What’s your story? Your beliefs come from and create what you tell yourself and others. This post explains how core beliefs get created and how they influence how you talk and behave, which ultimately determines your happiness.
We Tell Our Stories Based on What We Know and What We Want
Our stories start before we are born, but we typically stick to telling only what we know, what we experienced, and what we’ve seen in front of us. We tell our stories to ourselves more than anyone else as we reflect on past experiences to try to resolve, makes sense of, or overcome them. But, when we share our stories with others, we fantasize, exaggerate, or tell only the parts that make us look valuable, look acceptable, and look loveable – look happy. We tell what we really want to believe about ourselves, but don’t. If you want examples, check out some Facebook posts.
Every day, in addition to my own, I bear witness to stories of abandonment, neglect, rejection, abuse, and traumas – life threatening events people experienced in war zones of military conflicts and domestic conflicts where they grew up. I’ve heard accounts of sexual, physical, mental, and emotional abuse perpetrated by fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandfathers, grandmothers, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, uncles, aunts, cousins, step-parents, and half, step, and foster siblings. The perpetrators were people the victims knew and were supposed to be able to trust, honor, and respect. The victims were robbed of their joy, peace, love, and freedom.
Children Grow From What They Get
In order for children to grow, they need more, not less. When people mistreat children, they take away more instead of giving to the children, leaving them with a deficit in value, acceptance, and love. These children develop more bad than good feelings and thoughts from which they create their internal beliefs. Examples include:
- Parents who neglect or mistreat their children by not providing them with physical and emotional needs. These parents take away their children’s value. Children believe they are not worthy of existence.
- Children who are constantly criticized or pressured by parents to do better. These children do not believe they are acceptable or good enough.
- When one or both parents are alcoholics or addicts, they take more away from their children than give. These parents have no self-respect, self-control, or self-love, so they disrespect and dishonor their children who also feel unloved.
- If parents sexually abuse their children, the children have such intense negative feelings and thoughts, their beliefs are intensely negative. They have strong beliefs they are not valuable, not loveable, and not acceptable human beings. They often believe they are objects for other people’s pleasure.
Covert Abuse and Neglect
Abuse and neglect are not always overt. Parents who spend more time on their electronic devices than making eye contact, having meaningful conversations, and showing interest in their children are neglecting their children. They are neglecting and denying their children’s emotional needs. And, by giving children more access to their own electronic devices, parents are taking away their children’s ability to identify their own emotional needs. Any lack of emotional needs in children or adults results in feelings of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. I will talk more about emotional needs in future posts.
No One Is Exempt From Pain and Tribulations
Even if you didn’t experience traumas like the ones I mentioned, no one is exempt from pain and tribulations. We all have experiences that leave us with bad thoughts and feelings. Maybe you were bullied in school, insulted by your peers, or got involved with an abusive boy/girlfriend. Witnessing abuse of a sibling or parent can cause you to have the same bad thoughts and feelings as the victim. All of these can create bad internal beliefs.
Some people have good childhood stories that allowed them to have good feelings and thoughts and create good internal beliefs. However, no one can escape vulnerability. These are times of susceptibility when negative messages creep in and develop into bad feelings and thoughts. Examples of when this can happen include:
- You didn’t get the promotion you thought you deserved
- You were fired or laid off
- Your boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with you
- You find out your wife/husband is cheating
- Someone close to you dies
- Your friends/family ridicule you for a decision you made
Notice how each one of these indicate a loss of something. Loss of advancement and job equal loss of value; loss of significant other equals a loss of love; and loss of support equals loss of acceptance.
When We Have Less, We Are More Vulnerable
When things are taken from us, we have less. And, when we have less, we are more vulnerable, meaning we are “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.” Feeling vulnerable makes us feel afraid. We fear we’re going to die when we don’t have food or shelter. The loss of value, love, and acceptance means we are unimportant, unacceptable, and unlovable, leaving us to fear we will be rejected by our group and we will be left alone.
We are a social species and need to belong. Isolation and being left alone puts us in a dangerous situation. Therefore, rejection and abandonment can lead to death.
