I was forced to confront this question after some recent changes and upheaval in my life.
This period of change, as is the case for many people when they experience change, has prompted a period of deep self-reflection.
As I sit here, I ask myself; are there patterns emerging in my life? Patterns in my thought and emotion which in turn are recreating the same decisions and circumstances? What personal truths or personal programming could be underlying these patterns? What am I saying to myself at my deepest core level, which could be driving these patterns?
These are big questions for anyone, no doubt.
What do I mean by personal truth though?
A personal truth can be described as,
“The thing that we believe about ourselves, when nobody is watching. When the social mask is off and you are left with your deepest core beliefs”.
We all have a number of personal truths that sit at the foundation of our personalities and help to guide us in life. Your personal truth will play a big part in defining who you are, what your values are and what you expect out of life. From there, it will play a big part in what your feelings, thoughts and actions will be.
Personal truths can be held about many different aspects of life. You might hold a personal truth in regard to self-esteem and self-worth. You might hold a personal truth in regard to the way that you perceive others and the amount of control that you have in your life. You could also hold a personal truth about your health, relationships, money, success, and what you deep down believe that you deserve to receive in life.
When a person has a damaged personal truth, they may find that they are starting to notice patterns in their lives. They may find that despite their best intentions, they are self-sabotaging at every turn.
When this happens, it is worth asking yourself, what is my personal truth? What patterns are emerging in my life which indicate that there is an undercurrent of belief here? Because for better or for worse, so long as your personal truth remains within you, un-examined and unacknowledged, it continues to be the life-force behind many of your decisions. Despite intellectually knowing what you ‘should’ be doing and despite having the best of intentions, you may find that your personal truth is working to sabotage your efforts every step of the way.
When a person has a damaged personal truth, they may be saying any number of things to themselves. Ask yourself if you identify with any of the following statements or beliefs:
I do not really deserve to be loved
I am not deserving of people’s time, energy, attention or sacrifice
Conflict and chaos is normal
It is me against the world
It’s better to get them before they get me
If people knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me
I am a bad person
I am unlovable
People are inherently untrustworthy
I shouldn’t expect much out of life
It will always be this way
I have no control over my health
I will never be happy with my body or health
The world is an unhappy place
No one understands me
I won’t ever get over it
Life is hard
Life is struggle
And the list goes on, but I think you get my point.
So as you sit there and read through this list, were there any that touched a nerve for you? Any that jumped out as being a bit too close to home? Any different ones which are suddenly in the spotlight?
A personal truth is the thing that we say to ourselves, deep down in our most private and vulnerable moments. Certainly, you may never have actually aired these thoughts out loud, even to yourself.
Of course, a personal truth does not need to be something negative. Swap all of those statements for their positive converse, and you might find that they more correctly align with your internal dialogue. “I deserve to be loved and to be listened to”. “I have control over my health and how I experience my body”. “The world is a place full of opportunity”. “People are inherently good”.
How different do those statements feel!
But where do our personal truths come from?
Well let’s start with personality. The million dollar question – where do our personalities come from? You will find all sorts of theory on this topic and at the end of the day it is probably up to each and every individual to make up their own minds on this one. However, for what it’s worth – whether it is nature or nurture (genetics or environment), or a combination of both, it is hard to discount the human ability to change perceptions and improve life through increased self-awareness, education and insight.
The personal truths that we hold are likely a combination of having particular personality traits, or a predisposition for particular personality traits. This personality – you – then perceives the environment in which you are placed. The experiences that you have throughout your life, combined with the stories that you tell yourself to explain these experiences, are the basis of where your personal truths stem from.
For instance, let’s say that a child grows up in a physically, mentally or emotionally abusive or neglectful environment. It is natural to believe that we are somehow responsible for creating our experiences – even at a young age, when the reality is that young children rarely have much, if any control over their environments at all. However, this child, in order to explain the abuse or neglect may begin to explain it to themselves – “This must be happening because I’m not a good girl”. “I am inherently unlovable”. “When I stay quiet, there is less trouble”. “My feelings don’t matter”.
Additionally, it is a natural human instinct that when we don’t have all of the information that we need, our brains will quickly work to fill in the gaps. As a protection and a survival mechanism, we thus tend to err on the side of caution, assuming the most negative explanation for any given event (for more information on the research behind this, I highly recommend reading some of Stan Tatkin’s work or watching his talks)
So then, that self-talk begins. Unfortunately, when these types of statements become the foundation of our internal dialogue at a young age, they tend to follow us in to adulthood, having the potential to wreak havoc. Despite intellectually ‘knowing better’, you may find that you are creating situations in your life that simply reaffirm your personal truth. Because of course, who likes to be told that they are wrong?
So now, for some good news. Your personal truth, if it is one that has been damaging your life, is not necessarily your fault. For many people, their personal truth is a remnant of times long gone – times that they were not necessarily in control of. You may be reading at this point, feeling a bit glum about that reality. Of course we cannot change the cards that we were dealt in life and too many people were dealt cards that were not fair.
So why is it good news then? Because now that you know this, you can stop blaming yourself. You have only been doing what you knew how to do, and it is the same for anyone – we only know what we know. The real power now lies in the fact that you are an adult, with more awareness, and more capacity to look at yourself with insight. You have no responsibility in what happened when you were little, but you have 100% responsibility for what happens today. You can now start to take action to identify and actively change that personal truth.
In identifying what your personal truth is, you become less vulnerable to it. Once you identify your personal truth, you move what was once unconscious in to the realm of the conscious.
You can begin to ask yourself,
Where has this personal truth come from?
Why have I continued to believe this?
Where is my evidence to support this truth?
Is this really a reflection of who I am today or is it time that I start to create a new personal truth?
What do I actually want in my life? And how am I going to create it by actively taking personal responsibility and keeping myself accountable?
It is only when you identify your personal truth that you can really begin to question the validity or the falsehood of this undercurrent of belief which may have been controlling your life all of this time.