Core beliefs are simply the things that we know to be true deep down in the core of our being. They play an integral role in every decision we make and in how we view the world. Unfortunately, these core beliefs are not always positive or beneficial to us. People with negative core beliefs often suffer from depression and other mental illnesses. They endure great hardships and can never seem to catch a break. Over time, they become their own worst enemy.
Negative core beliefs often include the belief that one is a failure, that they are not good enough, and that they are unworthy of anything.
Core beliefs are often formed in our early years. They are words that are repeatedly told to us, then reinforced through situations and events in life. If a person is told something often enough, they start to believe it. When that person is young and impressionable and the person telling them these things is a parental figure, the belief is formed much more quickly. It then gets reinforced throughout our lives. If we believe that we are failures, then every time we fail at something, the belief that we are failures is reinforced and solidified in our minds. After many years, we may even begin to self-sabotage because we know, deep down in our core, that we are failures and we ensure that we will fail. This usually happens when we put our best effort into something really important, and then, right when we are almost done, we quit or do a poor job at the last thing that we need to do. Then we fail, further entrenching the belief that we are failures. The negative belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Understanding the psychology behind core beliefs is essential to grasping their impact. These aren’t merely random thoughts but rather deeply ingrained thinking patterns, shaped significantly by our early experiences and environmental influences. Cognitive psychologists point out that our brains, especially in our formative years, tend to create and cling to these beliefs as a means to make sense of the world around us. This period is marked by high neural plasticity, making our young minds more malleable and open to influence. As a result, these core beliefs act as lenses, colouring our interpretation of future experiences, often in ways that reinforce the original belief. This effect is so strong that even neutral or positive experiences can be misconstrued to fit these entrenched beliefs. Changing these core beliefs, therefore, requires more than just positive thinking; it involves a fundamental rewiring of how our brains process and interpret our experiences and the world around us.
Fortunately, it is possible to change these negative core beliefs into positive ones that benefit our lives. The first step is to identify the negative belief. For some, it’s easy. It’s that nagging, negative voice in our minds telling us that we aren’t good enough. For others, deep introspection is required. Once the core belief is identified, a replacement must be crafted. This needs to be a simple sentence used as a daily mantra. You must repeat it to yourself several times every day. It can even be written down, preferably at the start of your day. Whatever sentence you create must be the direct opposite of the negative belief. An example of this is for a person who believes they are a failure to tell themselves that they are successful in all that they do. Along with repeating the sentence every day, the new belief must also be reinforced.
There are two ways to do this, and both need to be done. The first way is to recognise and acknowledge all the things you already do every day that support this new belief. For instance, if you took a shower, tell yourself that you successfully took a shower and performed an act of self-care. Throughout every day, there are many things that we already do to reinforce the belief. We just have to start recognising and acknowledging them. The second way to reinforce the new belief is directed action. These actions are completely dependent on what the new belief is. For example, if we tell ourselves that we are worthy of love, then acts of self-care reinforce that belief. If we are telling ourselves that we are successful, then things like going to work, creating a resume, or drafting a business plan are all actions we can take to be successful.
Basically, we have to convince ourselves that the new belief is true because our minds believe the lie. This process can take a long time and must be done consistently. There will be setbacks and days when it’s really hard, but we must continue in order to change the core belief. Successful people always say that if you believe it, you can achieve it. Changing a negative core belief into a positive one depends on how you believe it. Then you can work towards achieving it, whatever it may be.
Joann Ridenour is a suicide survivor and an aspiring author.