07 Sep Challenging Core Beliefs
Challenging your Core Beliefs
What are your core beliefs? They are widely accepted as the internal belief system that forms the foundation of your sense of ‘you’. Or put more simply, they explain the mystery of who you are.
Core beliefs are basic beliefs, or our common beliefs, ones that we hold true about ourselves, other people, our relationships and the world around us. We believe them to be absolute truths and they exist in the lower echelons of our mind, informing our thoughts, feelings, reactions and behaviour. Essentially, they determine how we perceive and interpret the world.
In everyday life, when things are strange, changing, challenging, triggering you will unknowingly consult the core belief that is most likely to keep you safe and protect you from the perceived harm, hurt or danger.
Core beliefs are very convincing and why wouldn’t they be…they have informed your choices for a very long time and every day they remain constant and unwavering. A core belief is something you accept as true without question and these beliefs are so deep-seated that you rarely think about them, question them or are even really aware of them.
Taking this explanation a little further, we might ourselves considering how else core beliefs eventuate? And, as you might expect, they extend far beyond the interactions we have with our environment. In fact, they can be the nucleus which shapes and molds our self-esteem and tell us if we are lovable, safe, trustworthy, important, intelligent, right or wrong. In short, they determine how we see ourselves and what we believe you deserve or don’t.
A negative core belief might look something like this:
“I don’t belong.” This story this belief might correlate to might suggest thoughts like this to you, “people would avoid me or exclude me if they knew what I was really like.”
A corresponding surface thought might then take the belief a step further, “Perhaps its best I don’t go on that date / to that barbecue / on that trip because I might be rejected or ignored.”
And from there you might decide that it’s best never to attend social gatherings because it’s too dangerous for you. Or social gatherings might become places that evoke strong feelings of anxiety because of these beliefs.
This is how powerful core beliefs can be. They can influence our decisions to an extent that is hard to fathom until you come to understand your own beliefs that you have created and supported your entire life.
On the other hand, positive core beliefs affirm that you are worthy, important, appropriate and belong. A positive core belief might look like this:
“I haven’t done this job before but I know I have the transferable skills.” Supportive belief: “I am going to apply for that new job as I believe I could develop a lot in that role and that I could offer something to that company that’s valuable.”
You’ve had your core beliefs so long you have reinforced them again and again of time. If your core beliefs are negative and result in a constant chatter of negative thoughts and statements about you then they can be really debilitating. They can prevent you from trying new things, from being vulnerable, from healthy relationships and more. Of course, if they are positive, they can have the opposite effect; encouraging you to try new things, take risks, embrace change etc.
Core beliefs often get distorted by trauma. This distortion can play out even more so when the person is young, thus forming unhealthy core beliefs at a very young age. In response to trauma albeit physical, emotional, spiritual or otherwise, a person may come to believe they simply aren’t worthy of love or don’t deserve happiness. The core beliefs in these situations will result in a constant stream of negativity they may battle with for many years, changing the course of their life.
How will I know it’s a core belief? They will offer themselves to you in the form of absolute truths.
Examples of such truths are listed below:
I am bad.
I am unlovable.
I am wrong
I am inappropriate
I don’t matter
I am insignificant
So what next? This may seem insurmountable and it’s true that changing core beliefs takes a lot of time and effort – but it can be done.
The first step is to learn to be aware of your internal dialogue. Once you recognise that you are having these thoughts in response to your negative core beliefs, you can start to deal with the situation differently. Awareness, here, is critical and opens the door to the possibility of change.
Is that easier said than done? Here are some suggestions as to how you might begin the voyage to the centre of yourself…
1. Journal your internal dialogue / your thoughts
Writing down thoughts that come to your mind is a great place to start. Going back a couple days later and reading what you wrote is even more effective. Try to look for the thoughts, the story, the context and the reaction and piece together what’s really going on when that thought appears.
2. Ask yourself what you think your core beliefs are…write down the beliefs you have about yourself as well as how often you feel them and how they have shaped your decisions.
3. Observe the words that come out of your mouth. Being aware of the words we speak as an automatic reaction of our belief system. Being aware of our words can reveal a great deal if we know what to look for.
4. Identify the rules by which you live. Core beliefs are very subjective, which means they cannot easily be identified. We can, however, test the rules that derive from them. Core beliefs almost always result in rules by which we live our lives. These might be things like, ‘never try too hard as you will be disappointed.’ Or, ‘never let yourself be vulnerable in a relationship as you will only get hurt. Better to keep your distance.’ If you can determine what some of your ‘rules’ are you might be able to affirm yourself to try replacing a rule with an alternative option that’s more positive.
Core beliefs allow us to lie to ourselves. But, if you can catch your mind in that lie or notice the rule that follows it, you give yourself the opportunity to replace them with a positive affirmation or to challenge them entirely. In this manner you could give yourself a break from your negative feelings and start to slowly re-frame your reality.
Core beliefs enable your thinking to become your ‘being’. They are also lying to you. Do you want to listen to them anymore?
At South Pacific Private core beliefs are addressed as part of our treatment program. As we learn to recognise these common beliefs, we practice sharing our own reality around experiences and situations and what underlying common belief is accompanying that situation and what you are telling yourself in that moment.
By identifying our core beliefs we begin create a new neural pathways and the plasticity of the brain means that we can begin to mold and change them, with awareness and with practice. Ask yourself what might happen if you challenged these beliefs, how might your live change? What doors would open up to you? What could you allow yourself to try or to do differently? The more you do these things, the more you will come to believe these new core beliefs, or simply to accept that the original beliefs were lying to you. Over time, the old can be replaced with the new ones and the automatic responses shift from a negative to a positive. We invite you to affirm yourself every day try using our checklist above.
If you would like support or need to reach out – you can contact South Pacific Private on 1800 063 332.