When you first dig up the festering mess of your core beliefs from the depths of your being you either fall to your knees in agonized recognition or gasp in absolute disbelief.
The truth is that inner work is not always a “feel good” or clean and sanitary journey. We all want to quickly arrive at the destination of self-love. We all want to relax in the sanctuary of warmth and healing that comes with the development of inner peace. But it’s not that easy.
There is no doubt that discovering what your core beliefs are is an essential part of the spiritual journey.
In fact, in my opinion, this path is an extremely downplayed and underrated part of our spiritual journeys. However, it is one of the most essential paths for true, deep healing.
What Are Core Beliefs?
Our core beliefs are the unconscious stories, convictions, and judgments we carry about ourselves that define our sense of self. Core beliefs also determine how we feel about others, how happy we are with ourselves, and how we perceive the world at large. Our core beliefs are even responsible for how successful we are in self-actualizing our deepest dreams and meaning of life.
Your Core Beliefs are Surprising
Just when you think you have a pretty good idea of who you are … some other miserly thing raises its ugly head …
Have you ever felt this way before?
Most of us have at some point in our lives, and I believe this is because of the way we approach our self-healing in the first place.
I’ve made a pretty serious mistake on my path. I’ve approached my healing from the outside-in. I have changed my diet, my daily routines, my nasty habits, and I have changed pretty much anything I could find that was detrimental to my health in the outside world. It’s actually quite enjoyable to pick up on bad habits once you enter the journey of self-love and replace them with much better alternatives. It’s like playing I-spy-with-my-little-eye – with your life. And don’t get me wrong; it is very beneficial.
But the truth is that this is the easy path. Starting your journey from the outside-in is useful, but in the end, it tends to trick you into believing that you are a “truly” self-loving person; that your journey of self-love has ended.
Fixing your life solely from the outside is a limited path; it will only get you so far. Because after you take care of your body, your skin, your diet, your environment and everything else that impacts you in the external world … what then? Soon you will find that you are continuing to feel miserable, you are continuing to torture yourself with shame, guilt, self-pity, and self-destructive behaviors. Soon you will feel as though you are back at square one again.
But there is hope, and this hope lies in taking a completely different path: the path that starts within you first. This is the hard path, but it is ultimately the most rewarding because it helps you to put an end to your self-imposed suffering.
To start this path you must be willing to put up with a great deal of discomfort. You must be willing to find the truth at all costs. Only then will you be able to uncover the deeply held core beliefs inside of you that are at the very root of your pain.
And let me tell you … you’ll be surprised by what you discover!
Examples of Core Beliefs to Look Out For
A core belief is not an everyday garden variety belief that pops up spontaneously – it is the mother of all beliefs, the big kahuna of suffering and the king or queen of your own personal underworld.
Often we are completely unaware of what our core belief/s are (even if we think we are “conscious”!) and it is quite common to disbelieve their existence. As I mentioned at the beginning; discovering your core beliefs will either make you fall to your knees or brush them off with absolute disbelief. But the truth is that we all have core beliefs and we are all manipulated by them.
“But I’m a spiritual person: I’ve dedicated so many years to self-improvement!”
Maybe so. But if you’re still continuing to suffer, chances are that you haven’t done the dirty work of taking a pickaxe to your mind first.
In fact, I once used the same justification to avoid the fact that I had (and still have) some very real, very harmful core problems. Eventually, I’ve learned the hard way. Thanks to the constant re-emergence of a guilt complex I have, I’ve discovered two main core beliefs I have about myself:
- I am not worthy of happiness.
- I deserve to be punished.
And these were completely shocking, but undeniably and tragically true!
Here are some other examples of common core beliefs that we hide inside:
- I am irredeemably flawed.
- I am unlovable.
- I am bad.
- I am stupid.
- I am worthless.
- I am a loser.
- I don’t deserve good things.
- I am a failure.
- I am weak.
- I am not enough.
- I don’t matter.
- I am boring.
- I am crazy and unstable.
- I can’t be fixed.
- I always hurt people.
- I always hurt myself.
- I have no hope.
- I am evil/sinful.
- I am unwanted.
- I am invisible.
- I am a mistake.
- I am helpless.
- I am ugly.
- I am shameful.
- I am uninteresting.
- I will die alone.
This list only displays a sample of the many possible core beliefs that could exist within you. Also, remember that we usually have more than one core belief operating behind the scenes.
The Fundamentals of Uncovering Your Core Beliefs
It is vital that you uncover as many core beliefs within you as possible.
Here are a few helpful things to remember as you begin this new journey:
- Core beliefs always start with “I …”
- Supporting beliefs (that uphold your core beliefs) sound like the following, “She never cared for me” (I am unlovable), “He is such a show off, I can’t stand it” (I am unimportant), “They’re always messing everything up” (I am helpless), “I’m sorry that I keep making mistakes, I’m a klutz” (I am a failure)
- Keep a diary and practice journaling. Record the thoughts you have about yourself and other people during the day. Next to each thought ask “Why?” and ask the questions, “Why is that so bad/Why is that so important?” Keep asking these questions until you reach a core answer. For example, you might write, “I hate how my friend keeps interrupting me.” Why is that so bad? “Because I want to be listened to.” Why? “Because I want to be cared for.” Why? “Because I feel like no one cares about what I have to say.” Why is that so important? “Because I feel alone and worthless.” From this example, we can ascertain that the core beliefs would be, “I am worthless” and/or “I am alone.”