Feeling Vulnerable Can Cause Negative Behaviors
We are born with this inherent fear of abandonment and rejection. So, vulnerabilty causes us to behave in ways that prevent us from being rejected and abandoned. Some ways to prevent rejection/abandonment include:
- People pleasing
- Lack of commitment
- Wait and see attitude
- Conforming to the group despite your personal values
Preservation of Core Beliefs
What we remember and what we tell come from the seeds that were planted by our parents and others. We grow out of and into attitudes and behaviors based on this information. Once we create our beliefs, they take root in our subconscious mind where they exist along with us.
Our subconscious mind is all about preserving existence, so it preserves our beliefs by using our survival instincts. Whenever there is a threat to our beliefs, we naturally fight, flight, or freeze to save them. For our bad beliefs, these are the deep whispers we hear alerting us to be wary and the internal cringes we feel when someone does something good for us or something good happens to us.
Test yourself: what do you say and do when someone gives you a compliment or gives you a random gift?
What We Tell Others
When we believe we are bad, we don’t usually tell people about the alerts we get when they give us value, love, and acceptance, but our behaviors reflect them. Instead of giving people the joy and humility of our gratitude, we take away the joyful feelings and good thoughts because we are so familiar with loss. We believe we are unworthy of goodness and are unaccepting of kindness so we minimize or dismiss compliments. When people give us a special gift, we respond, “You shouldn’t have…” or steer clear of them until we can afford to pay them back by giving them an even better gift.
Our belief that we are unlovable makes us reject the genuine love people give us. Genuine love is uncomfortable for us because we aren’t familiar with it. We may be suspicious and reject or abandon anyone who gives it to us by not returning phone calls or ignoring text messages. We might pick a fight with the person so we can make him out to be the enemy.
What Story Do You Tell?
- What do you tell yourself and others?
- How has your history determined your internal belief system?
Telling the same story over and over is like a fish story. Each time you tell it, you can embellish certain parts of it to make it less boring or to make you look more impressive. Pay attention to how you feel and what you think after you tell your story, especially when you tell it to yourself.
Your story can be as simple as a phrase you repeat to yourself, such as the self-deprecating phrases, “I’m so stupid” or “I never do anything right.”
Exclusive Rights to Our Stories
We have exclusivity for our stories, so we write them as we see ourselves, others, and our situations. If your history includes actual or perceived threats to your wellbeing, if you were denied physical and emotional needs, or you witnessed hostility, your story will be tightly focused on you – what happened to you, making the other characters in the story out to be villains. Going through life reciting your story this way makes you a perpetual victim. It limits your compassion and empathy, steals your joy, and perpetuates distress. It does not make you happy.
Change How You Tell Your Story to Create More Happiness
Despite your conditions and the beliefs you developed from the information you got from others, you can change the way you tell your story that will give you peace, gratitude, joy, freedom, and satisfaction. The following suggestions will help you change how you tell your story:
- Identify the source of your beliefs. Who made you believe you were unlovable, not valuable, or not good enough? What do you think that person’s story is? (When you think about the person who made you feel bad, you realize he/she merely gave you what he had. People who don’t believe they are good enough are overly critical, so make other people feel the same.)
- Make your stories consistent. Do you tell the same story to yourself as you tell others? For example, when someone does something kind for you, do you tell her how much you appreciate it, but tell yourself she’s just doing it to be nice? Also, when something good happens to someone do you tell the person how happy you are for him, then ask yourself, what did he ever do to deserve that? (When someone does something kind for you, be grateful – period. If someone tells you about something good that happened to her, make yourself be genuinely happy for her. Make yourself stop the critical and jealous thoughts the creep in to steal your joy.)
- How accurate is your story? Do you have proof certain parts are true or did you just fill in the gaps with your imagination? (Pay attention and test for accuracy. If you believe you aren’t loveable because of the way your alcoholic father treated you, think about how he treated himself. Clearly, he didn’t love himself. The second greatest commandment is, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). If a parent doesn’t love himself, he can’t love anyone else.)
Thinking about these questions will make you more consciously aware. This conscious thinking will help you discern truth from imagination and reality from fiction. When you think about the conditions and situations that led you to the beliefs you have, you may realize your beliefs came from someone who believed he or she was unlovable, not valuable, and not good enough.
Stay tuned to learn how to overcome incorrect and misguided beliefs and replace them with true and accurate beliefs that will lead you to a happier self!