I recall a client who always believes that everyone he knows is against him and that everything he does will result in complete disaster. I don’t wonder why he feels this way—he’s been operating this way for almost all his life and his parents, primarily his step-father, made sure he always knew when he screwed up. After so long of hearing this, he spent the latter part of his adult life caring little about achievement in school or hard work because it all came with a single thought: "I am terrible anyway and anything less than perfect isn’t worthwhile, so why should I even try?"
The thing is, even as he is trying his hardest to kick his negative self-image to the curb, that little voice inside of his head (and millions of voices outside of it) keep telling him that he is not worthy and that he will always be this way.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Negative thought patterns are part of being human. But while negative thoughts can help keep us realistic and practical, they can also make us feel utterly defeated. Especially when those negative thoughts are directed inward.
Core beliefs are the most basic assumptions you have about yourself and the world around you. These core beliefs often form when you are a child and solidify in adulthood. For example, if the idea instilled in you as a child was that you are always a failure, then you may fear trying something new because you don't believe you are capable of success as an adult.
Negative beliefs are not helpful in your recovery because it leads to low self-esteem and poor self-image. And oftentimes, these negative self-portrayals can lead to inaction, low motivation, or a fear of failure so debilitating that it hinders you from taking a step even when you know you should. The good news is, you can change your negative beliefs. It’s not something that happens overnight, but with practice and awareness, you can retrain your brain to have positive core beliefs.
How to Expose Core Beliefs
Core beliefs reveals a piece of our character and how we see ourselves. Furthermore, core beliefs impact how we view and navigate the world around us. Though, just because it is a core belief does not mean it is truth.
What exposes core beliefs is our self-talk—this is often unfiltered thoughts and feelings. Some people tend to notice their self-talk more prominently when they are overthinking, not engaged in any type of activity, or even more commonly when they are lying in bed and thoughts about the day seep in.
Take a moment to sit back and observe what your thoughts are saying. Are they about the day, things you have to do, or reflecting on this article? Now pay attention when your day slows down and you are not busy—what are they saying now? Your unfiltered self-talk truly exposes those core beliefs.
3 Steps to Challenge Core Beliefs
1. Be present with your current thoughts and emotions. Don't ignore the messages they reveal.
This means slowing down, checking in with yourself, and reflecting on how you are thinking and feeling in the moment. In order to do that, you have to provide yourself the opportunity to be present first.
There are several methods to do this. For instance, during your drive home from work, you could turn down the music or podcast and check in with yourself. You could take a walk at some point in the day just as we take time to make or stop for coffee. In the evening before going to sleep, be present and check in with how you were feeling and what you were thinking throughout the day.
If you notice something is off—you have the chance to do something. On the other hand, if you are not even in tune or present with your emotions, it is easy to miss the message they are sending and the opportunity to reframe your thinking.
2. Next, examine the core belief behind your negative thoughts and emotions.
Many times, it's not what happened to you, but what you believe about what happened to you that stirred the negative emotion in you.
Here's a hint: if the emotion you feel about a situation is a negative emotion, then it is backed by a negative core belief!
For example, an individual has a negative interaction with a friend—they were distracted or short-tempered. The individual may believe that they are a burden, nobody likes them, or they always say the wrong things.
Therefore, take the time to explore the triggering event and how you processed it.
3. Finally, examine and decide if the core belief currently serves you today.
If that core belief is not accurate and does not help you, replace the negative core belief with a more positive and accurate one—one that you can draw strength from.
If you are unsure where to start or how to start this process, reach out for counseling services. We are here to help!
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