JBJams was talking to me about “core filters” the other day, and that got me thinking about one of the big challenges I’ve faced in pursuing my major goal that I still don’t think I’ve really gotten to the heart of.
So, again, “core filter” is a term developed by Belanie DeShong, a woman that runs workshops devoted to helping people uncover what their core filters are. Stated simply, her theory is that a “core filter” is a limiting belief, but it’s a highly ingrained limiting belief developed in early childhood that’s usually concealed by many other limiting beliefs that are piled on top of it (because our egos are desperate to never let us discover our “core filters”).
Belanie says you can never rid yourself of a “core filter” — it is a part of you the same as your arm or your nose. But you CAN extinguish its power over you by unearthing it and making a choice that you are willing to “be” whatever the core filter is. For example, if my core filter is “I’m unlovable,” and that’s something I’ve fought my whole life trying to prove I’m not, the goal would be to shift to be willing to be “unlovable” (along with a recognition that it’s not true, it’s just a belief I made up about myself one day as a kid).
Belanie is very clear in her trainings that no limiting belief, or core filter, is ever true. They are all just beliefs. But, as human beings, we have to have beliefs. It’s not possible to be belief-less. This is why the goal of the Lifespring trainings that we did is not to rid yourself of beliefs altogether (because you can’t), but to ditch limiting beliefs and adopt/replace them with empowering ones instead.
So, one thing Belanie talks about is how just as there are limiting “core filters,” there are empowering ones, too. She gives the example that one of her beliefs about herself is “I’m a people-person.” She says because of the work she’s done, she knows it’s not really true — there’s nothing inherent in who she is that causes her to be more of a “people person” than anyone else. It’s just a core belief she adopted as a child, and now, for her, it’s the truth — she’s a people-person. Because she holds this belief about herself so strongly, she does things to make it true — she’s very social, she puts in the effort to be “good with people,” etc. She says she has no desire to change this core belief because it helps her.
Getting back to my Goal 1, I realized I’ve been facing this ongoing tension between two competing beliefs, or “core filters,” that I have — one disempowering, and one empowering.
The first disempowering one is the one I talked about before: whatever you do, don’t stand out, because if you do, people will discover how “ugly” you are. As I wrote about previously, this is a very strong belief. It affects me each and every time I do something that might cause me to stand out in a crowd.
The other core belief that is constantly clashing with the one above is an empowering one (though it has its pitfalls): “I’m special.”
How or why or when I decided that, I couldn’t tell you, I guess it must have happened as a child — maybe as a result of that whole skip-a-grade thing, but it was probably something prior to that. In any event, I believe, in my core, that I am special. My sister has made fun of me for this all my life (and note to self: if I ever want to discover more core filters, I need to just look at what my sister makes fun of me for).
It’s funny because it was hard for me to get to this understanding, and I couldn’t have done it on my own. Jimmy helped me.
At first, I talked to Jimmy about how I thought maybe this “special” thing was another disempowering core filter: a belief that “I’m not special,” and so I’ve spent my whole life trying to prove that I am.
But as I tried to articulate why I thought that to him, he kept telling me it just wasn’t adding up. He suggested I tell him a story about when I think this belief may have played out.
So I told him the story about how I didn’t walk at my high school graduation. He stopped me and said: “You’ve told me this before; you were being rebellious, you hated the people in high school and just wanted out of there.”
I said yes, that’s what I told you, that’s what I tell everyone — that’s even how I told the story in my posts on here — but that is not, in fact, the truth. I recently remembered the REAL reason why I didn’t walk (this is how deeply buried it is, to where I even thought my “cover story” was the truth).
My whole school career, I was a straight A student. I was in the gifted programs, advanced placement programs, what have you.
Everyone knew “Kyla is smart.”
Well, at 16 — the same time I got my convertible mustang — Kyla suddenly went from being a homely girl with glasses no one noticed to being considered attractive (think: “She’s All That”). The reason why is that many things happened at once: the car, I started brushing and blowdrying my hair (lol), I grew boobs, I began to dress differently (more confident about my appearance), I got my braces off, etc. As a result, suddenly I had access to a whole other way to get pleasure out of life, and I thought to myself, you know what? I’m tired of working so hard, and because this school thing is so easy for me (and was boring me quite a bit), I bet I can put in, like, 50% effort and still do really well. So I was still on the debate team, I was still in the advanced placement classes, but I stopped trying so hard; I started building a social life for myself instead, got a boyfriend, started working in restaurants after school and flirted with “older” men (in their 20s, lol), etc. The result was that I did continue to do well — but not as well. I let myself get a few Bs, and even a C in Spanish (I hated Spanish, though I don’t anymore).
