By Deb Stewart
What is one thing you felt strongly about but changed your mind?
It’s a thought-provoking question, and one that really got my wheels turning. Certainly in my 47 years of experience, I’ve changed my mind on just about everything. From what I want to be when I grow up, what is my favorite color, to my religious views, my social views, views on family and marriage, and everything in between. I think an easier question would have been… “What have I not changed my mind about?” But then again, I’m a woman, LOL.
Of course in the context of this blog, and for the purpose of contributing something substantive, your question forced me to dig deep. In fact, I’ve spent the better part of this evening examining my life’s journey and reviving key periods and turning points – some of which, if I’m being honest, I would have rather left unexamined. It’s been an eventful life. And, God-willing, far from over.
While I joke about it, the truth is people don’t change that readily. Our core beliefs are so deeply embedded within our subconscious … so hidden from our awareness, that most of us when asked, cannot easily answer the question, “What are your beliefs?” Or a better question, “What are your limiting beliefs?” And yet it is these very beliefs which quietly “run the show” while we are busy doing mindless stuff … like ordering pizza.
It takes tremendous energy, or persistent exposure to a new idea, or a life-altering event to (a) surface a hidden belief, and (b) change a belief that we previously considered immutable.
It’s kind of a big deal.
In my own life, for the longest time I had the belief that I was unlovable. Or at very least, love was certainly conditional. My start in life was rocky. I was the unplanned baby of unwed teenage parents, who were forced in shame to run away to another town. After all, “what would the neighbors think?”
My father was a schizophrenic alcoholic who violently beat my mother and mentally tortured her. He stuck around just long enough to make three more babies, and then he was gone. I was six. He didn’t bother to keep in touch. Truth be told, the household was more peaceful without him. But still, we were “abandoned”. Parents don’t abandon children they love. That’s what I told myself.
My father’s exit created a new problem. My mother needed to go back to work to provide for the family. Enter the babysitter … from hell …who abused me in every way that children should not be abused. This included being told outright that I was un- loved. “Your mother hates you”, she would sneer cruelly, inches from my face. Code for “don’t bother telling her what’s going on here because she does not care.” Sadly, six year olds believe everything they are told. And I believed this. Keeping secrets became my modus operandi. What did it matter anyway, I had already concluded that I was worthless.
Worthless was my story, and I was sticking to it.
People who think they are worthless do one of two things: confirm it (and find unhealthy ways to act it out consciously), or deny it (and find unhealthy ways to act it out unconsciously). I was in the latter category. My distorted thoughts shaped every decision I was to make in life.
Fortunately I was a good student. I was considered “smart”. And I discovered that the smart kids got rewarded with praise. If there is anything an “unlovable” person needs, it’s praise. And so while my siblings were busy creating chaos for my family with their teenage angst, I was busy being the “good one”. I was a straight ‘A’ student, did fashion modeling on the side, and I worked while paying my way through school. I was considered “problem free” by my external panel of judges.
Academically and professionally, I soared. I was what they call a “high achiever” – driven subconsciously by the idea that I had to “earn” worth. Earn praise. Earn kudos. And then I would be “good enough”. Such a ludicrous thought.
And I don’t think the “original sin” I was born with as a Catholic helped my cause.
At the age of 19, I married. He happened to be the first man who said he loved me. So accepting his proposal was a no-brainer. He LOVED me. That means he passed the husband material test. I had no other prerequisites – like morals or a decent character.
We had a daughter together. But the marriage didn’t last. His girlfriends didn’t like me.
Long after the marriage was over, eight years in fact, he was investigated for pedophilia and possession of child-pornography. The only saving grace in this story is that my daughter was not his victim. Her best friend was.
Of course, by then I had remarried. To the second man who said he loved me. That relationship lasted twenty years … until I could no longer stand the abuse. He was a person of very low self-esteem. I thought I could fix him. I just needed to love him enough (choking as I write that). I was naive. It was a chaotic partnership and household. I used to pray for death. I did not see any other way out. After twenty years of mental anguish, lies and manipulation, I mustered the courage to leave. Being diagnosed with cancer may have had something to do with it. I fled from the madness to save myself.
Along the way, somewhere in the chaos, I had the wisdom, to go searching for better ways of thinking. It’s true what they say, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. For me, the teachers showed up in droves. Books showed up, people showed up, random encounters by people who had a “message” for me. I began to look at everything and everyone as purposeful. Eventually my awareness shifted so profoundly, that I started to believe a new truth. And from that place, I began telling myself a new story. I began living a new life.
I consider my life to be a magnificent story of triumph. And I don’t look back with any judgment or regret. Truth be told, I would not change one event. Not one. Because they all contributed to the place where I sit here today. It has all served me.
Today, I feel a responsibility to use my experience and wisdom to help others who are struggling. To help others who are imprisoned with limiting beliefs, and to help them come to a new awareness. In short, it is my life’s purpose to inspire others to a new possibility. Because this I know for sure…
I am worthy. I am loved. I am good enough. And so are you!
Random Writers would like to thank Deb Stewart for being a guest contributor to our site for this week’s topic. A success coach, trainer, and professional speaker, Deb is fueled by a mission: to create a force of unstoppable leaders who individually will create powerful results, and collectively will shape the future! You can find her online at debandjohn.net and on Twitter at @Deb_and_John