Dr. Larry Cohen (856) 352-5428
Examining and Challenging our Core Beliefs
Take a moment to think about (or, even better, write down) what you believe about yourself. Who are you? Are you a good person? Do you believe you are a failure? Do you believe you are not good enough? Or, do you believe that you are worthwhile with important things to share? These belief statements are examples of what are called ‘core beliefs’ about the self. It is essential to recognize that your core beliefs are with you every moment of every day. Even though you may not be conscious of these beliefs from moment to moment, they are real. They may be locked away inside of you, but they are there, and they might be undermining your daily life, and sabotaging your personal happiness and success.
The Impact of Negative Core Beliefs
Let’s examine the impact of negative core beliefs. Let’s say that one of your core beliefs is that you are a failure. You often think, “I was a failure yesterday, I am a failure today, and I will be a failure tomorrow.” As the days, weeks, months, and years pass, this negative belief, now deeply ingrained, seems more and more true each day. You can no longer remember when you started believing that you were a failure, but at present, to you, this fact is absolute truth. Eventually, no matter how well you’ve hidden this belief inside yourself, it will activate and enter your consciousness. Because of this negative belief, you experience an emotional reaction. You wonder, “why am I so depressed and feeling bad about myself?” If at your core you believe you are a failure, it’s no mystery why you feel depressed and down. Remember: our thoughts trigger our emotions, and our emotions affect our behaviors. Although core beliefs are often hidden from consciousness, they do enter our consciousness as thought quite often. For example, perhaps you get taken advantage of by your auto mechanic. Suddenly, this core belief activates, your emotions respond, and you feel like a failure. This chain of events – from thought to emotion to action – happens in the blink of an eye. So quickly, in fact, that the cause of your emotional dysphoria - the surfacing of the core belief - may elude you.
a second negative core belief worth examination is: “I am just not good enough”. This belief is primarily consciousness, as many life situations activate it. When this belief, “I am just not good enough”, becomes a thought, your emotional state sinks, you feel low, and fall into believing that you’re “just not good enough.”
As this belief is different than our previous example, “I am a failure”, one's emotional reaction may be different. The belief “I am just not good enough” will bring up feelings of insecurity, fear, worry, and anxiety. Have you ever felt highly anxious without knowing why? Consider if your feelings are the result of a negative core belief activation. we sometimes feel emotional without knowing why. I suggest you identify your emotions and investigate what thoughts may have brought on the emotions you feel. you may discover a clear link between your emotions, your thoughts, and a negative core belief.
Healthy Core Beliefs
Core beliefs aren’t just negative. A healthy core belief might be “I am a good, kind person. But I am human, and I sometimes make mistakes.” This core belief reflects positively on the self, while recognizing human imperfection and the need to be kind to oneself when a mistake occurs. Note the lack of perfectionistic fervor contained in this core belief. An expectation of personal perfection only feeds negative core beliefs. If you believe at your core that you are a failure, you are neglecting your humanness and the importance of self-forgiveness. If you expect to be perfect, you are doomed to a life of disappointment and self-loathing. It is near impossible to experience appropriate levels of self-esteem under such circumstances.
Internalizing the Negative
Before we address the extreme importance of challenging your negative belief systems and how to rewire your brain, let’s address how negative core beliefs form. First and foremost, most if not all negative beliefs you carry are baseless and untrue. Don’t forget that your beliefs aren’t necessarily facts. Further, I believe that negative core beliefs are taught to us, handed to us, or forced upon us by other people.
Take Your Life Back
Take a moment to reflect on a new born child. A child enters our world completely innocent. No child is a “failure”, and no child is “just not good enough”. All babies are inherently good and completely free of any negative beliefs about themselves. You were not born with negative beliefs about yourself. We internalize, accept, and come to believe that these beliefs are true because at some point in life, someone told us they were true. Later, we learn to create our own negative beliefs by comparing ourselves to others. I remember how early the comparisons began. In elementary school, I was taught that I was not the smartest kid in the class. Was I dumb? Part of me started to believe this. Then I discovered that I wasn’t the best athlete: aren’t men expected to be great athletes? Suddenly my virility was in question (in 3rd grade). Grade comparisons, waiting to be picked by a team at recess, making friends (do they like me? If not, what’s wrong with me!) It’s too painful to go on! Shake yourself hard and begin to accept that many of your beliefs about yourself are based on how you view the past.
I challenge you to confront your negative core beliefs. Try to remember who taught you that you weren’t good enough. Revisit shameful experiences from your youth and recognize that a child really has nothing to be ashamed of. You will discover that many of the negative core beliefs you hold dear and believe so fully aren’t yours - they belong to someone else - someone who shamed you into believing they were true. And try to stop comparing yourself to others. Comparisons aren’t worth the energy required to perform them. Be who you are, be proud of who you are, challenge your negative core beliefs and recognize yourself for who you truly are. You were once an innocent baby, free of negative core beliefs, without shame, and without self-doubt. Work hard to shed your negative core beliefs and send them back from where they came. Affirm and reclaim your life – snatch it back and start anew.
“A positive, empowering belief system will attract the life you want to live. Your positive belief system provides the power to continuously create your vision.”