The impact of negative thoughts on mental health is huge. The ultimate thing that holds people back from trying new skills or beginning new experiences is the belief that one can’t accomplish it. “I’m probably going to fail” is a big example. Another, “Nothing ever turns out right for me.” These “black and white” aka all-or-nothing statements don’t just come out of nowhere. They are deep-seated beliefs that have come about through experiences in life. Unfortunately, once these core beliefs are set, they are hard to change. In this article, we will explore the causes of core beliefs and how to change them to improve one’s mental health.
What is a “core belief?”
Core beliefs are the fundamental convictions that shape an individual’s perception of themselves, others, and the world. These deeply ingrained principles serve as the lens through which we influence our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Whether formed through cultural influences, personal experiences, or upbringing, core beliefs play a pivotal role in shaping identity and guiding decision-making.
For example, if someone feels that they are not good enough to get into college, they have learned through the years that
- They aren’t able to understand the material.
- They haven’t had enough support from others to gain confidence in themselves.
Therefore, “I’m never going to make it.” They also may have a core belief that humanity doesn’t care if you succeed or fail. This could lead to a lack of trust in others, or unwillingness to seek additional help if needed.
Can Core Beliefs Be Positive?
At the heart of core beliefs is a set of principles that define an individual’s values and priorities. These beliefs often develop early in life and can be influenced by family, education, and cultural surroundings. For example, someone raised in an environment that emphasizes honesty and integrity may adopt these values as core beliefs, guiding their behavior throughout life. So, it is possible for one to hold positive core beliefs if exposed to support and nurture.
Core beliefs can be categorized into different domains, including self-worth, interpersonal relationships, and the nature of the world. Positive core beliefs, such as a sense of competence and worthiness, contribute to healthy self-esteem and resilience in the face of challenges. On the contrary, negative core beliefs, like feelings of unworthiness or mistrust, can hinder personal growth and well-being.
How to Recognize and Change Core Beliefs
It is crucial to recognize the impact of core beliefs on mental and emotional well-being. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, for instance, often focuses on identifying and challenging negative core beliefs to promote positive change. By questioning and reframing these beliefs, individuals can reshape their perspectives and develop healthier ways of thinking. It is hard work to get to the root of the belief. It requires a lot of “digging”. A lot of times, people think in very concrete ways. A therapist can help dig to the root.
For example, someone with a troubling dating past may say, “I’m not dating again.” A therapist would continue to dig as to why that person thinks that way. “Well, I’ve been hurt before.” And on and on it goes until the person verbalizes the core belief: “All men are dangerous.” (This is just an example and not to be understood as fact.)
Until the negative core belief is “un-earthed” and exposed, thought patterns and behavior patterns will remain the same. At the “core” (pun intended), core beliefs represent safety, even when negative. If we don’t have to challenge ourselves, we remain comfortable, even in our own discomfort. Fascinating, right? It takes a lot of courage to find out why we feel the way we do, because it will probably make us change things up.
In summary, core beliefs serve as the foundation of an individual’s worldview, influencing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Some core beliefs are positive and provide a person with safety and confidence in themselves and their abilities. Other core beliefs stifle us and keep us stagnant. Understanding and, if necessary, challenging these beliefs can be a powerful tool for personal growth and positive change. Here at HopeNation, we welcome those who are ready to do the work to figure out where negative beliefs come from, and how to begin to change so they can succeed in whatever they put their mind.