Core Beliefs: Our Personal Fiction

We all have them. Both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive, these deeply rooted con­vic­tions, com­monly called core beliefs, orig­i­nate in child­hood and become the lens through which we view our­selves and the world around us. These basic, but often erro­neous notions rule and limit us until we bring them into con­scious­ness and begin to chal­lenge them. Based on our early inter­pre­ta­tion of mes­sages received from older sib­lings and the adults who mat­ter to us most, these life impres­sions are deeply ingrained and actu­ally become part of the fab­ric of who we per­ceive our­selves to be. Core Beliefs often con­sist of pre-verbal deci­sions formed beneath the level of our con­scious mind. In other words, core beliefs are the uncon­scious pro­gram­ming from which we oper­ate as if they were true.
Because it never occurs to us to exam­ine, much less chal­lenge these uncon­scious beliefs, they sim­ply become con­vic­tions and pre­con­cep­tions that we con­tinue to val­i­date and live out in our day-to-day exis­tence. When they are pos­i­tive, they can pro­vide a solid base or foun­da­tion that serves to affirm and sup­port us through­out life.
For instance, a core belief that tells us we are smart or able to deal well with con­tro­versy pro­vides self-confidence and facil­i­tates our being able to go for­ward in life. But the life affirm­ing core beliefs are not the ones we are pri­mar­ily con­cerned with here because they aren’t the ones that cause us trou­ble. It’s the neg­a­tive and self-limiting pro­gram­ming that throws up obsta­cles for us in life — that cre­ate those issues that deter and restrict pos­i­tive life flow, caus­ing us to think poorly of our­selves and dis­trust oth­ers. The life-negating imprints are the ones to which the term “core belief” is herein applied. These pain-causing beliefs about our­selves are the ones that need to be brought to the sur­face of aware­ness and addressed.
The bad news is that our core beliefs are most likely not going to sim­ply dis­ap­pear, no mat­ter how much we wish it — no mat­ter how hard we work to elim­i­nate them. These erro­neous ideas about our­selves have become as much a part of us as our very skin and there’s a good chance that they may always be a part of the fab­ric of our personality.
The good news is that even though we may not rid our­selves com­pletely of these pain-producing beliefs we can learn to rec­og­nize when they are “run­ning the show” and become more and more adept at dis­si­pat­ing their neg­a­tive impact. And we can grow in our abil­ity to love, honor and respect our­selves in spite of them. By mak­ing them con­scious we can learn how they work. We can learn to dis­cern what trig­gers them and then make dif­fer­ent choices about how to respond, so that rather than react­ing out of these beliefs we can choose health­ier alter­na­tives. We may even be able to learn to cir­cum­vent them alto­gether at times.
In essence, it’s all about get­ting to know these inter­nal beliefs inti­mately. By becom­ing famil­iar with what our core beliefs are and how they affect us, we grow to bet­ter under­stand our­selves with them, which allows us more self-acceptance. This, in turn, enables us to learn more effi­cient ways of dis­charg­ing their neg­a­tive energy, allow­ing a free­dom pre­vi­ously unknown.
Our chal­lenge is to con­sis­tently bring these destruc­tive self-determinations into con­scious­ness so we can choose how much power to give them in the moment. We do this by grow­ing a habit of “sus­pect­ing our core beliefs first”. When­ever we find our­selves hav­ing painful feel­ings, we begin by ask­ing our­selves what we are telling our­selves, because we learn that our uncom­fort­able feel­ings are self-created – not exter­nally caused. This means we must let go of the idea that out­side peo­ple or events “make us” feel.
Giv­ing up the vic­tim notion that oth­ers are in charge of our feel­ing lives is the first link in a chain of steps that lead us to free­dom from core beliefs. By under­stand­ing that our feel­ings orig­i­nate out of what we tell our­selves, (rather than com­ing from what some­one else says or does) we put our­selves in charge rather than liv­ing our lives “at the mercy of” out­side circumstances.
Let’s look at an exam­ple of typ­i­cal vic­tim men­tal­ity: Paul is dri­ving to work one morn­ing when a car pulls out directly in front of him. Imme­di­ately he gets angry and reacts by lay­ing on his car horn and cussing and yelling at the other dri­ver. He holds the other dri­ver respon­si­ble for his anger and goes through the rest of the morn­ing out of sorts because of that “stu­pid driver’s crazy stunt”.
Our habit is to lay blame for our feel­ings. I’m not imply­ing that the other dri­ver isn’t respon­si­ble for his dri­ving choices. I am say­ing, how­ever, that the other dri­ver did not cre­ate Paul’s feel­ings – Paul did. His anger came from what he told him­self about the sit­u­a­tion, not from what the other dri­ver did or did not do. To be able to make this dis­tinc­tion removes us from liv­ing life blown about like a leaf in the wind. When we under­stand that we are in total charge of our feel­ings we move to a whole new level of mas­tery over life. We are free then to choose how we are going to feel and respond. Our hap­pi­ness is no longer dic­tated by some­one else’s words or behav­ior. In other words we are no longer a victim.
Another exam­ple might make it even more clear:
Recently I attended a fol­low up meet­ing for a train­ing sem­i­nar. The pro­fes­sional in charge, upon enter­ing the room, spoke to all of us present; “Instead of meet­ing here tonight, let’s have our meet­ing down the street at the cof­fee shop.”
The response of those present var­ied depend­ing on what each one “heard”. For instance, Betty, a depres­sive type woman in her mid fifties, responded with apa­thy. She later admit­ted that she had felt a bit hope­less because she told her­self that the pro­fes­sional didn’t want to deal with her.
Another sem­i­nar mem­ber, Rob, a young A-personality type, admit­ted he felt angry because he thought the facil­i­ta­tor was say­ing she expected to be paid for what he con­sid­ered a “social visit”.
And me? I was excited when I heard her words because I told myself that the facil­i­ta­tor was feel­ing so pos­i­tive about our progress that she didn’t see a need for a lot of intense fol­low up and sim­ply wanted to celebrate!
The point is that the same words were said to every­body there, but the reac­tions were diverse. Why? Because what was said was not what caused us to have the feel­ings we each had. Our diverse feel­ings came from our own indi­vid­ual inter­nal dia­logue. Our leader’s words sim­ply trig­gered each person’s self-talk. In other words, our feel­ing response was gen­er­ated from what we told our­selves. This is how inter­nal pro­gram­ming works.
From where does this inter­nal dia­logue come? The things we tell our­selves in any given moment are, most often, a reflec­tion of old core beliefs. We go through life uncon­sciously repeat­ing these core beliefs, like a neg­a­tive mantra.… Over and over we repeat them thus rein­forc­ing them, until they man­i­fest them­selves in non-productive, yet famil­iar, life themes. They for­mu­late them­selves into nar­row, very lim­ited sto­ry­lines that we buy into as the def­i­n­i­tion of who we believe our­selves to be. We live out these core beliefs; this fic­tion­al­ized ver­sion or story of who we are. Unfor­tu­nately these ideas are often based on lies told (or insin­u­ated) to us about our­selves, which we came to believe because they were passed along to us by those we trusted to teach us about life.
Through a process of explor­ing the “what, where and how” of our core beliefs, we can come to “know” that they are not true. This does not mean, how­ever, that we stop believ­ing these ancient fal­lac­ies, for it is pos­si­ble to believe some­thing and yet know that it is not true. As a mat­ter of fact, I often tell clients that “just because you believe it doesn’t make it so”. What we know and what we believe can be opposed.
For exam­ple, we can believe that we are worth­less, yet know log­i­cally that this is sim­ply not the truth. Unfor­tu­nately, what we uncon­sciously believe will rule every time. Thus, it is true that “because you believe, it is so”. These uncon­scious inter­nal untruths must be brought into con­scious­ness where they can be ques­tioned and released.
Until we become aware of it and chal­lenge it’s verac­ity, we will con­tinue to act as if it is true. As long as these neg­a­tive beliefs about our­selves oper­ate beneath the sur­face of our con­scious­ness, they will go on lim­it­ing and rul­ing our lives, mak­ing us mis­er­able. Only by com­ing to “know” them can we redi­rect their energy — which means choos­ing not to act on them as if they were true. Con­scious­ness is the heal­ing agent. This is the path­way to per­sonal freedom.


