Portrait by Douglas Simonson
A therapist once asked me, “What are your core beliefs?”, something I’d never thought about before. This question was revolutionary for me in shifting my thinking to become emotionally healthier. And when I pondered this question, I wasn’t happy with the results.
Among other things I realized I’d had a LOT of disappointment in life and had come to believe I could only expect more. It was a harsh reality to face but it really raised my awareness about how I viewed myself, my life, and my experience in the world. I started doing the work to correct my thinking about myself, my experiences and my version of how the world works. It wasn’t easy.
I started looking back on my disappointments, trying to figure out what or why something happened and what I may have gotten out of them. I also started questioning my thoughts asking myself, “Is this true?” For instance, I once thought I’d always be struggling financially. And though I still need to win the lottery, things have improved. While at times I didn’t feel as if I had enough, I always had what I needed. And now that I’ve worked on recognizing that, and have been intentional about living in gratitude, I feel I have more.
I have a really nice apartment that I love, in a nice neighborhood, that’s finally fully decorated. I was blessed before when I lived in New York in Park Slope, a posh Brooklyn neighborhood in a cute, affordable and TINY one bedroom. But when I moved back to St. Louis I had to start all over again rebuilding a home for myself. It took a long time, but it finally happened. I even have a home office, something I’ve always wanted. And there’s a small backyard with beautiful plants and a huge peony bush, another thing I’ve always dreamed of.
I realize that as a single, black woman, who’s had trouble maintaining a steady income, I am fortunate to have a nice, safe place to live. Being able to survey my life and pick out the positives, or turn things into a positive has been a significant exercise to shift my perspective and rearrange my core beliefs.
Our core beliefs shape our perspectives and therefore our behaviors. For example, if we don’t think we’ll ever win, we may never try. So it’s not about being destined to always lose, but overriding that thought pattern to take action to give yourself the opportunity to win.
Even if you feel emotionally healthy, reviewing your core beliefs can still be beneficial. You may find something that could use some improvement, or that you’ve been in a good place all along.
Core beliefs are a significant part of our psyche and examining them periodically is just part of our emotional maintenance. Developing and maintaining healthy and balanced core beliefs helps us move through life with a better and strengthened sense of self, and a more realistic view of the world and our experience in it. Core beliefs also offer an opportunity to give ourselves the self-compassion we deserve. So if I may suggest, take a moment to review your core beliefs and see how they’ve shaped your behavior and experiences. I hope you discover good things.
Wishing you good mental and emotional health.