I want to share with you in this article a question I have been curious about for years: What makes a difference in people’s quality of life? And more than that, can we find something that actually affects multiple areas of our lives – our relationships, our career and the way we feel about ourselves? In order to make this more relevant to you personally, try to think for a moment about the last time you felt discouraged or frustrated in any one of those areas. Maybe something in your job just didn’t work out, or you got disappointed from a friend or your partner, or you just wanted to do something and you felt really blocked. In those moments, what do you tell yourself? Most people say things like: “I am not good enough”, “there is nobody there for me”, “I am always an outsider”, “people can’t be trusted”, and other phrases like that. Those phrases are our negative core beliefs.
Limiting beliefs are stories that we tell ourselves and those stories shape our world, they are the maps from which we understand our selves and understand other people and interact with other people in the world.
Let’s take an example: Try an think for a moment what would happened if you hold the belief inside “I am not good enough”, how would that effect you? You might notice that If you are repeating it inside, you immediately feel discouraged, maybe something in you is also trying to rebel against it and prove “I am good enough!” . Now, let’s look at a job situation or your career, if you hold this belief “I am not good enough”, you will keep trying to prove to other people and to yourself that you are good enough by, for example, working many hours, having a huge task list of things to do, you would keep finding more things to do etc. If your boss comes to you and actually gives you good feedback telling you that you did something really well, because you are holding this belief you may think “I did something well in this situation, but there is always the next time. I am always going to need to prove myself, to prove that I am good enough”. On the other hand, if your boss gives you some negative feedback or criticism, you might think to yourself ”ahha, that is proof that I am actually not good enough”. If we look at the same belief in your relationship, if you hold the belief: “I am not good enough” you are going to have less self-confidence, maybe you will be afraid that your partner is going to leave you, so in return you will try to please them or do whatever they appreciate or would like you to do, but in the process you are going to give up on your needs and your wants and end up feeling resentful.
From these examples you might notice that core beliefs tend to reinforce themselves. If I am holding the belief “I am not good enough”, I am going to look for signs that actually prove this belief. And if I look for signs I will end up finding them and use them as proof that I am not good enough. So we end up finding ourselves caught in this vicious cycle.
The same is true though, for positive beliefs. See what happens to you if you try to repeat and hold inside the belief: “I am okay just the way I am”. Just repeat that for a moment and notice how this belief affects you. One thing you might notice is you immediately feel more relaxed and less stressed. Maybe things that looked to you like huge challenges now don’t seem so threatening anymore. If you made a mistake or failed in something you might look at it more as a learning opportunity rather than an opportunity to criticize or blame yourself. If you think about relationships, if you come from the belief “I am okay just as I am”, you might have greater degrees of freedom and spontaneity, and in return the other person is going to enjoy your company more which is going to be reflected back to you and again reinforce your belief “I am okay just as I am”.
To summarize my points, core beliefs are the building blocks that shape our worlds. They are the perspectives from which we understand ourselves and understand other people and that is why they affect multiple areas of our lives. Core beliefs tend to reinforce themselves, so when I am holding a belief I am trying to look for signs to prove it and when I find them they reinforces the belief itself. You might ask yourself in this point: “so how do I transform these beliefs, from negative to positive ones?” Well, the first step for that is becoming aware of what core beliefs you already hold, as each one of us has our own unique versions of negative core beliefs. By becoming more aware of what you tell yourself when things go wrong or when you are not successful in any area of your life, you are already taking a first step, a big step towards transforming these beliefs.