This is an invitation to dive deeper into exploring our beliefs so we can understand how we view ourselves, and our world, and our role in the world. When we are brave enough to ask ourselves hard questions, we give ourselves the opportunity to course-correct. It allows us to intentionally discard ways of viewing the world that have become warped or twisted, and keep only that which is good and true.
(If you haven’t already read my blog post on this topic, jump over and take a look at that first, because it explains a little about how false beliefs sneak into our lives).
Here is the process I used when I first became aware of how much falsehood had crept into my thinking. This is not a one-and-done exercise, but don’t get discouraged. Just keep holding everything up to the light and keep chasing the truth.
1.) Take ten index cards, and on each one, write a belief you have about yourself, the world, or the circumstances in which you find yourself. We don’t usually articulate our beliefs, so this may not come naturally, but the below generic questions may help you discover where your thought patterns need some work:
- What went wrong?
- What should have gone differently?
- What hurt the most?
You can also use the below prompts to explore.
- I am….
- I never…
- I can’t…
- It doesn’t matter…
- If _________, then__________…
- If only…
Dig deep here. Don’t be afraid to write it exactly as you feel it. That’s the whole purpose of this step.
2.) Spend some time thinking about the beliefs on each card. For each one, ask yourself some questions:
- How did you come to this belief?
- How long have you felt this way?
- Were there critical events that played into the development of this belief?
- If it’s based on something someone told you, should that person’s opinion matter, and/or were they in a position to give you meaningful feedback?
- When you look at it in writing, as objectively as you can, do you truly believe it is true?
- Is this belief healthy for you?
- Do you want or need to carry it into the future?
- What other ways could you look at it that would be equally true and more helpful?
It’s not necessarily about true-or-false, because chances are there is some kernel of truth there, but that truth can get skewed, or can be mis-applied, or can get so mired down in mis-interpretation, pain, frustration, and insecurity that it has turned mostly false. It’s also not usually a matter of right or wrong. You may find that many things could be true. Plus – and this is important – something could have been true in your past, but that doesn’t mean you need to carry it into the future.
3.) Find a friend, coach, or therapist you trust. Make sure it’s someone who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth or ask tough questions. Start telling them the stories you’re telling yourself. Let them share their perspective. If they ask questions, give the most honest answers you can. Begin to sort out the facts – the things that actually did happen – from the thoughts that are based in insecurity, disappointment, or feelings of lack.
4.) Begin to re-frame each belief. Acknowledge the pieces that are true, and replace the pieces that aren’t. Keep looking for the highest truth about who are created to be, and the deepest truth about the life God gave you. Don’t let an event be the verdict on your life. Don’t relinquish your self-worth to any situation no matter how drastic or life-altering. Keep seeking the truth.
Let me give you a less-drastic example. One of my beliefs about my place in this world was that I only received “partial credit” for the things I did. I felt that I was held to a higher standard than others. Isn’t it a little strange that I held this belief at the exact same time I held the belief that I was a “zero?” These are the things you discover when you start digging.
Regardless, there was some truth there. As I began to work through it, though, it became obvious that there were several layers at play. First and foremost, I held myself to a very high standard. Much of the pressure I felt was internal, and the external pressure I felt most came from people whose opinions shouldn’t matter.
In addition, I had to take a good hard look at how I showed up every day. I’m not very dramatic, and I have a way of making things look easy even when I’m working incredibly hard. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I needed to understand that people wouldn’t automatically know that it felt heavy to me. I needed to communicate if I wanted them to understand how I felt.
Lastly, at the bottom of all these layers, was a beautiful truth I had missed until it was pointed out to me: a tremendous amount of grace had been extended to me because I had earned trust. It was the flip-side of the same coin.
Essentially, everything boiled down to the fact that it was a two-way street, and I needed to focus on my side of the street.
This is, of course, not a fix for the world-at-large. There have been situations since then where I did communicate, and addressed my own issues, and considered the source, and did everything I could think of to do, and probably was being taken advantage of. However, because I’d done all this work to understand what I felt and why, I was able to see it as a situation that had to be dealt with, not evidence of my role in the world. That’s the difference.
Similarly, as I dismantled my false dichotomy of “Family Woman or Career Woman,” it didn’t automatically fix my life, but it helped me separate my identity from my disappointment. It also re-directed my focus toward what I truly wanted, which is important.
If you are chasing the wrong thing, it won’t matter whether you get it.
So as you go through each of your cards, and as you talk them through, flip each one over and begin to write the truth. Write what you want for your future. Write new intentions. Describe the person you want to be. Affirm your best qualities. Add quotes or verses that capture the truth. Write change. Write hope.
Write a new ending to the story.
P.S. If you want to dive in even more, I would highly recommend Brene Brown’s books, especially Rising Strong.