  1. Shessvy says

    Thank you for tak­ing the time to put this in a easy to under­stand for­mat.. This is a great way to intro­duce per­sons into the know­ing of one’s self. Also this is a good start to truly under­stand what the human expe­ri­ence really is.

  2. Anne says

    Thanks Lynne.

    I under­stand what you mean. I think I must be going through inter­nal ware­fare any­way as I feel so con­flicted within. It is rather like try­ing on a new gar­ment. Hav­ing become used to a cer­tain ‘look’, a ‘new look’ feels alien and not ‘me’ at all but, over time, I get used to my ‘new look’ and it then becomes a part of the new Me.
    I sup­pose it is the same with new core beliefs. They seem alien at first. Every­thing seems to agree with the old belief and dis­agree with the new belief but, with time, the new belief becomes estab­lished and over­rides the old, which then falls away.
    Trou­ble is, some­times things hap­pen that then rein­force the old belief and can­cel out the new and a fresh round of inter­nal con­flict arises…


  3. Lynne says

    Anne, if we see our core beliefs as a prob­lem to be elim­i­nated, we will only cre­ate more inter­nal war­fare. How­ever, through aware­ness, and ques­tion­ing what we believe, we can free our­selves from need­ing to play them out in our lives.

  4. Anne says


    Hav­ing read your arti­cle on Core Beliefs, I realise that it is time for me to select a few new ones, and live those instead of liv­ing and re-living my old ones. It is not so much that I want to get rid of my old ones; they are a part of me and have served me very well over the years but, rather, I can now lay them to rest and replace them with new ones that will take me to ‘the next place’ I need to be…


  5. Cindy says

    These insites are not new to me ‚because I have had a lot of coun­sel­ing. How­ever, they are incred­i­bly help­ful in assistng me to see myself and empower myself/ ME Like ME= courage to act with con­fi­dence.
    Thank you for putting this deep psy­cho­log­i­cal infor­ma­tion in to use­able terms. Straight for­ward, clear, empoering.

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