Friendships have been hard for me in my adult years. I cannot say this started in elementary or junior high because I was always popular with lots of great friends. But as an adult, I have struggled to let people really get close, to see the real me. And I did not really understand why I kept people away.
Well, a few years ago, I learned about core beliefs. If you have never heard of them, core beliefs are assumptions we make about ourselves, others or the world that we mistake for fact. They can be positive or negative. You might have a positive core belief that says “I can do anything I set my mind to”. You may have grown up with supportive, encouraging parents who cheered you on and helped you believe you can do anything you want in life to accomplish your dreams. On the flip side, you may have negative core beliefs such as “I don’t belong” or “the world is a dangerous place”. Maybe you were rejected by a family member at an early age or you experienced abuse or a tragic situation that caused you to be anxious and leery of new situations and people. These beliefs have the power to shape how you interact with others and the world around you as an adult.
A few years ago, I went through some counseling for an issue I wanted help with, and it was during one of those conversations when the counselor asked me what my core beliefs were. I had to think about it for a bit and was finally able to put the pieces together that explained why I had some of the self depreciating thoughts and beliefs I carried for many years.
One of my core beliefs started in my childhood when my parents called me “big boned”. I have believed I am fat since, well, forever. Now to my parents’ defense, I do not know they really intended to say I was fat. But, couple the term “big boned” with a short, very petite older sister whom I always compared myself to, and it was easy to see why I saw myself as fat. I carried that core belief for years. I simply did not understand at an early age that my sister and I have very different body types. I have a very athletic, muscular build, but that does not mean I am fat or ever have been.
Another core belief I clung to that really affected my ability to let women get close to me as an adult was I do not belong, and no one will like me because of my personality. I remember as a child being described repeatedly as having a strong personality. And in my mind, that correlated as a negative trait, to not being liked or belonging. I know I am passionate and can come across strongly; I am transparent and not afraid to speak my mind. But that does not mean I have a personality people will not like. I am also very giving and generous; I love to be social and have fun. I love to serve others. We all have strengths and challenges in our personalities, but those traits do not make any one of us better than the next person. I just wish I had understood this years ago. Oh the things I would go back and tell my younger self if I could!
One of the situations that really shaped this core belief that I do not belong happened when I was a senior in high school. I was in a really bad dating relationship and was often isolated from my friends. It was honestly one of the very hardest years of my life. I went to school on a Monday morning and heard all my friends talking about how much fun they had together at a sleepover Friday night. A sleepover I was not invited to. I still remember the deep, overwhelming pain of rejection, of not being invited. It cut me to my core. For years as an adult, I have had dreams about being left out. These dreams are always with those same friends whom I were my people back in high school. So a few years ago when I went through counseling, I finally understood how all of this fit together.
Fast forward to last year when Travis, Ryan and I moved to Papillion. One of my biggest fears of moving was having to start over with friends. Of course I still have my core group who are my very best friends. I have a handful of women whom I absolutely love and trust, who accept me just as I am. I cherish those women. It took a lot of time to let them see the real me.
Well several months ago I reconnected with three of my childhood friends, and a couple weeks ago, the four of us met for breakfast. One of the women in this group is the one who hosted that sleepover I was not invited to all those years ago (and she was not to blame for me being left out – she simply hosted the sleepover). Sitting there chatting while we ate our breakfast, I opened up about that dreaded memory and how hurt I was all those years ago, how it affected my ability to trust women and allow them to get close to me. And I made sure she knew it was not her fault I was not invited. The beauty in seeing her again after all these years, in her seeking out friendship with me, showing interest in my life, speaking truth into me…it has been so healing.
We talked about core beliefs. We opened up about some of the hurts we experienced in our younger years. We shared our hurts and some of the difficult experiences we went through. Experiences that formed core beliefs in how we see the world and those around us. And we all agreed how healing it was to sit and talk through those memories. To sit with a small group of women who choose each other, who seek friendship and enjoy sharing our lives is a beautiful thing. I really believe the Lord orchestrated our meeting up all these years later. We have only gotten together a couple times, but I am confident our friendships will last for years to come. In this short amount of time we have been meeting, I know my heart has softened. I have experienced an acceptance and feeling of being wanted I did not know my heart needed.
Life is a funny thing. We often believe people see us one way or remember things about us that they do not. Our view of ourselves is usually much worse than what others see. If only we could see ourselves from the view the Lord sees, the beauty others often see as well.
I love Psalm 139 which says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
I challenge each of you to take some time to think about your core beliefs, those assumptions you have carried that may not be true at all. It can be a difficult task, but there is so much freedom and peace when you can work through them and see yourself for the beautiful person you are.