Have you ever beaten yourself up over something that you have done, because you logically knew better? Well the reason why you did it that way in the first place was because there was a priority belief activated IN THAT MOMENT that was stronger than logic.
Let’s use weight loss as an example. Most of us know that losing weight requires eating healthy and exercising in order to shift the weight. If we recognise that in order to be healthy we need to eat well (logic) then why do we reach for the block of chocolate and eat it anyway?
Because in your mind there is a whole conversation going on about why you need the chocolate and why how you’ll feel once you eat the chocolate. ‘I’ve had a rough day. I deserve it.’ ‘Stuff it, I’m just going to give myself some of this chocolate because I’m over having to watch what I eat’. It all comes down to how I felt before the chocolate and how I’m going to feel after the chocolate. Feeling good vs feeling bad – my rating of those two things.
This is the underlying reason behind any decision you make and action you take, whether you are talking about an argument with your partner, getting angry with your children, taking time out, or even going back to work or not.
We are continuously viewing the events in our lives through the lens of our beliefs and are rating situations as good or bad based on those beliefs.
If we are doing this all the time then it makes complete sense that our decisions and behaviours would be governed by this same mindset.
By understanding the beliefs behind the decisions you make and the actions you take you can 1) accept what has happened about the past, knowing what your priority was at that time and accepting that that was your priority at the time and 2) being more deliberate about making decisions by becoming aware of the priorities you have for making one choice over another.
Let’s look at a couple of examples because I really want to show you more about how your self-worth drives your priorities. It’s important to note in the following examples, that there is no right or wrong way of doing things and my intention is not to show you why your decisions are right or wrong. I merely want to illustrate the fundamental agenda for making the decisions that you do.
Often mums get tied up in needing to keep their houses clean all the time and can get quite stressed whenever it gets too dirty. What are the thoughts behind that? What does it mean about you if you can’t keep the house clean (what’s the self-worth component)? Here are some possible reasons:
- If I don’t have the house tidy, I’ll look lazy to my partner or my family. (Lazy = worth-less)
- If I don’t keep the house clean then my children will get sick (sick = worth-less, for them and for your quality of life having sick children or being responsible for those sick children means what about you if they get sick.)
- If I don’t stay on top of the housework then it gets worse and I’m the one who always has to clean it up again (making my life worth-less).
- I am known as someone who is organised and a messy house means that I’m not coping and may look disorganised (disorganised/not coping = worth-less)
- I just like to have a clean house because it makes me feel good (worth-more, meaning that if I don’t have a clean house I will feel worth-less)
These are just five examples of the real agenda behind making housework a priority and they have nothing to do with a clean house and everything to do with what it will mean about you if you have a clean house or not. Your stress over a messy house is because you have your self-worth pinned to having a clean house. ‘My messy house means something about me and makes me look less worthy to the world. My clean house means I’m okay as a person.’
This is you rating your self-worth based on your beliefs. However, neither a messy house, nor a clean house determines your worth. You are always 100% worthy, but your rating of yourself because of the story you have about a clean/messy house is what causes you to feel good or bad. Change the story by upgrading your beliefs with the reality thinking model and you will change how you feel, because you will stop rating the messy house in your habitual way.
We all know that mums get very little time out and perhaps that may just be a reality of where your kids are at because of their current ages. Initially when a baby is born they do take up a lot of time and probably for the first three or four years they will take up large amounts of time and leave very little for you, however if you are taking no time out at all, or not enough so that you feel like you are only ever doing ‘motherly’ things, then it has nothing to do with time and everything to do with what your priority is for continually doing all these ‘motherly’ things without taking any time out.
Here are some possible beliefs behind not making time out a priority:
- It is my responsibility to take care of my kids, not leave them for someone else to do it (leaving them with someone else = worth-less as a responsible mother. Responsible mother = worthy)
- I don’t want to just dump my kids with their dad and run out the door. I want to spend time with him too. (Spending time with your partner takes priority over your time out as it may make you feel good about yourself to be around your partner, which you may deem as more enjoyable than your own time out).
- I don’t deserve to take time out because I don’t work and am at home all day. (don’t deserve = worth-less and rating someone else as worth-more than you)
- No one else can look after them as well as me. This one could lead to a couple of explanations:
- On some level you may feel that you are better at it than anyone else could be (your abilities as a mum make you worthy)
- You may feel like your child’s life will be of less quality if someone else looks after them and if you are the one to make their lives of less value, then what does that say about you as a mother (worth-less)
- You may have anxiety about something happening to them and feel like you are the only one that can control what they do and prevent anything bad from happening to them. (controlling life going right = worthy, preventing anything from going wrong and making my life worth-less by something happening to my children. Anxiety is all about control and prevent.)
None of these reasons have anything to do with not having any time out. They are all about what having time out means about your self-worth.
Again you need to apply the reality thinking model to your beliefs about the situation. No matter how life unfolds it is always worthwhile, because you and those around you are always gaining experiences that teach them new things, help them to experience new things and contribute to the unfolding of their lives. There is value in everything, even if you take some time out from the kids.
Going back to work vs Being a stay-at-home-mum
This issue can be a real bone of contention between couples and this is simply because they may have different priorities based on each other’s priority beliefs. Men often have their worth attached to how they provide for their family, what they own and what they/their family is accomplishing. A woman’s self-worth is often attached to their role in the family, how well they are doing and if everyone is getting what they need.
Both of you are just trying to feel good about yourselves, you just have two different ways of going about it based on your beliefs about what defines a successful life and being a worthy person. Here are some thoughts that can come up that are all about self-worth not about whether to work or not.
