In 5th grade, an incident occurred that created some deep negative core beliefs. My school principal verbally scolded and intentionally embarrassed me in front of a packed lunchroom. I was accused of causing lunchroom chaos, including dancing on a table.
She then pulled me to her office where she and the vice-principle chastised me for what seemed like an hour. I cried hysterically, knowing I was completely innocent. I was a sensitive kid who didn’t cause problems.
Because I was threatened, I never told my parents until recent years. From them, I learned I was targeted in retaliation for a complaint they made about my brother’s 1st-grade teacher. My sister, an 8th grader at the time, was targeted as well.
I rarely thought about this incident until a friend asked me about my first traumatic memory. This incident quickly came to mind. It was such a painful experience I tucked it deeply away, subconsciously believing forgetting it would somehow protect me from ever experiencing something so painful again. This event impacted my ability to trust people for decades.
Hopefully, this article helps you see how trauma has impacted your view of yourself and the world. I hope you’re inspired to do the work to change your negative core beliefs.
Here are 20 common unhealthy core beliefs. Read each one twice asking yourself, “is this how I view myself and the world?”. Trust your intuition.
30 Common Damaging Core Beliefs
1. “Things will never get better.”
2. “I’m a victim of my circumstances.”
3. “I must be almost perfect in whatever I do.”
4. “I need people’s approval to be OK with myself.”
5. “I am worthless/broken because of my past mistakes/failures/trauma.”
6. “My value comes from my performance plus the opinions of others.”
7. “It is better to avoid life’s difficulties than to face them.”
8. “Conflict leads to damage & erosion of my relationships.”
9. “I should have achieved much more by now.”
10. “I’m a failure.”
11. “If I try new things and don’t succeed, people will view me negatively.”
12. “I’m awkward.”
13. “I’m not smart enough.”
14. “I’m too young and inexperienced to succeed.”
15. “I’m unattractive. People are not drawn to me.”
“Nothing can bring you peace, but yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
16. “The worst results usually occur for me now and/or in the long run.”
17. “It’s usually my fault, especially when others are upset with me.”
18. “People are not trustworthy.”
19. “I don’t deserve good things in life.”
20. “I have nothing to offer.”
21. “I’m not good enough (i.e. from the right family, the right personality, etc.).”
22. “I’m not safe. Something bad is going to happen.”
23. “I’m all alone/I don’t belong.”
24. “I am responsible for the happiness of those closest to me.”
25. “People will judge/reject me if I relax and they see the real me.”
26. “If I relax and enjoy life, I will become lazy & unmotivated.”
27. “I will never have close loyal friends.”
28. “I will never have a long-term romantic connection.”
29. “Having fun and enjoying hobbies is unproductive and leads to failure.”
30. “I cannot change (i.e. too old, hurt too many people, etc.).”
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6 Questions to Replace Your Damaging Core Beliefs
These questions are adapted from the process of self-inquiry from Byron Katy. What she calls, doing “The Work”.
1. Is it true?
2. Can I absolutely 100% know this fear/worry is true?
3. How do I react, what do I do, when I believe this is true?
4. Who would I be, and how would I react, without this thought?
5. What’s a new, accurate, and hopeful perspective?
6. What is an ACTION I can take to apply this new healthy perspective>
Figuring out why you started having this perspective, (e.g. childhood, trauma, etc.) is also an extremely important question to answer, yet more difficult.
“I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” – Mark Twain
A client recently told me frequently thinks, “I’m a failure”. He feels his future is doomed because of some trauma he experienced and his mistakes. This belief causes anxiety that has held him back for a decade. With some effort, he is changing “I’m a failure” to “I have many positive opportunities ahead”. This simple perspective change is going to turn his whole world around.
Changing negative core beliefs is hard work, but you CAN do it! The results you get in life are directly related to your focus. Doing “The Work” will change your life!
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How to Change Damaging Core Beliefs (Part 2)
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