Sydney Hills Counselling Blog

Identifying Our Core Beliefs: Are Your Unhelpful Core Beliefs Holding You Back?

As we journey through our lives, we form beliefs about ourselves and our place in the world which develop from the time we were infants. If we cried, and someone came to check on us and attend to our needs, we formed the belief that we could be secure that help was always close at hand, that we were loved, and that we were worthy of help. If on the other hand, no one came to check on us, if we were greeted with indifference (or worse) when they finally showed up, or if our needs were only partially or inconsistently met, we may have developed the belief that we couldn’t rely on others to meet our needs and that perhaps we were unworthy of having our needs met. Identifying our core beliefs can help us to improve how we see ourselves, change how we perceive our circumstances and change the way in which we respond to situations and those we connect with.

Our core beliefs about ourselves and our place in the world continue to evolve throughout our lives; if we achieve well at school or work, or if we just manage to scrape by (or even worse, fail), whether we succeed at achieving our goals or fall short, and if we’re successful or not too successful in our relationships with others. Each of these situations will reinforce a belief we have about ourselves.

An excellent explanation of core beliefs has been coined by Robyn Ladinsky, a mindset and parenting coach who works with people who want to overcome their limiting and core beliefs. She says, “We create limiting beliefs all the time, but core beliefs are formed before the age of 7. Core beliefs are the root of the tree, and limiting beliefs are like the branches of the tree. You create this belief that’s not serving you, and you see everything through that lens…” You can read the whole article on Psychology Today here

For those people who were fortunate to have their needs met during their infancy and childhood, their core beliefs will typically be: ‘I am capable’, ‘I am worthy’, ‘I’m lovable’, ‘I’m enough’. For those of us who only had some of our needs met and whose primary caregivers were inconsistent in meeting them, our core beliefs will mostly reflect: ‘I’m inadequate’, ‘I’m not worthy’, ‘I’m unlovable’, and ‘I’m not enough’.

For every experience we have, we have thoughts associated with them. We also apply a filter to our thoughts. This filter leads us to simply accept our beliefs without even questioning their validity! This further strengthens our core belief, so that over time, it forms reinforcing rings around them, like a young tree which grows each year; each ring becomes stronger than its first rings.

Some commonly held core beliefs are:

I am inadequate

I have to be perfect, or I’ll be rejected

People I love will leave me

I have to be perfect

My needs aren’t important

If I trust others, they’ll hurt me

I’m only worth something if others like me

Things never go  right for me

I’m a failure

I can’t get anything right

I’m unattractive

I’m not as good as others

I’m unlovable

I’m flawed

People only pretend to like me

I’m a failure

Identifying our core beliefs is vital to us being able to make the connection between our beliefs and how we’re feeling. If you have the core belief ‘I can’t trust others’, then you may feel anxious in your relationships and have difficulty forming or maintaining them. Perhaps this may lead you to experience obsessive thinking, behave in compulsive ways or be a perfectionist. Once we’ve identified a core belief, we can challenge it and remind ourselves of why that belief isn’t true.

In this video, Douglas Bloch, author, counsellor, and mental health educator explains what core beliefs are, how they impact our thinking, and how they can lead to symptoms of depression.

The most reliable way to determine whether you have negative core beliefs is to observe recurring themes in your thinking. If in a given situation, you find that your tendency is to think in an overly critical way about yourself, other people or things in general, you may find that a negative core belief is to blame.

Identifying possible negative core beliefs can sometimes be challenging as many negative beliefs have some strong emotional reactions associated with them. If you observe that you have recurring thoughts such as ‘I’m a failure’, ‘I just don’t trust other people’ or ‘Things never work out for me’, this may suggest that these beliefs may be responsible for affecting your thoughts and emotions. Sometimes, you may find that the emotional reactions associated with identifying a negative core belief can be too overwhelming and in this case, it may be more helpful for you to seek professional help from work from a mental health professional who can provide guidance and reassurance.

A professional, registered counsellor can help you to identify and change negative core beliefs through a type of psychotherapy known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT as it is otherwise known), is a type of therapy which takes a practical, task-based approach to identifying any negative core beliefs you may have, the unhelpful thinking patterns associated with them, and can provide you with a more positive and helpful approach of correcting them.

Negative core beliefs can be difficult to change, but, with work and dedication, you can transform your thinking, beliefs, and behaviours to be more helpful and empowering. Distorted core beliefs are one of the underlying issues behind drug and alcohol abuse. Sydney Hills Counselling offers cognitive behavioural therapy as well as an array of interventions proven to help people struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental health issues. Call us today on (02) 9159-6277 to begin your journey towards a positive, more fulfilling life. Alternatively, you may prefer to email us at [email protected].

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