What are core beliefs

core belief

What are Core Beliefs???

Core beliefs are deeply buried assumptions that guide our behavior, how we see ourselves and perceive situations. These beliefs impact how we feel, how we relate to others and guide our success and satisfaction with life and relationships.

Our core belief feels like truths and they are hard to change.

They are responsible for our insecurity, self-doubt, low moods and constant desire for external validation and approval although they are just thoughts, no facts; there are no evidences about them just feeling to be “that way”. In addition to that we tend to notice events and situations that confirm our core beliefs and ignore those that go against them.

They can lead to ineffective behavioral patterns such as people-pleasing and perfectionism.

How Do Core Beliefs Develop?

Beliefs are nothing but thoughts that we affirm to ourselves over and over and which we take to be true. A belief can consist of a very simple thought such as “Life is hard”, or it can be a complex array of thoughts and statements such as in a belief system.

Let’s say that as a child you shared your feelings and emotions with your parent who consistently told you that you were “wrong.” Perhaps they did so in a very well-meaning way.

If you said, “I don’t feel like I fit in and I’m scared the other kids don’t like me.” Your parent may have not wanted you to have these negative thoughts and feelings and simply said “you’re wrong, that’s not true.”

When this happens over and over with each negative emotion you experience, over time you may develop a belief that you’re wrong, you can’t trust yourself and you can’t trust your emotions.

If you believe at a fundamental level that you’re wrong, you might find it difficult to express yourself assertively, to feel worthy or deserving, or to trust yourself. The belief then drives many different aspects of your life.

If adults mistreated you as a child you may have formed the belief, “I am not safe.” As a child it makes sense to draw this conclusion and it also protects you from trusting other adults who may also mistreat you.

However, as an adult this belief can limit you from creating connections and trusting others. In actuality, the truth may have been more realistically, “I can’t trust my father (vs adults) to protect me or care for my needs”.

See below for the how the cycle works:

  1. Early experience– criticism / comparison to others (childhood)
  2. Unhelpful assumptions (core beliefs)– “I am inferior”, “My worth depends on what others think of me”( teenager, early adulthood)
  3. Critical incidentlater in life – i.e, relationship breakup.
  4. Negative automatic thoughts or cognitive distortions– “It’s all my fault”. “I’ll be alone forever.” “I’m stupid.” “Something is wrong with me.”
  5. Symptoms– behavioral: social withdrawal; motivational: loss of interest, procrastination; feelings: sadness, anxiety, guilt; cognitive: poor concentration, indecisiveness, self-criticism; physical: loss of sleep, loss of appetite.


Why Uncover Your Core Beliefs?

If you’ve ever felt stuck in a pattern that you keep repeating, a behavior you want to change (such as addiction, overeating), or feelings and perceptions of others then you’ve likely got a core belief running the show.

For example, If you have a core belief, “the world is not safe, I cannot trust others”, then you might feel anxious, have difficulty forming or maintaining relationships, and have habits or behaviors that can be exhausting such as poor boundaries, obsessive thinking, compulsive behaviors, or perfectionism.

As you can imagine, you might never really notice the connection between your anxiety and a deeply embedded belief that the world is not safe. You just notice that you feel anxious!

This is why it’s so important to identify your core beliefs.

It helps you to start to make the connection between your beliefs and how you’re feeling. It gives you an opportunity to take a step back and look at the situation in a different way.

You can challenge the belief and remind yourself that you are safe, right now, which can help you to shift your focus from the anxiety to what action needs to be taken and get present in the moment.

Negative Core Beliefs Can Lead to Self-Sabotage

Another example might show up in your career or in relationships. Let’s say you are working towards a career dream that you have.

However, you notice that as you take steps towards  your career goal,  you find yourself sabotaging your success, procrastinating, feeling anxious and avoiding what you need to do. You might wonder “what’s wrong with me! Why do I keep stalling? I want this goal!!”

What you might not realize however, is that you are carrying a deep belief that you don’t deserve success, others will find out that you’re a fraud, or that achieving success will involve having to maintain more than you can handle.

Again, these aren’t thoughts we are aware of on a daily basis. What you might notice instead while working on your dream career is, “I need to take a break,” “Maybe I should update my resume again.”

You’re not thinking, “I’m not worthy, I can’t have what I want”, though this could be the core belief running the show. Uncovering your core beliefs helps you to take charge of your life.

Dr. Letizia Mugnai

Dr. Letizia Mugnai

Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Letizia is Italian Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist with more than 15 years of experience in Mental Health field, working in her private practice and medical clinics in Italy. She graduated in 2007 as Psychologist ( University of Florence, Italy) and she did her internship in an Child Abuse Center in 2009.


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