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Core Beliefs

Your beliefs create your reality.

Early experiences with caregivers shape a child’s core beliefs about self, others, and life in general. Early childhood experiences are encoded in the brain. Emotional experiences of nurturance and protection are encoded in the brain’s limbic area, the emotional center. Over time, repeated encoded experiences become internal working models (or core beliefs) about self, self in relation to others, and the world in general. These core beliefs become the lens through which children (and later adults) view themselves and others, especially authority and attachment figures. Core beliefs serve to interpret the present and anticipate the future. You get what you expect, and your expectations are based on past experiences. The brain is an anticipation machine.

Children’s core beliefs become deeply ingrained and operate outside of conscious awareness, affecting how they perceive themselves and interpret events and social situations. Children who lack secure and loving attachments commonly blame themselves and develop a self-image as helpless, bad and unlovable. These children see danger even when it is not there. They misinterpret social cues, assume the worst and overreact emotionally and behaviourally. The result is ongoing conflict with parents and peers, aggressive and controlling behaviour and further damage to self-esteem.

Core beliefs create a cognitive lens through which you interpret the events of your world and this lens serves as a selective filter through which you sift the environment for evidence that matches up with what you believe to be true.

Because the brain's selective filtering system, often referred to as priming, works on an activation/inhibition model, when the brain is primed by a certain belief to look for something, it shuts down competing neural networks, so you actually have a hard time seeing evidence to the contrary of an already existing belief.

What you take in from the environment through your belief filter becomes your self-concept. Your self-concept is made up of I am beliefs about who you are presently, and I can beliefs about who you are capable of being in the future. From these I am and I can statements you create stories and narratives about who you are, that you tell yourself. I am not good enough, I am not lovable, I can not do it, I am smart, I am capable, I can achieve my goals. You are the main character in your story and you write the script based on your self-concept that is largely self-created.

You write the story of what you think is likely and/or possible based on what you believe is true and then you take actions consistent with those expectations. When you act on what you expect will happen before it actually happens, you participate in creating the experience. We act in ways likely to bring about what we believe is true. That is the very definition of creating your reality.

Core beliefs are like the IOS system in the IPhone in that they are running in our subconscious defining our lives and choices but unlike an IPhone we don't receive a notice to update the system and so we are running on an outdated, old belief system.

I help individuals to become aware of the core beliefs that are running their lives, and then teach them to question their validity. When an individual starts to see that their beliefs about themselves are not the absolute truth, they begin to experience steadily increasing joy and a new sense of freedom. They begin to accept the empowering idea that how they experience the world is up to them, and that their mind is free to perceive events from a positive, constructive, and joyful perspective.

Everything you perceive or experience in your visible, outer world has its origin in the invisible, inner world of your thoughts. To become the master of your destiny, therefore, you must learn to direct the nature of your dominant way of thinking that determines your overall mental state or frequency. By doing so, you will be able to attract into your life what you desire to attain as you come to know the Truth that it is indeed your thoughts that are the seeds that give rise to your experience of reality. Put simply, power of thought is your inherent power to create your own reality.

Everything in your inner world begins with a thought. You may think your beliefs and feelings are independent of your thoughts but they all started as a single thought. A belief is a thought you repeated persistently, be it consciously or not, until it was passed down to your subconscious mind and became part of the core beliefs of your personal belief system.

Core Beliefs

What Are Core Beliefs?

Core beliefs are deeply buried assumptions that guide our behaviour, 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.

Core beliefs are core to our identity. They can feel as a deeply entwined as our gender or our name.

If you think about having a different name, it just doesn’t feel right. The same is true with our beliefs, we’ve worn them for so long that adopting new beliefs doesn’t feel right, thus it takes time to change.

Our core beliefs feel like truths and can be challenging to alter. They are responsible for our continual insecurity, self-doubt, low moods and constant desire for external validation and approval.

They can lead to ineffective behavioural patterns such as people-pleasing and perfectionism. We also notice events and situations that confirm and validate our core beliefs and ignore those that go against our core beliefs.

Beliefs are like our inner “walls” that have no doors and restrict us from experiencing new possibilities in life.

It’s important to remember that core beliefs aren’t facts.

“Real but not true”

How Do Core Beliefs Develop?

Core beliefs develop throughout childhood primarily and evolve over time and with experience. Core beliefs are usually modelled to us or derive from childhood experiences and through the experience of significant life events or particular life circumstances.

Core beliefs are strongly-held, rigid, and inflexible beliefs that are maintained by the tendency to focus on information that supports the belief and ignoring evidence that contradicts it

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.

Whether you are aware of it or not you are always affirming what you believe.

In fact, if you really listen to yourself you are continually making a case for the ‘rightness” of your beliefs even when those beliefs are detrimental to your happiness and well-being.

Your “inner lawyer” is continually justifying and being “right” while making other beliefs “wrong”. The way to keep a belief system going is to continually affirm it and justify it and find validation for it.

Core Beliefs Impact Our Happiness in Life

We have developed core beliefs in every area of our life and these beliefs impact our happiness, success, and personal fulfillment. We form core beliefs as a way to understand and live in the world around us.

