A core belief is a belief we hold very deeply and that we believe is true. We might have held this belief for many years, or it may be a fairly new one, but we believe it like we believe the world is round. We know this for a fact, so never test or question it because often it is beyond questioning. It is so deeply held we may never think of questioning it, we simply believe it.
This is sometimes a mistake however, especially in relation to our beliefs about depression, negative thoughts, stress and the symptoms we may experience.
We all have hundreds or even thousands of core beliefs whether we know it or not. From childhood we start to develop our belief system about our self, others, and the world around us. We are also taught it by our parents, teachers, politicians, preachers and especially by the media in this day and age.
Core beliefs aren’t the same as our conditioning, but are related, because we are conditioned to have certain core beliefs we then carry around with us throughout our lives.
What is important to do, especially in relation to depression, anxiety and stress related conditions, is to question, examine and test our Core Beliefs, because especially when they are “old” beliefs, they may no longer be valid, so we must find out. Unfortunately and only too often we believe them and stick with them quite unconsciously, especially negative ones. For this reason it is vital for your emotional and mental health to be consciously aware enough to take a deeper look and examine and test them.
A core belief of yours might be any of the following:
- I am stupid, fat or ugly
- I will always be depressed
- I will never get rid of my panic attacks
- My religion is the best and the only religion to follow
- Cow’s milk is good for me
- My parents know best because they told me so
- Blonds are air heads
- I will never become rich
- I can never go to university, I’m not clever enough
- The world is round
- Chocolate is fattening
- I am not worthy of love
- I believe my thoughts
- My thoughts are always right
- My perception is always right
- I believe my beliefs
There are many beliefs we carry around with us, some will be valid and some not. For example I might believe my religion is definitely the best religion there is, but is it really? Have I actually studied other religions in depth to know my belief is definitely right? Unless I can really find out, which would take years of study I can’t assume my belief is right. It is not necessarily valid. There may be other religions that are beautiful and meaningful, but how will I know this unless I study them?
If I question myself I might then get a more accurate answer. I might need to find out if I’m right or not. I won’t find out if I blindly believe without checking.
On a personal level you may have many beliefs about yourself you have held for many years. For example:
- I have always thought of myself as being unattractive I believe it’s true
- I know I’m not very clever
- Other women are far more attractive than me
- I think I’m a bit stupid
- I am no good at my job
- My parents prefer my siblings to me
- I will never be good enough to go to uni
- I will always have anxiety related issue because I always did
- I can’t get over my depression and never will. I am stuck with it for ever
- No one will love me
- I am not worthy of love
- I am boring
- No one cares about me
If our self beliefs are negative and we spend our lives believing they are accurate, it might become damaging to our self esteem and well-being. Let’s say we believe we are stupid. We have held this belief since childhood and have carried it around with us for so long, we actually believe it, even though it is highly likely that the belief is wrong.
Wherever the belief originated from we believe it and it becomes a core belief of ours, a part of who we are, and it becomes a Negative core belief. The problem is how do you know it’s really true? It may not be true at all but you have believed it for so long you think it must be true. For you anyway, it is true it is true, even if, in reality it is NOT. It is your belief about yourself and it will stay with you unless you consciously test it and hopefully change it.
I had a patient once who believed she was stupid. She believed this to her core and convinced herself it was true. Of course it was not. She was highly intelligent, but because she had a father who was very good at math’s and he would tell her how stupid she was for not understanding complicated math exercises, she spent her life (until meeting me) believing she was stupid in every aspect of her life.
What happened was that she became quite traumatized every time her father insisted he teaches her math. The more he persisted, the worse the problem became until she could never do the exercises for fear of failure. She believed she was too stupid to achieve success, but the evidence had said the opposite. She was very successful in other areas, for example she went to university and got a good class degree, had a good job and had many other attributes. (All by chance according to her)
However once we started to test her belief and I pointed out her successes in life she began to realize she had never bothered to really question her father’s comments or her reactions to them. She learned that her belief was wrong. She came to see that although she was not so good at math, it didn’t mean she was stupid at all.
She excelled in areas her father did not, and she came to acknowledge that she was good at many other things and had intelligence in many other areas. A lot of what went on between her and her father was more about her intense fear of failure which left her frozen in his presence. It was actually nothing to do with her being stupid, and more to do with the terrible state she ended up in every time her father tested her. She was too frightened to function rationally. She had been very intimidated by her father who should have known better and should have realized the damage he was causing with her.
It was only by questioning and testing her core belief: “I am stupid because I can’t do math with my dad” that she found out she is not stupid at all and that actually she is very intelligent. She then changed her Core Belief.
The danger with core beliefs is that for some strange reason we really will believe we are stupid if that’s what someone once told us. It would not occur to us to question, challenge or test our negative belief about our self, but this is exactly what we need to do. This in turn damages our self esteem, leaving us lacking in self confidence and makes us even more disabled in our lives.
Your beliefs need to be tested for their validity as this is the only way to find out and be able to bring about change. To ensure our negative core beliefs don’t damage our well-being testing and evaluating is the only way you have a chance of finding out. It’s the same for any other Core Belief, test them out. and This is exactly what CBT teaches you to do and this is why it is so helpful.
With depression, stress, anxiety, panic attacks and anger we get loaded with negative beliefs. They are often part of NAT’s or part of our conditioning and partly because we are in the habit of telling ourselves the same negative things over and over.
CBT takes all this in hand and addresses each negative core belief we hold about ourselves and will help you learn how to question, test, evaluate and change each one of them where necessary. In so doing it will repair your perception of yourself, others and the word. CBT will help you change your negative belief into a more rational belief and this is where it becomes so therapeutic.
Below is a short list of negative core beliefs you may recognize as your own.. They are very commonly held beliefs and rarely are they valid.
- I have been depressed for so long nothing will make me better
- My panic attacks are so serious no one will be able to help me overcome them
- I am much uglier than everyone I know
- I am stupid and soon people will find out
- I am so stressed out I can’t cope
- I’m not as good as my mother
- I believe my negative thoughts, they must be right
- I will never find love
- Men/ women definitely don’t find me attractive which means there is something wrong with me. That’s what I believe anyway
- I am always criticized by my parents so they must be right in their criticisms
- I am really fat, other people must think I am so ugly
As you have been learning throughout the program Negative Core Beliefs can be TOXIC for your well-being, especially when they reinforce your negative belief about yourself. Learning how to deal with them is vital if you intend to stop feeling depressed, anxious or stressed, so please learn the techniques and practice them.