It is kind of funny to admit, but when I started counseling, I thought to myself, “I am going to dive in for 6, maybe 8 weeks, and then I will be good to go.” Not only would I be a better me, but I would show my husband just how mature I am. Internally I still hoped my husband would admit his own issues and seek counseling with me. Then the “real” problems could get fixed.
Even though I knew that I needed to work on myself, I still couldn’t let go of thinking that if he changed our problems would disappear.
6 months later, I am so glad that I went to counseling on my own. I have learned so many things about myself that have helped me understand how I operate in my marriage. Couples counseling would have distracted me from the work that I needed to do. And I would have been so tempted to shift the conversation back to Jim. Working on myself has felt empowering. Regardless of what Jim does, I make my own choices about my life, how I live and how I treat others – including him.
The first few months of counseling was gut wrenching hard work. Remembering negative experiences from my childhood stirred up all kinds of emotions as I relived both the details and the way that I coped.
I vividly remembered my first-grade teacher calling role the first day of class. Afterwards she asked, “Did I miss anybody?”
I timidly raised my hand.
“Yes, what is your name? “, she asked.
With as much confidence as I could master, I said, “Uth Inka.”
“What?”, she said.
“Uth Inka”, I repeated.
“U t h I n k a”, I slowly stated, fighting back tears.
My name was Ruth Lenker and I had entered elementary school completely clueless to the fact that I couldn’t say my L’s or R’s.
I felt so small. So invisible. And so alone. I don’t remember sharing this story with my mom or dad, or anyone else. All I wanted to do was crawl in a hole and disappear.
And that is what I did for years and years. I worked so hard to accomplish things as a way to feel better about myself, to feel worthy and seen, all the while hoping no one would see or hear me.
As I tearfully shared story after story with my counselor, I still felt embarrassed and disgust for my life. And it all came to a head one day…
I had been sharing with my counselor about being mistaken as a boy when I was young and she could tell how profoundly the experience had impacted me. And she asked, “so if you were mistaken as a boy, then what would that mean?”…And I just couldn’t go there… I just had to put on the brakes because I didn’t even have the capacity to answer the question.
So my counselor gave the homework assignment to follow my chain of thinking. To start from the fact that I was mistaken as a boy and ask myself, if that is true then what? And if that is true, then what? And to keep following the trail into the core belief that I held about myself.
If they think that I am a boy, then I am a mistake..
If I am a mistake then I don’t belong…
And, If I don’t belong then there is something wrong with me…
If there is something wrong with me then I need to hide…
If I need to hide then make sure you are not seen or heard….
And I gradually named the core belief that
I am not worthy to be seen or heard.
I hate being noticed. I’d much rather slide under someone else, into the background and be a fly on a wall. Introducing myself, sharing my passions, or the amazing things God has done in my life can at times make me feel almost ill. I clam up, I just do… – I suppose because I’ve never believed that I am worthy to be seen or heard.
Admitting my core belief was really hard. I mean, I’m a smart, capable woman that has many reasons to feel proud. And yet, deep down, I didn’t believe that I was worthy to be seen or heard.
As a follower of Jesus, I know that I should just embrace God’s truth about myself. Things like, I am His beloved. Or, I am His masterpiece and He created me anew in Christ Jesus to do the great things that He planned for me. I do believe those things. But it will take time, effort and patience for me to rewrite my core beliefs that I have carried since childhood.
Pressing into Changing My Core Beliefs
Transformation started with an awareness of the core beliefs that hold me back, but that was only the beginning. Living out the truth, that I am worthy to be seen and heard, will require faith, that God can change me. Before I feel that I am worthy to be seen and heard, I will need to act like I am worthy to be seen and heard. When by faith, I take a deep breath, reach out my hand and introduce myself to a stranger with great expectation instead of dread, then I begin to feel worthy. Living in a way that is congruent with what God says about me, will change the way that I feel about myself. How I act will cement my feelings.
I have faith that God will change me and I press on because God has given me glimpses of a life that is different. Rather than hide, I want to confidently introduce myself and freely share my passions. God has given me things to say, and my playing small does not benefit anyone – especially God.
What About You
So are you living into the fullness of life that God wants for you? What terrifies you, makes your shrink back, or prompts you to feel like you need to prove yourself? Can you name the core beliefs that lurk in the shadows? And what are you going to do about it? Because faith means reaching for that which is not yet true and believing that God can change us.