- Be brutally honest (painful, but imperative)
- Whenever you experience a flux in emotion, pay attention!
- Before going to sleep, be aware of what your thoughts dwell on
How to Change Your Toxic Core Beliefs in 9 Steps
As we’ve seen, core beliefs are the fundamental convictions we have about ourselves; they are the absolute truths we have adopted throughout the course of our entire lives, usually starting in childhood.
For example, if we had an emotionally unstable father as children who constantly punished us and called us “stupid,” it is likely that we would then develop the core belief that we are “stupid” or “worthless.” Or if we had a neurotic mother who was constantly warning us to “be safe,” we might have developed the belief that “we are not safe,” creating an endless array of psychological problems in our later lives.
Once you have discovered your core beliefs, the next step is to actively replace them. Below I’ll show you how to change your core beliefs in a relatively straight-forward way.
Keep in mind that any form of inner work demands time, energy and persistence. But remember, everything you put out is returned to you tenfold!
1. Identify one core belief at a time
It is unhelpful to rush the process of healing by trying to solve every core belief you’ve identified all at once. Start with the most severe and persistent core belief first. Often you’ll discover that there is one main core belief that seems to pervade a lot of what you think, feel and do. Target this first. The smaller and less persistent core beliefs (i.e. the ones that fluctuate with your mood) can come later.
2. Understand how it impacts your life
In order to truly motivate yourself to change your core belief, you must truly understand what impact it has on your everyday life and your life at large. Meditate or write down the answer to the following question, “How does this core belief impact my life?” For example, you might answer, “It stops me from feeling confident. It makes me more anxious in public. It makes me doubt myself and hate myself. It causes me to lose friendships,” etc.
3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you believe it?
Often our core beliefs sound completely ridiculous. To the conscious mind, it is easy to laugh at them and dismiss them. But on an unconscious level, they still remain within us wreaking havoc. For this reason, it’s important for you to sit down and really reflect on how much you truly believe your core belief. Don’t forget to be genuine and tell the truth – this can be hard! On a scale of 1 (don’t believe at all) to 10 (strongly believe), rate how much conviction you have in your core belief. If your score is above 5 ask yourself, “Why do I believe this is true about myself?” You might like to note down or reflect on past memories or experiences that uphold your belief. If your score is below 5, try to identify any emotions (such as fear) hiding behind your disbelief.
4. Explore hidden forms of resistance
There are many reasons why we consciously or unconsciously refuse to change our old core beliefs. Usually, the reasons involve fear of failure, fear of change and fear of uncertainty. If we have been habituated to think and behave in a certain way all our lives … what will happen if we don’t anymore? And furthermore, what will happen if we fail? Before you try changing your core beliefs you need to be able to deeply commit to the journey. By becoming conscious of what is holding you back from changing your core beliefs you will prevent self-sabotage.
5. Find ways to disprove your core belief
Now that you have rated how much you believe your core belief, try looking at the “big picture.” By finding ways to disprove your core belief, you will prove to your unconscious mind that you are no longer being positively served by this deeply held conviction.
For example, if your core belief is “I am unwanted,” you might like to deliberately look for ways you have been wanted before, e.g. you might write down “When I was 10 my teachers wanted me to be in charge of the class presentation. When I was 16 someone had a crush on me. When I was 19 my friend got upset with me for not wanting to go with her to the movies. Every year my relatives want me to come to the Christmas get-together. My partner wants to be with me …” and so forth.
6. Find an alternative core belief
After discounting your core beliefs and proving them to be flawed and unrealistic, it is now time to replace them. Find an alternative core belief that contradicts what you currently believe. For example, if you have the core belief “I am ugly” you might like to replace it with, “I am beautiful.” Or if your core belief is, “I am a loser” you might replace it with, “I am quirky.”
It’s important that you choose a core belief that you genuinely believe in. Beware of going over-the-top with your core belief (e.g. “I am rich and famous”). Instead, try to be realistic and down-to-earth.
7. Explore how your life will change with your new belief
How will your new core belief transform your life? Will it help you to be more joyful, confident, creative or prosperous? Reflect on, or write down your thoughts.
8. If you don’t change your core beliefs, what will be the consequence?
It helps to keep in mind the natural consequences of continuing to cling to a toxic core belief. Not only will this help to motivate and keep you on track, but it will also help to reassert the true value of your journey.
9. Develop a plan of action
After identifying, challenging and replacing your core belief you need to have a plan of action in place. Ask yourself what you plan to do in the next month to constantly override your thinking patterns that are associated with your negative core belief.
For example, you might plan to remind yourself of three ways you are lovable every time your core belief “I don’t deserve to be loved” pops up. You might also plan to keep a journal where you record your progress. Or, you may decide to set aside time every day in solitude to reflect on your progress.
Remember that slip-ups are normal! You might even plan to have conversations with yourself, look at yourself in the mirror every morning repeating your new healthy core belief sincerely, or visualize/hypnotize yourself into a suggestible state that prepares your unconscious mind for change. The possibilities are limitless.
As you walk the difficult but deeply fulfilling path of uncovering your core beliefs, remember that some are more persistent than others. It is common for some core beliefs to fluctuate with your emotions – look out for these – but also look out for those that emerge even when you aren’t feeling emotional (these are often the deeper, more serious core beliefs).
Replacing your core beliefs will take time and effort, but the rewards are endless and priceless. Increased self-esteem, creativity, productivity, prosperity, joy, fulfillment, and love are some of the many gifts you will receive throughout this journey.