In your core do you believe you are worthless, can’t do anything right, or are unlovable? Are you worried someone may find out these things are true about you? Do you spend time finding ways to prove these beliefs are true?
We all have beliefs about ourselves that we developed in childhood. Some may be positive, and some may be negative depending on events that took place during our formative years. Negative core beliefs are negative thinking patterns that have roots in the past. A child who had a happy childhood, with few traumatic experiences, will see the themselves in a positive light. This person may have positive self esteem and positive core beliefs such as; “I am lovable” “I can be successful”. An individual who may have experienced verbal abuse or a lack of having needs met for one reason or another may have negative core beliefs such as; “Because my mother said awful things to me they must be true” or “There must be something wrong with me for my father to have treated me like that”, “ I never do anything right”.
When a child is young and not having his or her needs met or is being abused emotionally, physically, or sexually the child looks for reasons to explain this treatment. The child mind is not mature enough to understand the issue is with the adult. This child instead assigns the blame to himself. “I deserve to be treated this way because there is something wrong with me” or “I am unlovable and that is why Mommy treats me this way”.
If a child is bullied, abused, has learning disabilities, or experiences trauma the fault is usually attributed to himself. This is where negative core beliefs are developed. Carried into adulthood these self-beliefs remain buried deep and the individual looks for evidence to prove them true.
Another relationship just ended for Melanie. She can not seem to hold on to partners. They always leave her. Melanie attributes this to her being unlovable and having something wrong with her. “Things never work out for me,” she tells herself. The feelings of hurt and shame are so strong because they go back to the way Melanie was treated as a child and the resulting beliefs, she formed about herself. She experienced the loss of a father and a stepfather as a child.
Melanie goes through life believing she isn’t good enough and people will always leave her. This was the reason she came up with when she lost two Daddies. No one told her the real reasons. Due to these beliefs she acts as if these things are true perpetuating a self-fulfilling prophecy that people leave her and then they do.
Melanie does not consciously cause people to leave her. Her behavior presents as if she believes she is less than, unlovable, and not good enough. She tends to attract partners who are not healthy and end up treating her as if she is unlovable causing Melanie to have more evidence that her beliefs about herself are true.
Nick’s mother constantly told him he was doing everything wrong, that he was stupid, and he would never succeed. This began in elementary school and continued through high school. Nick is now married. Every time his wife criticizes him, or he makes a minor mistake at work he beats himself up inside. He tells himself, “You are stupid. You can’t do anything right.” Nick is constantly finding evidence that proves these beliefs about himself are true.
Look at this list of negative core beliefs and identify the ones you believe to be true about yourself.
- There is something wrong with me
- I am unlovable
- I am worthless
- If I love someone, they will leave me
- The world is a dangerous place
- I am not good enough
- I am different
- Everything is my fault
- I am powerless
- People will hurt me
- I need to be perfect to be loved
Maintaining these negative core beliefs contributes to many psychological issues including; emotional distress, low self-esteem, relationship problems, depression, and anxiety.
As an adult there are ways to correct your negative core beliefs.
- Work to gather evidence to refute these beliefs instead of looking for evidence to prove their truth. List the evidence and put the list somewhere you can see it daily. Continue to add to it.
- Think of that small child who developed those beliefs. Was it true for this child? Most likely NO!
- Listen to your running commentary of these negative beliefs in your head and talk to them as a friend would.