We can feel it deep with in us, this truth that needs to come to the surface. Our minds block it out, but our body knows better. We all have things we want to change, areas in which we long to grow. The first step in making the shift is admitting to ourselves what we already know.
As a kid, like all children, I was trying to figure out who I needed to be and what I needed to do to get the most love possible, while avoiding trouble and pain as much as I could. For me, attempting to be perfect was simply an unconscious survival strategy. My need to be perfect was directly related to my disabled brother’s death when I was two years old. I believed that if I were imperfect – like he was – I would die.
Over the years, Debbie Ford – New York Times bestselling author, and founder of The Ford Institute for Transformational Training – became my dear friend and mentor, in fact I’m a Certified Integrative Coach through her Institute, and I learned specific concepts from her signature Breakthrough Shadow Coaching that are important when we finally choose to admit the truth to ourselves.
We’ll look at a couple here: Shadow Beliefs and Underlying Commitments.
The beliefs we carry with us from childhood may be illogical, but they take hold and become the way we see the world. They are the unconscious “shadow beliefs” that become part of our personal operating systems. They tell us what we can and cannot do. The people and situations we attract into our lives are consistent with those beliefs—for better or worse.
As adults, we continue this unconscious, habitual, compulsive way of being without any awareness as to why. It’s only when we bring our shadow beliefs into conscious awareness in adulthood that we can see the hold they’ve had over us as well as the gifts they offer. Then, we can shine light on these unwanted parts of ourselves, stop pushing them away, and integrate them in order to reclaim wholeness.
What happens when you stay in a situation that isn’t working, denying your own needs long enough?
Your needs, your health, and your well being begin to demand to be heard. Even if you don’t heed that call, the truth will come out. Unfortunately, most often it will come out sideways. Perhaps you’ll become ill; or depressed; or if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself expressing those needs in destructive ways.
When something is “off” in your life, you know it. And it takes an incredible amount of energy to continue the denial—energy that could be used toward letting go of the old and inviting in the new.
What about you? What have you not yet admitted to yourself that you already know? If you aren’t happy with your life, or with some specific aspect of your life, there is probably something you haven’t been willing to tell yourself.
We get what we are committed to at the deepest level. We tell ourselves we’re committed to happiness, but deep down, we’re actually committed to something else—like being indispensable, staying safe, or putting others’ needs ahead of our own. Generally these underlying commitments are based on shadow beliefs developed in childhood.
Whose life are you living?
The first step is figuring out and admitting our truth. We examine the lies we tell ourselves and walk through what happens when we deny, avoid, or minimize our truth. We discuss survival strategies and our failed attempts at rationalization, justification and compartmentalization.
We discover that everyone has things we feel we need to hide in order to feel loved and accepted. We are not alone. As we do this, as we take this first step, we discover the ways in which our minds bury but the body never lies.
By going back in time to our original experience, when our shadow beliefs and underlying commitments were born, we can clearly see the constellation of relationships and events that consistently play out in our adult lives. The feelings and physical sensations linked to that time also help us understand the core beliefs we have that are shaping our current choices and outcomes. These shadow beliefs can be keeping us from our truth: who we truly are.
But we are meant to be fully and truly who we are. If we’re living authentically, we might show different aspects of our personalities in different situations, but none of them will be false.
It’s impossible to maintain a false identity without consequences. It takes a lot of energy to hold up a mask, to continue a story, to portray a role that isn’t true. When you stop and tell the truth, so much energy becomes available to you—energy that can be used to live the life you want.
Betraying yourself can never be the price you pay to avoid betraying someone else. We don’t serve anyone if we are pretending. We only serve their façade—the part of them that is in denial and unwilling to admit what they already know. We don’t owe anyone the denial of who we are.
So, most of the pain we create in our lives is due to our unwillingness to accept what is, exactly as it is…wishing something was different that it is or was. And also the stories we tell ourselves that aren’t true—the inability to separate fact from fiction.
Why do we choose to tell ourselves false stories?
Because we don’t want to face “what is.” Reality feels threatening to us, but reality has a way of forcing us to accept it eventually. The truth won’t be able to be denied forever.
As we begin to examine telling ourselves the truth, we can see how we have been betraying ourselves on the deepest level. We can allow acceptance to replace our denial. We can, in our bones, feel the truth that needs to come to the surface. This first step in making the change, admitting to ourselves what we already know, allows us to stop pretending and start living the truth of who we really are.
Nancy Levin, bestselling author of Jump … And Your Life Will Appear and Writing For My Life, is a Certified Integrative Coach through The Ford Institute For Transformational Training. Since 2002, she’s been the Event Director at Hay House, Inc. producing experiential events and innovative conferences, focusing on self-empowerment, health and spirituality, while weaving in her own story and poems to connect with audiences around the world during keynotes, workshops and seminars. When she’s not on an airplane, Nancy lives in Boulder, Colorado where she received her MFA from Naropa University. You can visit her online at www.nancylevin.com and follow her on Twitter or Facebook.