Most of us will battle at some point in our lives with thoughts and feelings which threaten to derail our success and happiness.
While we owe a great debt to cognitive behavioural theory, as it has shown us the important link between thoughts and feelings, another vital aspect of dealing with our emotional world is understanding how our personal core beliefs consistently affect the way we think, feel and act.
What Are Core Beliefs?
Core beliefs include the thoughts and assumptions we hold about ourselves, others, and the world around us. They are deep-seated beliefs which often go unrecognised and yet they constantly affect our lives.
Here are some examples:
I am ugly
Everyone else is better at their job than I am
The world is full of selfish people
Everyone just wants to take and never give.
These are all core beliefs. Our whole lives are dictated by such inner beliefs and, most importantly, sometimes our core beliefs are wrong.
If you look at the examples above, you can guess at the influence they would have. In thinking that you are ugly you will no doubt struggle with your self-esteem and confidence. If you think everyone is better than you are at their job then you may well feel small and unimportant. If you consider that the world only wants to take from you then you may find yourself reduced to cynicism, locked in a prism of seeing the world and its people in a negative way. This will affect what you offer to the world and what you are willing to give and share.
Core beliefs affect what you achieve and how you operate in the world at large. Negative, and often inaccurate, core beliefs – like the ones above – will drastically reduce your chances of joy and self-fulfilment in life.
What are your personal core beliefs and are they accurate?
Here are some questions to help you look at the views you hold about yourself, other people and the world around you:
Questions for yourself:
Do you think you are confident, clever, attractive, ugly?
Are you good at your job, a good parent, an interesting and loveable partner?
Do you see judgement and criticism in your view of self?
Do you think you are better than everyone else?
Do you feel worthy of love and happiness?
Questions related to others:
Do you think that others are luckier than you?
Do they always get the breaks and you never do?
Are they all smarter than you?
Is life easier for other people than it is for you?
Questions on your view of the world:
Do you use words like ‘everyone’ and ‘no-one?’
Do you see the world as one big mass of people or recognise the variety that exists?
Do you see only the ugliness or the beauty in the world?
Do you see the good actions of people alongside any bad ones?
Identifying Your Core Beliefs
Thinking through some of these questions, and others which you can consider for yourself, you can begin to recognise some of your inner, deep seated core beliefs.
To further uncover your core beliefs you need to begin listening to the views you hold about yourself and others. Notice your ‘self-talk’ as it is called in counselling circles. Are the words you use about yourself and others largely negative or positive? Do you celebrate your victories or focus on your failures? Do you look truthfully at what you are doing in your own life and what others are doing?
To help this process along, begin writing your thoughts down as you identify your core beliefs.
Analysing Your Core Beliefs
As you begin to analyse each of your core beliefs, ask yourself if they are accurate.
If you are finding negative core beliefs which are holding you back, consider where they may have come from. Are you hearing the voice of a parent from your childhood? Are you hearing echoes of a partner who pulled you down and undermined your self-esteem? In finding the origins of some of your core beliefs it can help to change them. If you are really struggling with this process then it can be helpful to look to a trusted friend or counsellor to help you.
It’s not easy identifying and analysing your core beliefs, but doing this is helpful if you want to root out negative and inaccurate thought patterns.
Core beliefs form the foundation for your life. They underpin how you live life and they directly affect how fulfilled your life will be. It’s worth making sure that your core beliefs offer a true picture of yourself, others and the world around you. Your happiness really does depend on it.