Recently I went to a fundraiser for a local politician. While my husband and I were there, many people commented how they liked my column, blog and videos I make for Mental Health Monday. I joked with my husband (a former city councilman) that I was now more popular than he was.
It felt good to be recognized for something I absolutely love doing. But when I went home that night, after we had dinner, I binged on junk food: chips, chocolate and candy.
The next day at therapy I told my therapist how good it felt to be praised, and she replied, “Did you sabotage it in some way?” She already knew. I nodded with tears in my eyes.
We explored it some, but I already knew where it was headed — to the core belief that I’m not good enough.
I don’t know why or how it started, but it has been difficult to fight. It’s lodged way deep down inside me and seems to drive my depression, anxiety, eating disorder and compulsive shopping. My therapist said that turning to things like binge eating or spending money is just me compensating for all I feel I lack.
She said it’s almost like I’m trying to get away with being a good person, a worthy one who is accomplishments — that it’s all a façade. And then I punish myself for feeling good or happy with myself by repeating self-destructive behaviors.
It’s so dangerous to live this way, to be ruled by a negative core belief that dictates how you live yourself, because let’s face it, that’s exactly what they do. You form a core belief by lived experiences, childhood, what others say about you and any assumptions you pick up along the way. They are embedded in our thinking and shape our actions. I would argue that nothing is more important or influential to your development than a core belief. They can be empowering, or they can limit you. If they’re limiting they can keep you from reaching your full potential and affect your relationships with other people.
So, obviously not all of them are positive. I didn’t grow up with mean parents and while I was picked on a bit during childhood so I don’t understand how I ended up like this. I realize it’s not a life sentence — you can refute and change core beliefs — but I’m learning that it’s very hard and even when you think you’ve made progress, you often move backward. Negative thinking can hinder your efforts. That’s hard to change, too.
What I’ve started doing is keep a list of what I believe are my core beliefs:
- I’m not good enough
- I’m lazy and worthless
- I’m fat and ugly. It’s bad to be fat
- I’m a bad mom
This is hard for me to write because these are my deepest, darkest secrets — my fears and insecurities and what I try to hide from people who get to know me. But I feel like I must come clean to heal. I know I’m not the only one who believes they’re not good enough and then practices self-sabotage. I can’t be alone. Am I alone?
The only thing I know to do is debunk these statements with evidence. And to replace each negative belief with a positive one.
Instead of “I’m not good enough,” maybe I use “I am a good person, and I am enough.” No evidence exists proving otherwise. Despite any shortcomings I may have, I’m still enough and I believe G-d made me to be exactly who I am.
I’m worthy because I try to be a good person and do good in the world. Not because I’m David Loeb’s wife, Isla and Eli’s mom, etc. I’m worthy because I myself am worthy. I’m deserving of being worthy.
I believe you are, too.
I know that ugly thoughts collect in the dark corners of my brain, and maybe that’s just part of who I am, but that doesn’t mean I have to believe them. I know enough to know that my brain is a liar. Depression is a liar. And anxiety, too.
It’s kind of scary to admit your brain doesn’t always tell the truth because how are you supposed to know the difference between reality and its lies? It’s terrifying.
But if your brain is telling you negative things about yourself, such as you’re not worthy, it’s time to reassess. Nobody deserves hearing that. Nobody deserves to believe it.
Write it all down. Back it up with evidence. If you can’t find the evidence, it’s likely not true. Talk to your family and friends. Replace all the negative with positive. Start with baby steps. I realize this is easier said than done, but just know that I’m right there with you. Sometimes our brains tell us to do something to survive, but it can be wrong.
Maybe we should stop merely surviving and start living.
We can do this. We can do hard things. We are worthy of love and acceptance, even from ourselves