What’s holding you back? The role of core beliefs

All our lives, we learn through our experiences. But more than just learning, our experiences brand us sometimes with deep beliefs, call them core beliefs. Traumatic experiences and experiences we have had repeatedly often mark us the most and leave strong negative beliefs.

These beliefs can be beliefs about ourselves.  We believe we are beautiful or ugly. Smart or stupid. Able to achieve anything or not good at anything. We need to control everything, or we don’t control anything. They can also be beliefs about other people.  People are generally good or bad.  People are trustworthy or not worth trusting. Promises are made to be kept or broken. Perhaps we generally believe bad things will always happen to us or that we are graced with a guardian angel.

Impact of core beliefs

Our beliefs have many forms and often, a deep impact on our lives. We make small and large decisions based on them.  Sometimes they become an ongoing, damaging whisper in our ear. Positive beliefs can help us to charge on through difficult times and achieve things we could not have done otherwise. Negative beliefs can, and do, hold us back.  If you believe you are good for nothing, you will decline to even try to do many things believing you already know the (negative) outcome.

You CAN change your core beliefs

So, our beliefs matter quite a lot to our success – day in and day out. You probably already knew that. But you may be convinced that you can’t do anything to change deep seated beliefs. That’s where you would be wrong. It is possible to change the perfidious voice in your head, and in your heart. It is not something that happens overnight, it takes time and effort.  And, your most deeply embedded beliefs may sometimes creep back and require more work again. But I’m here to tell you it CAN BE DONE.

Creating a new belief

The first step is, of course, recognizing the negative belief that is holding you back or hurting you in some way. You can probably identify the life experiences that lead you to believe what you do. It can be essential to also think through what you are gaining from this belief. Regardless of how much it is hurting you, you are probably holding on to it because it does something for you.

Then, you need to choose a new, more empowering belief to replace it. Find examples from other people and situations that bolster your new belief. Even better, find examples from your own life that bolster the new belief.  There may be a lot of them, but you have continued to focus on the old examples that created the belief to begin with. From here on out, you create new examples and use them to continuously reinforce the new belief until it becomes an automatism.


Let’s take an example. Sally is a mother dedicated to her son’s success. She is very involved in his school and life. She basks in his successes and stresses over his failures. As her son has moved into his teen age years, he has had a series of problems at school. Sally is depressed and stressed all the time.  She is constantly trying to figure out how to fix her son’s problems and is getting unhappier all the time.

When she sits down to work through what the beliefs are that are impacting her, she realizes that she deeply feels that she is responsible for her son and that she is directly to blame for his problems. She believes she must take care of him and resolve all his problems.  This may have been true when her son was an infant, but as he has grown up, he has an increasingly growing role of self-responsibility for his actions. She also thinks about her own mother, who, still to this day, feels responsible for everything that happens to Sally. Sally needs to find a new belief to replace the belief that she is entirely responsible for her son.

Impact of Sally’s belief

Sally thinks about how her belief is negatively impacting her. She realizes that much of her stress and frustration is due to the pressure of trying to fix a problem that is not directly in her control. It is also due to her taking personal blame for everything that happens to him. The problems are in her son’s control. Is it her responsibility to fix them? What is she gaining from this belief? As her son has grown older, he needs her less and she feels more and more useless. Sally realizes that as long as she feels responsible and is taking some action, she feels useful.

Introducing a new belief

After careful thought, she decides on this as a new belief. “As my son grows older, he is increasingly responsible for himself.” It will take time for Sally to work through this new belief. Where does her responsibility start and where does it stop? But she has quite a lot of examples on which to base her new belief.  By gosh, her son ties his own shoelaces now and even showers on his own! She no longer tries to do these things for him. If she had never given him the opportunity to do it himself, he never would have learned.

Sally starts to pause and think through her own responsibility and that of her son when a new incident comes up. Sally starts asking her son how he can solve his problems. She slowly takes the pressure off herself to control something that is absolutely not in her control. She still feels frustration that her son is not making the choices she would like him to make, but she no longer feels responsible for his decisions and actions. Over time, Sally completely let go of the impulse to solve every problem for her son and to take the blame for things that go wrong for him. When Sally feels like she is helpless and useless, she reminds herself that enabling her son with personal responsibility will help him more in the long run than solving the problem for him right now. Once her son begins to feel personal responsibility, he starts to act differently.  He begins to proactively look for solutions to his problems instead of blaming others or expecting his mother to fix them.

What core beliefs are holding you back?

This is no black and white situation and there is no right or wrong answer.  Most of our core beliefs will be that way.  But you can bet that you have a few negative beliefs right now that are at work in your life. Are you ready to start changing them? Check out the  Core Beliefs Workbook . Contact me for a free coaching discovery session if you’d like to get some help changing your negative beliefs.