The Frightening Power of a Negative Core Belief
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go to a men’s retreat. It is always a rejuvenating time for me to reflect on the kind of man that I want to be. One of the activities available over the weekend was rope belaying. Each of us was instructed on the components of the gear and process so that we could have the safest experience possible. There were a few different activities in which we could participate including walking a tightrope more than 16 feet in the air.
A little background is necessary. I am afraid of heights. I am embarrassed to tell you that at least three times in my life, I can remember having the courage to climb up onto the high dive, usually standing 12 feet above the waterline of a very safe swimming pool. Two out of those three times, I stared down into the water, freaked out, and climbed back down, hoping that nobody saw me. The only reason why I jumped the third time was that everybody was watching me and started chanting my name. In order to avoid further embarrassment, I jumped, vowing that I would never put myself in that kind of a situation ever again.
And now here I was, deciding that I was gonna walk a tightrope more than 16 feet in the air. The consolation, I told myself, was that there was no need for me to jump off of the tightrope. I could easily be let down slowly by my partner or climb back down the ladder and all would be well.
I gingerly climbed up the ladder and stepped onto the tightrope. It wiggled beneath my feet. I held on with white knuckles to the rope supporting me as I began to slowly walk the 20 feet or so from one tree to the other upon which the rope was tied. I tried not to look down and was able to make it all the way across. I knew that the ladder was back on the other end and that would be the safest way to get down. I slowly turned back around and headed towards the ladder.
Now, I had seen about 15 other people do this very same exercise and so I knew that it was very safe. Everything in my mind told me that I was completely safe. Everything in my heart told me a completely different story. Unexpectedly, one of the captains of the rope belaying area told me to jump.
My eyes widened with fright as I asked him to repeat himself. He asked me, “Do you trust me? Do you trust your partner? Then, Jump!” My partner and the captain were both holding onto the other end of my rope so that I would not fall. The captain was a strong and physically well-built individual, of whom I had no doubt would be able to hold the rope if I fell.
But as soon as he asked me that question, “Do you trust me?” the words that fell out of my mouth were, “I trust you. I do not trust me!” And I did not jump. I stood there debating within myself whether or not to jump. The fear increased significantly within me. My heart pounded. My hands started sweating. Instead of jumping, I leaned back, like I had watched all the other people do and was slowly let down to the ground.
I missed out on an opportunity where I could have changed my core belief.
This wasn’t the first time I have doubted myself. In my freshman year of high school, it was announced that any of the students who wanted to try out for Track and Field needed to go to Mr. Rice’s classroom after school.
I could run fast. I was a scrawny, skinny little kid, who weighed maybe 90 pounds. I learned how to run fast because I had to get away from all the bullies in Jr. High that would try to beat me up after school. So my brain knew that I had the capacity to be able to run fast.
I went to Mr. Rice’s room, but I did not go in. I stood outside of his classroom for about five minutes arguing with myself about whether or not to go in. I was afraid that I would not be picked. I did not know that everybody who tried out for Track and Field was picked. Not trusting myself, and the fear associated with that, prevented me from walking into that classroom and putting my name on a piece of paper.
I reflect back on the experience of a few weeks ago and particularly the words that flew out of my mouth when I was asked whether or not I trusted my captain. “I trust you. I do not trust me.”
I could come up with a million excuses about why I did not jump. I could say that I was not anticipating that he was going to tell me to jump. But all of those would just be excuses. The honest truth is I doubted myself. I bought into the negative core belief that I don’t have what it takes.
I wonder, how many times each of us is put in similar situations. How many of us are faced with experiences and opportunities to grow and we choose not to partake of those opportunities because of fear. In my book, Finding Peace, I identify that fear is the perception that something bad is going to happen and that I am powerless to stop it. Standing up on that tightrope, I was afraid that I was going to die, even though I had gone to the safety training, I had two very strong men on the ground holding me up, and the ropes were secure. Even in the face of all of that evidence that I was safe, my negative core belief continued to tell me that I didn’t have what it takes.
As I also pointed out in my book, the antidote to fear is faith — the assurance that all will be well even when there is no evidence to support that assurance. I was experiencing just the opposite. I had a ton of evidence letting me know that things were well. And yet, my heart did not trust it.
When we operate from a faithful perspective, we demonstrate the courage to take the necessary steps to walk through that which we are afraid.
I own that I missed out on the opportunity to jump from the tightrope. Just like walking away from Mr. Rice’s classroom, I will never have the opportunity to go back in time and respond differently. However, I can learn a lesson about how powerful those negative core beliefs are and seek for opportunities to change them.
There have been times when I more consistently connect with my core truth: That I have what it takes and I am enough. It has been in those moments when I have been able to step into the courage of reaching out, trying new things, and embarking on new adventures. I recognize that in those times, I was never alone. I had God, my family, and friends who knew the truth about me and were able to support me. Just like the third time, when I was standing on the high dive and everyone was chanting my name, people believed in me more than I believed in myself. It was their faith in me that allowed me to believe in myself enough to finally jump.
What are your negative core beliefs preventing you from experiencing? What would you be like if those beliefs were erased and your core truths vibrated from every cell in your body? Wouldn’t it be awesome to find out?