Through the eyes of mum:
- My children need me and only mothers should raise their children as only they know what is right for them (children needing me and knowing what’s right for them = worthy – good mother)
- It is my responsibility to raise my children, not have someone else raise them (my responsibility = being a good mother. Giving them to someone else to look after = worth-less)
Or the other side of mum’s case may be:
- I’m a happier person when I go to work as I get time out from the kids (time out makes me feel happier = worth more)
- I feel like I’m contributing to the household and have the right to spend money when I bring some of the money in. I hate relying on my partner to bring in the money as I feel like I’m sponging off him (sponging off husband = worth-less; contributing to household = worth more)
Dad’s case may be:
- We need you to work so that we can pay the house off quicker and be financially free in retirement (financially free = successful life – worthy)
- Two wages means that we can provide the kids with the things that they need and they don’t lack for anything. We can take them to sports, gymnastics, buy nice clothes for them, give good Christmas presents and have them live in a nice house (all these material things = worth; lacking for anything = worth-less. What kind of provider does that make me if my kids lack for things and feel like they are missing out?
Or the other side of dad’s case may be:
- A woman stays home and looks after/nurtures the kids while the man works (this is his definition of a successful family from his beliefs)
- Things run smoother when you are at home with them full-time. The housework gets done, the washing gets done, meals are cooked and the kids aren’t really tired and miserable at the end of the day. When you work we are all tired and there is always so much to do. (Smoother when your home = his life more valuable and easier – worth-more; kids tired and miserable with lots of work to do when you all come home = worth-less.)
Although some of the self-worth components weren’t particularly serious and hugely detrimental to how you feel about your entire life, you can still see that every decision relates back to what’s in it for you. That is because we are always working in the best interest of ourselves, 100% of the time.
If you are conscious of the fact that everyone is driven by their beliefs about life and what’s constitutes a successful, worthy life in their eyes, then you can be conscious of this when negotiating and forming agreements between people.
If you and your partner are in conflict over something it is simply a conflict of beliefs. When you find out what is driving them to decide on one way to go and what is driving you to decide on the other way, then you will be in a better position to negotiate what the common ground is. You stop being offended and reactive to what they want because you understand why they want it. Show compassion for the other person’s wants and needs by understanding that they are exactly like you, just rating their lives according to their beliefs. If they are angry or reactive it is because their beliefs have been challenged.
Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that we are doing something for the benefit of someone else, but behind that if you look really hard you will see that there is always an agenda or payoff for you.
Furthermore, your reactions and responses to everything that is happening in your life are because of how you are viewing it and how you are rating it against your self-worth. Other people are doing the same, rating situations against how they feel within themselves.
Think about this: If somebody pays you a compliment, how do you feel? You feel good because you have rated that compliment as a good thing. Your response of a smile or a feeling of goodness came from your beliefs about the words that came out of that person’s mouth.
If somebody insults you, you may feel bad about it because you have rated criticism as a bad thing. Your response of anger, or retaliation as the case may be, came because of how your rated the words that came out of that person’s mouth and are your attempt of restoring the self-worth you believe you lost by the criticism. (making someone feel bad too, in order for you to feel better).
Either way, all that happened was the person held beliefs that you matched. They rated something as good and you matched it. Or they rated something as bad and you matched it.
Similarly your reaction was because the person said something that matched your beliefs. If you felt good about what they said then there was no need to resist it or defend it. It matched what you believed was good, so your behavioural response was to laugh, smile, or say thank you, all the while, feeling good about yourself.
If you felt bad, it is because you analysed their comments (through your beliefs) as rating you worth-less. However you worth hasn’t changed, your rating of your self has (self-esteem is your rating of self). If you are feeling worth-less, then your brain tries to find ways to correct that in order to make you feel worthy again, so you start by resisting the situation. You may say ‘No I’m not’, or ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’. You start to look for ways to reclaim your self worth. ‘Your an idiot’ might be your response. ‘stop doing that!’ you might yell. You start to do what it takes IN THAT MOMENT to stop whatever is causing you to feel worth-less because your agenda is to make you feel worth-more, all because you have an incorrect rating of your self-worth to begin with.
To stop any behaviour that you don’t want to have, it’s not about logic, it’s all about being aware of what lens you are looking and how you are looking at that event.
What are you thinking about this event that is causing you to respond this way? How have your rated this event as meaning something about you? Now apply the upgrade of the reality thinking model in order to change how you are viewing this event.
The bottom line is that we are all constantly judging situations based on what we believe about them and how we rate them against our self-worth. Does this make me feel good or does it make me feel bad? What do I need to do if it makes me feel good? What do I need to do if it makes me feel bad?
The answers to these questions will determine how we respond which is reflected in our behaviour. Your depression is a response to how you have judged situations in your life. You giving up on certain aspects of your life is your way of protecting your self-worth and making you feel a little bit better about things.
Even though it still causes you pain, in your mind, continuing to try and succeed in the area of your life that you are depressed in, would be more painful, so you stop setting goals in that area of your life. Retreating from life becomes your priority IN THAT MOMENT over living with the pain of being a failure.
Anxiety is trying to control and prevent anything form jeopardising your self-worth because you rate certain situations on whether they are potentially going to be good or bad. You constantly survey your life checking whether life is going right or not. It is a priority to do this to protect yourself from feeling bad (worth-less).
It is an incorrect view of life that is causing you to behave the way that you do and it is an incorrect view of life that is causing you pain and emotional upset. When you come to understand that all human behaviour is governed by your priority beliefs and your habitual thinking, you can work on your mindset in order to change, rather than feeling like a failure because you keep doing things that logically you know not to do.
Keep working on challenging your thinking and replacing it with the reality thinking model.