I had kind of a major psychological breakthrough this morning. A little early for a major breakthrough, I understand, but it happened. I was reading October's Self magazine (bathroom reading, where all major breakthroughs should occur.) I was reading an article about a woman's search for happiness and what was holding her back. A therapist told her to identify her "core beliefs." When she spoke of "core beliefs", however, she wasn't speaking of faith, or religious upbringing, or even moral and ethical values. She called them "iceberg beliefs" because they reach deep down to the core, and shape every decision you make, whether you realize it or not.
As I read this I started thinking about my own "iceberg beliefs." I realized I have three that shape every decision I make:
"I can't handle that" - There have been challenges I have avoided because I assumed I could not rise to the occasion, and failure would be humiliating. Secondly, and more importantly, I never finished college, which has haunted me the past 15 years. I have put off trying for jobs or voicing opinions because I assumed my lack of education would make me an unlikely authority on anything. I dream of going back and finishing my degree, but my kids get to go first, that is just the way it goes. And, as a result, I continue to think just slightly less of myself for not finishing, for not having that piece of paper saying I'm an educated, intelligent person. Yes, logically I realize, a person can be intelligent without being educated, but the two or inexorably linked in my own head, and that little core truth, coupled with the constant questioning "am I up to the challenge? Probably not" continues to shape my decisions.
"They don't want you around." Oh, I know where this one comes from. My own beloved grandmother had horrible self-esteem and paranoia, and she lovingly passed them down to me, along with a love for Scrabble and all things Swedish. As a result, I am an extrovert in a shy person's body, making me uncomfortable meeting new people, even as I crave contact. My discomfort presents itself in weird ways - I speak louder and faster, laugh inappropriately, and come across as quite the dork.
"People only like you if you can do something for them." I really think this is a common one. There is a reason people, especially women, I think, stretch themselves way too thin. This is one I'm going to have to face down and conquer quickly, though, as I am desperately trying to find a new job, and it is unlikely the hours will be as accommodating as this one. I volunteer a lot, and while part of me is doing it because I really want to do something for other people, part of me simply does not want to let anyone down. And I'll have to, sooner or later, if I don't want to go insane.
Of course, realizing these beliefs are there and doing something about moving past them are two different things. But I can only imagine seeing these icebergs gives me a chance to maneuver around them, instead of side-swiping them and ripping giant gashes in my hull...or allowing them to influence my life unduly. And, as GI Joe always said, "knowing IS half the battle."