Beginning in childhood, we form core beliefs about ourselves and how we perceive the world. They are formed from 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 reshape our belief system. This is an age range when we are trying to form our identity and explore socially. Friendships and intimate partners hold a significant place in our lives.
Because we value our peers very highly at this age, we feel the negative occurrences intensely. Unfortunately, negative core beliefs come out of unfavorable interactions we have. Some examples include rejection from peers, unhealthy relationships or comparing ourselves to others in an unfavorable light. Some common examples of negative core beliefs include, “I am incompetent,” “I am a failure,” and “People cannot be trusted.”
Three Ways to Help Manage Your Core Beliefs
Core beliefs impact all areas of your life. Here are some strategies for managing your own beliefs 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. If you were to use the belief “I am a failure,” identify your accomplishments and challenges you’ve overcome – no matter how small you think they may be. Ask yourself, “Which of my experiences proves that this belief is not completely true all the time?” Identifying these will weaken your belief. Recognize that this belief is a feeling rather than a 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. Usually, when we look at these beliefs they tend to be “absolutes” rather than something up for debate.
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, we would feel very happy all the time. If you eliminated the belief that you are a failure you would be more inclined 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 would see the failures as isolated instances rather than labeling yourself as a failure.
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? If you believe this now, does this mean you are a failure in each situation you encounter? It becomes very difficult for individuals to answer questions such as these. If you are unable to define failure then it is not fair to label yourself one. Dissecting these beliefs leads you to challenge them.
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 are constantly growing and learning about ourselves from the day we are born until the day we die. We are provided ample time throughout our day to re-adjust, reassess and create a plan of action in order to better manage any situation that arises. You as an individual must always remember that nothing is definitive and flexibility is your greatest ally. Re-training how you view these situations is paramount to changing beliefs and working with a therapist can provide you with a safe, supportive space to do so. Therapists can help you identify your long-held beliefs, how they negatively influence your life and recommend strategies to manage them.
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 yourself, 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. Rehab After Work has counselors trained in a variety of therapeutic approaches. Contact us to schedule an appointment for yourself or a loved one.