Beginning in childhood, we form core beliefs about ourselves and how we perceive the world. They are formed through experiences and by accepting what others tell us as truth. The relationships we form and experiences we have as teens and young adults can significantly impact our belief system as it is an age when much time is spent building our identity and exploring socially. Friendships and intimate partners hold a significant place in our lives.
Because we value our peers very highly at this age, we feel negative interactions and moments intensely, which can lead to the formation of negative core beliefs. This might include rejection from peers, unhealthy relationships or the dangerous trap we all fall into all too often – comparison.
When we continuously experience damaging and unpleasant interactions or emotions, negative core beliefs about ourselves can begin to form in our minds, including the belief that “I am incompetent,” “I am a failure” or “People cannot be trusted.”
Ways to help reframe your core beliefs
Core beliefs impact all areas of your life and can allow you to live a life of gratitude and positivity. If you are hoping to reframe and reshape your core beliefs to help improve your outlook, consider working on some of these strategies for managing what you believe about yourself and the world.
Identify the belief as a non-fact
Anytime you bring up a long held belief, ask yourself to explore the evidence against it. For example, take the belief “I am a failure.” In order to negate that thought, take the time to identify your accomplishments and the challenges you’ve overcome on the way to those accomplishments.
Ask yourself, “Which of my experiences proves that this belief is not completely true all the time?” Identifying these will begin to weaken the belief, giving truth to the fact that you are not a failure even though you might have made mistakes here and there.
Recognize that this belief is a feeling rather than a fact. You might feel like a failure, but your list of achievements – a promotion, graduation, finding the courage to have a difficult conversation – prove that this feeling is actually unfounded, and far from fact.
Just changing the wording from “I am a failure” to “I feel like a failure” allows the mind to see this belief as more subjective, and less concrete and factual.
Explore your life without the negative belief
Explore how your life would be different if you did not have the negative belief. If we had nothing but positive thoughts about everything, our emotions would be far from negative.
If you eliminated the belief of being a failure, how much more likely would you be to ask for a raise or feel more comfortable in social situations? You could see yourself more realistically, just as others see you. Of course, no one is perfect and you may fail at things from time to time, but you learn to view failures as isolated instances rather than the defining characteristic of who you are.
Try to define the belief
Take the core belief and try to identify and define the wording. For instance, try to define what a failure is. What does the dictionary say? What are the characteristics of people who are failures? Do you meet all these characteristics in every moment and every situation of your life? Probably not. Remember, when you dissect the beliefs, you might see that they actually have little place in your life.
Changing such beliefs takes time and practice. You have to be aware of when the beliefs arise and be open to challenging long-standing patterns of thought. We grow and learn new things everyday. In order to build resilience and flexibility, we must also learn to allow core beliefs to change and adjust as we learn these new things about the world and about ourselves.
This can be intimidating, but with the help of a therapist, it can be deeply freeing. Therapists can help you identify long-held beliefs, in addition to the negative impacts they might have and proper strategies you need to reorient them in a positive light.
Effects of negative beliefs
Negative beliefs can lower your self-esteem and hurt your overall mental health. People often engage in unhealthy behaviors like substance abuse or self-criticism when they have negative beliefs about themselves. If you recognize these kinds of behaviors in your life, it might be time to see a professional counselor to help work through them.
Core beliefs also play a large role in addiction recovery. People who use drugs or alcohol may hold false beliefs that they are always going to use substances, or that recovery is impossible. Therapy can help change those attitudes. Connect with our counselors today, trained in a variety of therapeutic approaches to help with just this. If you’re interested in speaking with someone, give us a call anytime at 610-644-6464.