This post touches child sexual abuse
and contains images that may be
distressing to those with eating disorders.
I could write you a thousand word (or more!) essay on core beliefs, and although that would be interesting, it would be every so slightly dry and a tad boring. This blog is my story. I try to educate and inform as I write, but each post is filled with my own thoughts, feelings and experiences.
I have to start with a definition of core beliefs. What are they? I think the term can seem a bit obscure and hard to understand. The way I think of core beliefs – they’re those beliefs about yourself that underly how you think, feel, and behave. Even that seems a bit confusing!
In 2005 my psychologist at the time handed me a wad of papers stapled together entitled ‘Core Beliefs’. I didn’t do a huge amount of work on it back then, but it did provide me with some useful information. This ‘wad of paper’ was produced by the Centre for Clinical Interventions and provides workbooks on a range of different topics for anyone to download, print, and use. In the Panic Stations workbook (designed for people struggling with panic attacks) Module 8 is entitled Core Beliefs.
CCI describe core beliefs as ‘…the very essence of how we see ourselves.‘ So when you take away all the surface stuff, peel back the layers, you’re left with core beliefs. To expand on this – I tend to come across as a fairly confident, patient, kind, caring person. That also fits with what friends and family think of me. When I have a think about who I am, positive character traits, and what makes me me, I begin to struggle. I don’t believe all of the positive stuff. I tend to go along with it and do my best to ignore how truly terrible I feel about myself.
This is something I’m currently struggling with. I think the true struggle is the conflict between my core beliefs and what everyone else sees. Mostly this is something I ignore. I push away all of my negative beliefs, push away all the niceness that others seem to throw at me. Ignoring it never works very well.
The conflict between my core beliefs and the positivity that others see has been coming out in journaling and drawing. Excuse the shadows on the pages – my journal got wet so the pages are dry but wrinkled.These pictures show some of what I think about myself. They’re all related to the eating disorder thoughts and behaviours I’m currently struggling with, but also perfectly illustrate my core beliefs.
I think that most people who know me would be a little shocked about just how much I detest myself. If a friend were to show me something similar I’d only want to love and care about them even more. It would make me so sad to think that a friend was unable to see what a beautiful, amazing, loving, kind, caring person they were.
In the Panic Stations workbook CCI offer an explanation for the development of core beliefs –
‘Core beliefs…develop over time, usually from childhood and through the experience of significant life events or particular life circumstances. Core beliefs are strongly-held, rigid, and inflexible beliefs that are maintained by the tendency to focus on information that supports the belief and ignoring evidence that contradicts it.‘
I grew up in an unsafe environment. I wasn’t honoured, respected, loved, and cherished as a child should be. I was eighteen years old before I was out of that environment. I returned briefly, but left for good soon after my nineteenth birthday. Contemplating the circumstances that I grew up in is overwhelmingly sad, and not something I’ll delve into here. It’s enough to say that, given those circumstances, it’s no wonder I feel so terrible about myself.
Where to from here? What do you do about unhelpful core beliefs?
I don’t have an answer. I’m wading my way through a mess of conflicting thoughts, and painful emotions. For me, I think the next part of my journey is about acceptance. Accepting that I was sexually abused as a child. Taking steps towards accepting my past will allow me to understand how my core beliefs developed. Those beliefs are understandable, and make perfect sense given my past, but that doesn’t mean they’re true.