Beliefs are nothing more than thoughts that over time we come to believe as true. However, they are often developed based on our early experiences, which for many people don’t reflect what is actually “true”.

Because they feel so real and so true, they can be very strong forces in shaping our perceptions and difficult to change.

Core Beliefs Can Lead to Negative Automatic Thoughts

This is an example from cognitive behavioural therapy of how core beliefs formed early in life lead to negative self-talk later in life. The negative self-talk then contributes to unhelpful behaviours and symptoms.

Negative self-talk often contains cognitive distortions. It’s helpful to learn to recognize cognitive distortions so you can challenge unhelpful thinking that leads to problematic symptoms.

How the cycle works:

  1. Early experience – criticism / comparison to others.

  2. Unhelpful assumptions (core beliefs) – “I am inferior”, “My worth depends on what others think of me”.

  3. Critical incident later 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 – behavioural: social withdrawal; motivational: loss of interest, procrastination; feelings: sadness, anxiety, guilt; cognitive: poor concentration, indecisiveness, self-criticism; physical: loss of sleep, loss of appetite.

Examples of How Core Beliefs Develop

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”.

Why Uncover Your Core Beliefs?

If you’ve ever felt stuck in a pattern that you keep repeating, a behaviour 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 behaviours that can be exhausting such as poor boundaries, obsessive thinking, compulsive behaviours, 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. Uncovering your core beliefs helps you to take charge of your life.

To recognize the unconscious forces that drive your thoughts and behaviour, which ultimately empowers you to do something different. To change your beliefs, and ultimately change your life.

How to Change Your Core Beliefs?

Core beliefs can be challenging to change as they are often hidden, automatic beliefs, which have also become part of our identity. Learning to identify, challenge and reframe your self-defeating thoughts and core beliefs is an important step in emotional health.

Here is a straightforward approach to challenging core beliefs:

  1. Identify core beliefs that you have taken to be “true”.

  2. Ask yourself: “Is this belief serving me?”

  3. Re-write the belief using Metta Affirmations and use these as mantras to override the old neural pathways.

Common Core Beliefs

Common core beliefs fit one of the following categories:

I am ____________, people are _______________, the world is ___________________.

  1. Unworthiness/defectiveness: (I’m unlovable/defective/bad/incompetent).

  2. Shame/Guilt: (I did something bad, therefore I am a bad person).

  3. Control: (I am powerless, I can’t handle this…)

  4. Safety/vulnerability: (I am unsafe, the world is unsafe)

Here are Some Specific Examples of Core Beliefs:

  • I have to be loved to be happy.

  • It’s best to give up my interests to please other people.

  • I can’t be respected unless I’ve achieved something or am especially talented.

  • If other people dislike me, I can’t be happy.

  • If I’m alone, I’ll be lonely.

  • I have to do more than other people to be as good as them.

  • I can’t trust other people because they’ll hurt me.

  • If people know what I’m really like, they won’t like me.

  • My happiness depends more on other people than on me.

  • I’m unlovable.

  • I should never shine my light too bright.

  • To be nice, I have to help everyone in need.

  • I can’t cope on my own.

  • My group (identity, race, ethnicity, gender, etc) is inferior to other groups.

  • I have no right to ask other people to help me.

  • It’s my fault that those I love are in trouble.

  • I should think of other people first, even if I have difficulties.

  • I should never hurt anyone’s feelings.

  • I’m basically bad (stupid, ugly, imposter, lazy, needy, demanding).

  • I must have total control.

Working With Your Core Beliefs

Identifying and working with your core beliefs takes time and practice.

Not only do we need to challenge the validity of our assumptions/beliefs, but we also need to own the impact the belief has had on our lives.

Another important step for working with your core beliefs is getting in touch with the emotional impact of the belief, as well as what it would be like if it weren’t true. Sometimes, those beliefs are scarier because they require us to be vulnerable.

This is where we apply RAIN

“The cure for the pain is in the pain” Rumi

Core Beliefs Homework

Core Beliefs
Download PDF • 27KB

Choose 10 beliefs, either from the Inventory in the areas you scored lowest or beliefs you are aware of in your life that keep you stuck.

I encourage you to choose beliefs that stand out for you as beliefs that limit your life from being all that you want it to be.

For each belief please write one column for the old belief and one column for a belief you prefer to adopt in it’s place.


Old Belief New Belief

I am not enough I am enough

Journal a few paragraphs or point form about when or who was involved in the development of this belief in your developmental years. Was this belief modelled to you, did you go through an experience that led to this belief or was it a shared belief passed down through the generations of your family?

Create a Metta Affirmation for each belief...


May I know that I am enough

May I love myself unconditionally

May I believe in myself

Other examples of Metta Affirmations:

May I be safe

May I know my worth

May I let go of control

May I accept myself unconditionally

May I honour my truth

May I stand in my power

May I see the light in others

May I honour my boundaries

May I make myself a priority

May I be at peace

May I trust my intuition

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