"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Monday, 13 January 2014

'Core Beliefs': What They Are and How They Affect You.

Close up shot of an eye.

Do you struggle with doing the things you want to do?

Do you believe that some things are not possible for you?

Does what you believe about yourself hold you back?

A core belief is a belief about oneself that is instilled in the first seven years of life. As a baby and a small child we look to our parents and/ or care givers to tell us if we are okay or not, and confirm how we should or shouldn’t be. And it is them that help us define our set of beliefs about the world around us and our place within it.

Within the first seven years this is malleable; what is learnt and how it’s learnt can be redefined or changed, but from there on out, although it can be updated, the core beliefs are set. It will take work to alter them.

From that point forward all ideas and beliefs about our standing in the world and how we relate to it are based off what it taught in that early period.

“Chronic self-doubt is a symptom of the core belief, 'I'm not good enough.' We adopt these types of limiting beliefs in response to our family and childhood experiences, and they become rooted in the subconscious... we have the ability to take action to override it...” Lauren Mackler

Understanding these core beliefs can often help unearth some thought patterns, behaviours and responses that are holding us back or negatively impacting our lives. And once we understand them, we can find ways to break them and/or produce a different result.

How we react to the world and the people around us is based off these core beliefs. They can make us sensitive to certain topics and cause us to act defensively or more abruptly. They alter how we perceive what is being said to us.

In my experience, I was raised to believe that that what I had to say was not important, that in fact I was not important, and that only others perception of me mattered. It would alter how I behaved and reacted around people. I would be more defensive and careful about what I said and did. I would not relax, and I would listen for anything they might say that could be perceived as a criticism, and react to that. Although often I would not react publicly, I would instead take it away in my head and relive it over and over, persecuting myself with it.

“If our core belief is based on what other people think, then we eventually will allow their opinions to become our reality.” - Darren L.Johnson

I was also led to believe that other people were more important than me, that their feelings and thoughts took precedence over mine. I would stifle myself and chastise my own feelings and put theirs before mine. This often brought about feelings of pain and disconnection, which built into resent and on a deeper level, rage.

This would then lead me to believe I did not belong; that my behaviour and responses in life did not fit in with other people. I would find myself setting up circumstances and situations to support this belief, such as not allowing myself to be a part of things, and never quite stepping into social situations, never living anywhere for very long or staying in a job for very long. This would allow me a fresh start where I didn’t know anyone, and no one knew me, I would be the new person, and not yet belonging - and never quite belonging. I would create a vicious circle or catch-22 to maintain the belief of not belonging.

I didn’t belong, because I didn’t allow myself to, sustaining the belief that I didn’t belong and/or wasn’t worthy of belonging. I kept myself apart and told myself I was not wanted. A reflection of what I had been raised to believe about myself.

“You don’t become what you want, you become what you believe.” - OprahWinfrey

Once I discovered these core beliefs I needed to find a way to change them. I began by ‘updating’ them with a new one. My first therapist set me the task of coming up with a sentence that reflected a new belief, a true belief, about myself. And mine was: ‘It’s my life and I’m the most important person in it’.

To instil this belief I had to repeat it to myself several times a day, and although it took several years, I did eventually believe it and start living from it.

I also had to find ways to break the patterns that were formed by the old beliefs. I did this by first recognising them, and then challenging them by staying in a situation or job when I started to have feelings of discomfort, feelings that the people around me were starting to know me well, risking them seeing sides of myself that might not match their perception of me, and allow myself to be vulnerable.

This would include attending social events that I might otherwise avoid attending. And rather than going with a preconceived idea of what to expect, I would try and remain open to whomever I might talk to, and what might transpire.

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” - Brene Brown

So how do you go about finding these core beliefs?

A good way to do this is, when you wake up in the morning, and go through the motions of the day, ask yourself:

Do you know in your heart that you and your actions matter?

Do you know that you make a difference?

Observe the answer, and note it down for self reflection.

Ask yourself what you truly believe about yourself, then ask yourself what ‘evidence’ you are producing to sustain that belief.

What are you doing in your day to day life to cause you to continue believing these things?

What responses are you getting from the world to substantiate them?

And if they are not working for you, what can you do to change them?

What actions can you take?

What internal dialogue can you alter?

This can also apply to all areas of your life: work, home, personal relationships.

Often our beliefs about money and love are taught to us through our parents and the experiences they have set. We learn from their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. We go on to repeat these patterns, feeling helpless to break them.

So again ask yourself:

What do you believe about money, love and relationships based on what you were taught as a child?

How does it reflect what you have experienced?

What are you doing to maintain those beliefs?

What patterns are you repeating, what behaviours are you displaying?

And how can you change it?

What can you stop doing, or do more of?

Once you become aware of these internal core beliefs, you can work on updating them with new ones that work with you rather than against you.

“You are what you believe yourself to be.” - Paul Coelho