That shame is a powerful force working against self-knowledge - we may fear that if we reveal those beliefs about ourselves to another person, they will respond with, "Yes, I know that about you."

In reality, I have never yet seen anyone reveal a core belief of this kind, which has the slightest attachment to the reality of who they are as a person.

I like to look "well put together" when I'm going out of the house, and I like my house and car to be neat and clean. It's a testament to the ability of the human mind to hold two opposing beliefs simultaneously, and somehow rationalise that holding as completely reasonable, that for 53 years of life, I could tidy and clean my surroundings, while carrying a core belief that I was slovenly by nature. (untidy or unclean in appearance or habits) 

I cleaned my kitchen until all surfaces shone, while believing that I was a terrible housekeeper. I dusted the top of the hot water heater, and cleaned individual slats of blinds, while feeling intrinsic shame about being such a slob. I got down and picked out pine needles which the vacuum couldn't remove from the back door mat, firmly in the grip of that core belief.

It wasn't until I was granted awareness of the fact that I held two opposing beliefs - I like my self and my surroundings to be clean and tidy/I'm a slob - that I began to remember remarks which at the time of hearing, had slid past relatively unnoticed.
I'd shown someone a picture of my cute little dog, and she'd sighed, "Look how clean your kichen floor is! How do you keep a white floor looking like that?"

In conversation with another friend, she'd asked what was the noise in the background, and I'd replied that I was washing dog dishes before feeding them breakfast. When she'd asked how often I did this, and I said every morning, she said, "Good grief, I only wash mine every two weeks!"

I gave a friend a ride, and when getting into the car, she exclaimed, "Your car is so clean!"

It was my husband who pointed out to me, "If you like a clean house all the time, you aren't a slob." I was dumbfounded by that realisation. I had a total disconnect between the fact that a slob is messy and sloppy in home and appearance - I was neither, therefore, I wasn't a slob.

That core belief about who I was, had been folded in to my sense of self when I was so young, all along I'd just accepted it to be as real as the fact that I have brown hair. In Step 4, I would list that as of my character defects - the way I viewed it, because I had this as a fault, I must be aware of it, and work to overcome it, by keeping myself and my home nice and neat. Intrinsic in this core belief  was the idea that were I to relax my standards in this regard, I'd imstantly fall into squalor.

It took a very silly conversation with my husband, in which he suggested I try not cleaning any part of the house for a month, and then fell over laughing at my immediate and involuntary expression of revulsion, for me to begin to question that which I'd accepted as truth for so long.

When our core beliefs are challenged, and shown to be untrue, it can leave us feeling rather unsettled afterwards - we need to reorient in a new and different landscape. I find prayer, and conversations with my Higher Power and my program friends, are of great help in smoothing my way.


  1. This post reminded me of a time in my life when I thought I was fat. I had lost a lot of weight and still thought I was fat. Then one day as I was putting on a pair of size 28" waist jeans I suddenly realized that I couldn't be fat and fit into that size of jeans. It was either one or the other. It was quite a shock.

    I have a friend who likes to remind me that if something is true about me, it was true before I believed it and if something is not true about me it still isn't true even if I believe it to be.

  2. I tried to keep everything around me perfect because it would bring some order to my unordered life. It was a way of avoiding the chaos inside. Now I am okay with things not being so perfect.