“I’m so fat.”
“I can’t believe I bombed that test. I’m such an idiot.”
“I’m useless; I’ll never amount to anything.”
It all begins sometime during early childhood. We look to our parents or primary caregivers for guidance, support, and acceptance; as far as we know, what they say is law. If we form a secure attachment with our parents, they will meet all (or most) of our emotional and physical needs. They will show us love, compassion, and discipline us appropriately when necessary. They will instill in us a vital sense of self-identity and self-worth. We will pick up their behavioral patterns, learning by example. If all goes well, we will grow up to be self-sufficient and emotionally mature. We will grasp our intrinsic value as a unique human being. We will love ourselves, and strive to achieve all of the personal goals we dream up.
Overcoming Familial Dysfunction
If our parents or primary caregivers do not meet our emotional needs, we may form insecure attachment bonds. Insecure attachment occurs when we are abused, abandoned, neglected, or made to fulfill the caretaker role (this might occur if our parents are not present or if they are incapable). When we grow up in unfavorable conditions – in the midst of a dysfunctional family – we develop misguided core beliefs. These beliefs will concern ourselves – our inherent worth, our ability to love and be loved, and our role in relationships (and society). They will also concern others, and the way the world works in general. The more we validate these beliefs, the more they will shape and dictate our lives. In order to become unstuck, move forward, and live up to our full potential, we must acknowledge these unresolved wounds and begin speaking to ourselves with the kindness we deserve.
Negative Core Beliefs
Mark grew up in a relatively tumultuous household; his mother was an alcoholic, and his father worked two jobs in order to make ends meet. While Mark’s father was at work (which he always seemed to be), Mark was responsible for taking care of his mother. His mother began drinking as soon as she awoke, and by noon he was propping her up on the living room couch. He encouraged her to eat, making lunch for her every afternoon and dinner for her every evening. He dropped out of basketball and drama class, and eventually stopped attending school altogether. Mark’s mother passed away when he was in his mid-20s, and he finally moved out on his own. He eventually began dating, and found that he seemed to exclusively attract women with substance abuse problems – women who had a difficult time taking care of themselves, and constantly needed attention and rescuing. He readily filled the role of caretaker, seeing as this was a role he felt exceedingly comfortable with. He was emotionally exhausted a lot of the time, but he told himself (mostly subconsciously), “This is how it’s supposed to be – this is the only kind of relationship I’ll ever be in. I’m underserving of mutual love. I was made to take care of others.”
Mark believes that his role in life is to take care of others, just as he believes that all relationships are one-sided. In order to overcome this distorted belief and attract a partner who is emotionally stable and self-sufficient, he must first acknowledge that his dysfunctional childhood is affecting his adult relationships.
Recovering from Ourselves
Without realizing that we are doing so, we fall into self-defeating behavioral patterns based on erroneous core beliefs; beliefs that originated sometime during adolescence. We tell ourselves that we are irreversibly flawed; we are less than, incapable, unworthy, and doomed to a life of mediocrity. Fortunately, we can chance these self-destructive patterns of thinking and behavior at any point in time. How? Well, first of all, we have to carefully examine our blueprints. What cycles do we constantly fall into? We must pay attention to the things that we tell ourselves; the way we speak to ourselves on a daily basis. If we screw up, do we think, “Dang it! Get it together. You’re so useless.” Or do we think, “No worries, you’re only human! Nice effort. Time to try again.” Next, we must take the necessary steps to heal our old wounds. Therapeutic treatment is a great place to start. Finally, we must change our internal dialogue completely. Rather than scolding and condemning ourselves, we must speak to ourselves with kindness and gratitude.
The way we speak to ourselves will dictate the quality of our day-to-day lives. Speak to yourself with love. You are deserving!