In this series on core beliefs, we are discussing how these self-imposed and self-defining thought patterns can either help or hinder you and your life. Because of childhood maltreatment, many survivors are left struggling to find who they are and struggling with many core beliefs that are not helpful.

This article will focus on how core beliefs alter our self-perceptions and what you can do to change them to be more effective.

Again, What are Core Beliefs?

We broached this subject in the last article, but it is critical to make sure that we know what core beliefs are. Core beliefs are deeply held internal ideas that interact with a person to form how they see themselves and the world.

Core beliefs come in one of three flavors; helpful, unhelpful, or neutral. Because core beliefs make up such a large part of a person’s view of the world, they may be difficult to recognize and identify.

Negative core beliefs are unhelpful in that they tend to interfere with a person’s ability to function. These thought patterns negatively affect the mental health of those living with them forcing the person to feel overall dissatisfaction with their life.

Positive core beliefs do the opposite of negative core beliefs in that they are helpful and positively affect the mental health of those living with them and their relationships with others.

Neutral core beliefs serve as a base from which all other beliefs are formed. They are neither positive nor negative and, for the most part, do not affect the person’s mental health or relationships.

To sum up, core beliefs are strong beliefs people hold consistently throughout their lives that form their worldview and self-perception.

Core Beliefs and Self-Acceptance

Loving yourself even with all your flaws may seem impossible. That is because your core beliefs about yourself are skewed to the negative holding you back from self-acceptance and an abundant number of opportunities for healthy happy relationships.

If, however, you find yourself thinking any number of negative thoughts about yourself and seeing the world as a horrifying place, you are struggling with core beliefs that hinder your ability to be successful.

It is critical to accept yourself with all your flaws and quirks to be happy and well-adjusted but believing you are unlovable, ugly, or other negative self-talk will hold you down in life.

Self-acceptance is the act of loving yourself just as you are no matter the core beliefs you were taught to have in childhood. You accept your personal traits exactly as they are without wavering. Self-acceptance means recognizing that your intrinsic value lies beyond how you behave or how you look. It gives you confidence and allows you to be less vulnerable to criticism.

Your self-acceptance is measured by how you respond to your core beliefs. If you listen to the old tapes that are playing in your mind telling you that you are in constant danger and not a worthwhile person then that is how you will act and feel about yourself. If, however, your core beliefs hold you in high esteem, you will love yourself and your behavior will show it.

The Importance of Identifying Your Core Beliefs

Knowing your core beliefs helps you understand yourself better. You will understand better why you do the things you do and your outlook on the world. You must identify what these thought processes are so you can judge if you wish to keep them or want to change them altogether.

The first step in finding negative core beliefs is to earn to identify the thoughts you hear in your head. These are called automatic thoughts because they pop into our heads without any conscious effort.

There are two ways to identify your core beliefs; the first is by sitting quietly and observing what you are thinking. Do this any time you feel edgy or nervous. The goal of this exercise is not to label your thoughts as good or bad, but rather to identify your automatic thoughts. When you hear a thought that is coinciding with your mood, write it down.

The second step is to use the automatic thoughts you have identified and dig down to the underlying core belief that is fueling it. One method for identifying core beliefs is the downward arrow technique where you begin to ask questions about what you are thinking.

The downward arrow technique is used to begin to improve symptoms by cognitive restructuring which is a technique that is successful for some people to change the way they think. The downward arrow technique asks you to begin to ask questions about how you think and allows you to revise your thoughts about yourself and the world.

How to Change Core Beliefs

Core beliefs are changeable, but they can be difficult as they are often hidden and automatic. Fortunately, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) offers many strategies to help you identify and change your core beliefs.

After identifying core beliefs ask yourself if the belief is valid and really true and the advantages and disadvantages of believing them. Next reverse your beliefs or think about how the opposite of your core belief may be true.

For instance, if your core belief is that you must hide your feelings from your partner, consider the opposite to be true, and you should feel free to express your true feelings.

You can also create and use positive affirmations to help shore up your new core beliefs. You can look for these new affirmations on the internet or buy a book full of positive affirmations such as I’m loveable, I don’t deserve to feel shame or guilt, or I am safe.

Repeated over and again, these affirmations will seep into your brain, and you will find your attitude about yourself slowly changing.

Moving into the Future

Moving into the future after childhood maltreatment is difficult at best, especially when your core values are all mixed up. However, moving on to a new way of living is likely if you walk the walk and talk the talk.

Changing your core beliefs will not happen on its own.

You must consciously work on changing those thought patterns that are holding you down and it takes hard work and determination. You must decide to change the old tapes that play in your head telling you negative things about yourself.

Indeed, many people will not choose to change their core beliefs because they cannot see that their success in life has been hampered due to the denial that fills them. It is only the lucky few who recognize how their own thinking is keeping them held down that work hard and escape the trap laid for them in childhood.

Moving on is a conscious choice.

Ending Our Time Together

Core beliefs, while they are a big part of who we are, are not set in stone. No one need to go through life convinced they are not worthy or worthwhile as a person. Everyone has the chance to change the old tapes and insert new ones.

Positive affirmations are vital to changing your thoughts about yourself. Mirror work is a fantastic method to ending the self-loathing you might hold for yourself and allowing you to begin to love yourself.

While self-love sounds like pride or vanity, it is not. Whoever said that pride in oneself is a sin? You should be your number one best friend and support you in all you do and help make choices that shore you up.

It is time for you to consider working with a therapist to help yourself change your core beliefs for the better. You won’t regret you did.

“You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing” – Ram Dass

“Make way for the unprecedented and watch your reality rearrange yourself,” –  Yrsa Daley-Ward

See the additional posts in this series:
Negative Core Beliefs
Complex PTSD and Negative Core Beliefs
Core Beliefs and Happiness in Life