When it came time for graduation, my class standing had fallen — a lot (it bears noting that, while I went to a public high school, it was the best one in town and was renowned for being quite competitive).
In Texas, being in the top 10% of the class is a big deal. It means you automatically are accepted into U.T. Austin, which is THE school to go to if you are a Texan (and even if you’re not, it is widely considered to be a good school). Pretty much everyone I knew was going to U.T. Austin if they could get in. So in general, the top 10% was something the students focused on.
But more importantly, at my high school, if you were in the top 10% you’d wear a gold robe and hat at graduation instead of a black one. My sister had worn one two years before (though like me, she shirked this idea of going to U.T. Austin and took off for new frontiers, hers being in Boston).
So when I looked at the list of everyone’s class standing, and started looking for my name (which I was certain was still in the top 10% despite my antics), I kept scrolling down and down and down and down. It wasn’t even as if I had “just missed” the top 10%; I was somewhere between 10 and 20%, and it was much closer to 20.
Keep in mind that this didn’t really affect where I could go to college; I got a very high SAT score (that my sister says I “wasted” by going to University of Hawaii) and I was still going to get into U.T. Austin (and there was still no way I would go there, as I was desperate for change).
It nonetheless was a pretty jarring moment for me. I decided right then that I could not walk at my graduation; everyone would be expecting me to be wearing a yellow robe, and it was too humiliating to not be wearing one. But, it was less about how “everyone” was expecting that (because in the end, did they really care?), and more about how I was expecting that.
At that same time, I came up with my cover story: it wasn’t about my grades having fallen, it was about me being a rebel. My hope was that no one would even delve into what my grades were.
I told Jimmy this is the pain my “you’re not special” core belief (that I thought I had) has caused me — I can’t stand to not be special, so in this circumstance, in order to still be “special,” I avoided my high school graduation altogether. My sister still hasn’t forgiven me for it; she said she needed it, for her, as “closure,” or whatever — to help her process that her little sister was growing up.
Jimmy looked at me quizzically and said that what I was saying didn’t quite fit. He said what he saw in what I described was that I have a belief that “special” is who I am. When I did things to damage that truth (letting my grades slip, not making the top 10%), I suddenly found myself faced with this situation where I realized just how out of integrity I had been. In other words, not being able to wear the yellow robe showed me how much the gap had widened between who I was being and who I really was. I couldn’t face the pain of denying my true self to that extent, and especially in a situation where it was going to be made so obvious to me (the difference between a black robe and a yellow one, publicly displayed for all to see). He said that’s the reason you couldn’t walk.
So our conclusion from this conversation is that my belief around “special” is actually empowering–it’s not me trying to hide an inner belief of “you’re not special,” and striving to cover it up by trying to do things that will make me seem special. It’s instead a firm belief that I AM special (i.e., that that’s who I am, my identity). As a result, any time I do something that causes me to not be true to that, it’s painful.
But, on the other side of it is my limiting core filter — the disempowering one I described above. The one that tells me that I cannot stand out because everyone will see how “ugly” I am.
The result? A lifetime of taking actions both big and small to be who I am: “gifted,” “special,” etc. — coupled with constant sabotage-like actions to stop me from standing out.
Every time I did stand out, because I was being “special,” I felt shame and pain because of my limiting belief. Every time my limiting belief succeeded in stopping me from standing out, I felt shame and pain because I knew I wasn’t being true to who I was.
The limiting core filter has such a stronghold on me that I was telling Jimmy that this obsession around “special” — even after we figured out that it was empowering and has caused me to become and pursue many great things in my life — is bad for me. I told him it causes me to insist on standing out, which is “wrong.”
He was like, what are you TALKING about? You need to embrace your belief that you are special. THAT is who you are and THAT is what will get you to the level you’ve been saying you want to get to for you and for our family. What you need to do is ditch the limiting side of this, that it’s wrong to stand out. He said you need to adopt “I am special” wholeheartedly and not look back, and if you keep taking actions that are true to that, the limiting side of this — which isn’t true — will eventually be squelched.
We did talk about some pitfalls for me of “I am special,” though. Empowering as it is, sometimes it tilts toward arrogance, and being entitled. Like with past bosses: because I’m special, you’re going to let me get into work whenever I feel like it. Or, because I’m special, I’m not going to work so hard anymore, or go to class anymore, and yet still expect to land in the top 10%. Jimmy said the key was to stay in conversation with him about it, and he would set me straight.
As an aside, it’s weird how when you’re married to someone you sort of start to forget that they’re talented. I had this moment of, oh yeah — I’m married to a really great coach. Why the heck aren’t I tapping that way more often (did you see what I did there?).