All of us have core beliefs that we hold about ourselves. These beliefs shape who we fundamentally are and how we behave.

This article, the first in this series, will focus on negative core beliefs, what they are, and how they affect our lives.

What are Core Beliefs?

Core beliefs are the ideas that we hold about ourselves that are just below the surface. These beliefs affect how we treat ourselves, our relationships, and the rest of the world.

We gain core beliefs through interacting and interpreting the world around us and develop thinking that rules how we get our needs met. While many core beliefs are helpful, sometimes we become flooded with negative emotions. We may believe we are unlovable or feel the world is very unsafe.

It is helpful if we find ourselves bogged down in depression and anxiety to take a hard look at our core beliefs and adjust. Some core beliefs are deeply ingrained. Often, people who are experiencing the effects of negative core beliefs will need the help of a mental health professional to change them.

But first, we need to identify what our core beliefs are.

Identifying Your Core Beliefs

To find and change our core beliefs from negative to positive or neutral, we must first identify any problematic thoughts that are bouncing around in our heads. These are automatic thoughts and come into our minds with no conscious thought.

To recognize these troubling thoughts, we need to take time to sit quietly when we are not edgy or anxious and observe what we are thinking. We shouldn’t ponder if these thoughts are false or true, instead, observe them without judgment.


Another way to identify troubling thoughts that echo our core beliefs is to observe when your mood shifts drastically or you feel yourself becoming enraged. Your goal isn’t to spend time ruminating. Rather, it is essential to label your thoughts and notice what they contain. By identifying these thoughts, it might be better to write them down so you can examine them later when you are in a better mood.

Next, use the thought you have identified to examine your underlying core values and beliefs. The best way to identify core values is to ask yourself some questions about your automatic thoughts, such as the following:

  • How does my thought express how I view the world and those around me?
  • What do my self-talk statements say about me and my situation?
  • What does the statement say about my happiness in the situation?

Core beliefs are powerful and hold underlying messages that we tell ourselves. It is vital to begin to notice these thought patterns that you have when you feel bad or upset.

The Effects of Negative Core Beliefs on Your Life

You must notice and understand your core values and the thought patterns that influence how you see the world. Digging deeper to understand the thoughts you hold can undermine your self-view and will aid you in changing them to more positive ones.

Core beliefs that are dysfunctional fuel unhealthy relationships and behaviors, such as drug and alcohol abuse. One example of a common core belief many who have addictions experience is, “I am bad.” This thought is destructive and a heavy belief to handle. Feeling you are bad often leads to feelings of helplessness, depression, and self-hate.

Negative core beliefs sometimes turn into substance abuse and other unhealthy coping practices and addictions. Having an addiction further feeds the core belief, making it seem as if it is true.

Core Beliefs and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

People living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder often view themselves in a distorted manner and the world as a dangerous place. Complex trauma leaves its victims struggling to maintain a good perspective because their childhood was full of negative experiences.

Often, people who have complex post-traumatic stress disorder struggle with forming healthy relationships and experience abandonment or mistreatment that echoes what they experienced as kids.


It is critical for people with CPTSD to recognize the negative thought patterns they hold and believe about themselves and to find ways to overcome those messages. It is crucial to identify the beliefs that perpetuate your sense of being unsafe, powerlessness, isolation, disconnection, and hopelessness.

Some of the negative thoughts you may experience are listed below.

  • I am damaged.
  • I cannot trust anyone.
  • I am alone.
  • If people knew me, they wouldn’t like me
  • I am not safe.
  • I am crazy.
  • I have no control over my life.
  • No one understands me.

These core beliefs discolor your worldview and make you vulnerable to negative circumstances.

Defeating Your Negative Core Beliefs

Once you know what your negative core beliefs are, ready to replace them with positive ones. The process requires dedication and time, but with persistence, you will find you feel better about yourself and the world than ever before in your life.

Identify your negative core belief. I’ve already given you some tools to recognize your core beliefs, however, it is imperative to remember to work on your most persistent and severe core beliefs first. Target the negative core belief that seems to affect everything you do, think, and feel.

Try to genuinely understand how your negative core belief affects your life. Write or meditate upon the question, “How does this negative core belief affect my life?” Does the negative core belief cause you to hate yourself or feel unsafe in the world? Understanding how your negative core belief harms you will create motivation to make changes.

Rate the conviction you have in your negative core belief. Negative core beliefs sound funny when spoken aloud or laughable when you think about them. Still, on the unconscious level, these seemingly harmless thoughts wreak havoc on your self-esteem. Do you truly believe what your negative self-talk says? One way to find out is to rate your beliefs from don’t believe it at all to strongly believing what your negative core beliefs tell you. If you find yourself saying that you have more belief in your negative core belief value that you are a rotten person, it is time to work on that problem.

Change your negative core beliefs to positive ones. Now that you know what you believe about the negative core beliefs, you have the chance to disprove them, so you are no longer affected by them. It is time to change the core belief you are working on by finding positive core beliefs to replace them. Instead of allowing your mind to tell you that you are ugly, tell yourself you are beautiful aloud so your subconscious mind can hear you. You’ll be surprised at how much your spoken words affect your subconscious mind. It is critical to choose a positive core belief that you believe in and that is realistic. Positive affirmations spoken in a mirror every morning are enormously helpful.

Think about how much your life will change with your new core belief. Actively think about how much the new core belief you are adopting will change your life. Go into as much detail as you can muster and enjoy visualizing the future.

Develop an action plan. You will need a plan to tell you what you will do if the negative core belief raises its ugly head. First, you need to recognize the symptoms and negative connotations that accompany a negative core belief. Next, make a plan to help remind yourself if the negative thought is about your looks. For example, three ways you are beautiful inside and out. It may also be helpful to keep a journal and record your progress, setting aside time every day for introspection. If you slip and have problems, instead of getting down on yourself, allow yourself some courtesy and grace for having tried, and then go for it again.

Negative core beliefs are only dangerous and permanent if you allow them to be.

Ending Our Time Together

Negative core beliefs are a real problem for those living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions that are traumagenic in their origins. The old tapes of the negative voices we heard in childhood seem to echo in our minds and shape how we see ourselves and our world.

It does not need to remain so.

By working with a therapist on your negative core beliefs, you can change the tape in your mind to genuinely see and believe in your goodness and abilities.

Don’t sell yourself short. No matter where life has led you, you are a vital part of this world, and it needs you now more than ever.

“You may be the only person left who believes in you, but it’s enough. It takes just one star to pierce a universe of darkness. Never give up.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich

“Believe in your infinite potential. Your only limitations are those you set upon yourself. Believe in yourself, your abilities, and your own potential. Never let self-doubt hold you captive. You are worthy of all that you dream of and hope for.”
― Roy T. Bennett,

Additional Posts in this Series:

What are Your Core Beliefs?
Overcoming Complex PTSD and Negative Core Beliefs
Core Beliefs and Happiness in Life