Assessing My Belief System; Interrogating My Negative Self-Talk
Updated: Sep 19, 2022
Photo Cred: Dorothy Attakora-Gyan
I'm currently taking part in a 12-week group coaching. This week's homework was to sit with our belief systems and note how they make us feel, as well as find proof for it. This blog discusses some of my thoughts.
I tried to give up self-deprecating thoughts for Lent, and it’s still not going well. I’m even doing better with not cursing as much. That’s really sad to me. Shameful even.
I study shame because shame is such a deep imprint that even after almost 7 years of studying it, I still find myself deeply tangled up with it.
Today I’m sitting with the knowing that I need support around breaking the limiting beliefs and thought patterns. I’m struggling to do it alone. I recognized earlier this year through group coaching that grief was a major block holding me back, and I’ve since taken the steps to join an online support group addressing the topic. But the limiting belief patterns still looms large.
“Who does she think she is,” “bitch, be humble,” “she thinks she’s better than everyone,” “she thinks she’s above others,” “she dreams too big,” “aims too high,” “unrealistic standards,” “show off.”
These are some of the repeating shame stories I tell myself, as Brené would call it. Someone pointed to that language just now in group coaching, so it’s on my mind, sitting with me. These are some of my shame stories. Intellectually, I know that these tapes run because I self-reflect on them, have some self-awareness. But self-awareness and introspection are not enough. It’s just the beginning stages of transformative change. Action is required. I also need to understand the feelings associated with these scripts. How do they make me feel?
It makes me feel small, though at the same time, familiar and safe. There’s a part of me that’s built an identity around being sad and miserable, small, and insignificant, self-deprecating and self-loathing. Deep down, there are still parts of me that believe that this serves me. I took the scripts on and have become such a good and obedient student of these limiting and negative thoughts.
Even though I didn’t just pick these messages up from nowhere. It was not innate. I learned to adopt them. To be safe, I had to believe them. And I really do. I can’t seem to shake the bad habit.
It’s funny, the same people who embedded this programing in me will call me negative, see how toxic these thoughts are, but distance themselves from the role they played. And rightfully so. I’m responsible for them now.
I’ve spent so much time alone with my own thoughts that I believed so much of these voices. These scripts, people don’t even have to say it to me now, I just go into autopilot and believe it. At this point, I can’t really blame others, I need to invest in taking the time to deconstruct and break it down.
Even this morning, reading the first chapter of my dissertation, I didn’t recognize my own voice. I attributed it to my editor. I sent an email thanking her for making me sound like “a real academic.” I couldn’t connect the words with my own brilliance. No doubt she took my writing to the next level, but the blueprint, that was me. I did the research. I went into the data. I struggled to put the sentences and paragraphs together. I studied myself. I sat in the shame, observed my patterns. Did the ethnography. Grappled through the analysis. I needed major help, for sure. But I wasn’t able to give myself the credit. It was easier to reach out and send her an email to say thank you. I never thanked myself. Never celebrated me, never congratulated me. I feared doing so would make my head too big. That had always come with consequences for me, and I’m not embellishing that.
I’m not the only African girl-child who knows what it’s like to come home with As or Bs and still be told it wasn’t enough. It’s a tale as old as time for so many of us. I’m not alone. Not an anomaly. Nothing special or unique. Most get over it. Are grateful for the pressure, as I have been. But I’m also highly sensitive and extra-sensory, so leaning into all the versions of me requires that I take the time to honour the inner girl-child that did feel small. I wanted to be enough as I was. I yearned to be celebrated. To be told certain things that would improve my self-esteem and confidence. To deny that these things can be true at once would be dishonest.
The imposture syndrome is still there. That was not my own doing. So much of that is tied to societal bullshit. Anti-blackness, sexism, sanism, and stigma. We see now that Black women can’t even get into the Supreme Court without being doubted and torn apart. I have to be gentle with what was not mine.
That feeling of being a fraud is still loud. It's pervasive. “Can I claim to be an artist if I never went to art school?” “Who did I think I was running a clothing line with no sewing experience?” “Stick to non-fiction, fiction is not your lane.” “You literally draw outside of the lines, no one will purchase that.” These thoughts run daily, and it takes energy to remind myself that they are not mine.
I see how it gets in the way of myself and my relationships with others. I don’t trust others as easily. I don’t believe them when they celebrate me. They couldn’t possibly think positively about me. Mostly, because I struggle to think positive thoughts about myself.
Where am I asking people to put me down because the pain is so normalized that it feels good to get hate? Someone in a group I’m in recently asked the question, “why do you like to suffer?” I felt that.
In so many ways pain is pleasurable for me. As someone who sits and lives with chronic pain and shame, suffering is so familiar. It’s my form of self-hatred. Self-sabotage is second skin to me. Where do I make fun or put myself down to beat others to the punch? How do I invite and ask people to humble me when I teach them how to treat me badly and don’t set boundaries?
It doesn’t feel good, even when it hurts so good.
So, I need to take action. Need to revisit CBT as well. Other modalities were raised today, like EMDR, and brain spotting. I’ve never tried brain spotting, but I love EMDR and was advised by a counselor to no longer do it alone using YouTube videos, and to instead, wait for a service provider to guide me. I also like EFT. Tapping has been really helpful. I’ve tried DBT too alone. There’s another modality I learned recently in a conference; the name fails me. But it requires moving through the chakras, repeating affirmations, and asking certain questions. That helped move some trauma through too.
I already do meditation, though hardly ever guided. I can’t start my day without gratitude and listing things I’m grateful for. Nor can I start my day without affirming some things. But even then, with all the self-care practice that I do, I’m still stuck with these thoughts that just won’t shake right now. I know I can because I have. But I’m struggling with letting them go right now.
Reached out to Tinesha Matthews for one-on-one coaching. I’m going to use my PayPal money to invest in coaching around this. It’s well the investment to call in the things I’m trying to call in. But with all of these identified blocks, I understand where I halt my own progress.
Believing in myself is terrifying right now. It feels too costly. Like I can’t afford to have confidence in myself because someone is already right there to beat me down, humble me. It’s safer to play small. Flying under the radar is survival. Expansion is a threat. All of this has got to go. And I understand, nothing before it’s time. But I’m ready. Its time.
Do you struggle with limiting beliefs? Is it easy for you to love up on yourself and believe that you are deserving, without guilt and shame? Did you have a supportive, positive, and healthy upbringing that made this easier? If not, has it taken time and lots of work to deprogram and reprogram? What modalities helped you?
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Until next time, in solidarity.