How Core Beliefs Affect Your Life

CPTSD Foundation
5 min readJan 22, 2024

Core beliefs shape how we interact with the world around us and are without conscious awareness. In other words, we are not always aware of our core beliefs but are affected by them daily.

This article will focus on core beliefs and how they influence our lives.

Core beliefs are those thoughts and beliefs about us that help us understand the world around us. Our core beliefs influence many aspects of our lives, including our self-image, career aspirations, personality, mental health, sense of right and wrong, and self-acceptance.

Most of our core beliefs form in childhood, and our childhood experiences change how we see ourselves and interact with our world. Core beliefs often lead to cognitive distortions that are inaccurate views of reality.

Core beliefs impact every part of our lives, including our career paths, and are most often unconscious. These beliefs shape who we are and are both positive and negative. Some examples of core beliefs include the following:

  • I deserve attention.
  • I deserve love.
  • If others criticize me, they must be bad people.
  • I’m superior to others.
  • I am above the laws and rules of society.
  • People don’t understand me.
  • I must excel

Negative core beliefs significantly impact how we see ourselves as well as our self-acceptance, self-worth, and self-esteem. Furthermore, our core beliefs greatly influence us in that they determine how we see ourselves and others.

Where Do Core Beliefs Originate?

We are not born with core beliefs; instead, they are learned. Our personal core beliefs develop through life experiences beginning in childhood and continue to develop throughout our life span.

The strange thing about core beliefs is that any information contradicting them is often ignored. We base our core beliefs on several sources, including:

  • Family dynamics while we were growing up
  • What we hear in the media
  • The quality and number of our peers
  • Our thinking processes about our experiences
  • Observations we make of other people
  • Advice we receive from others

Unfortunately, core beliefs can also be based on adverse childhood experiences and the resulting attachment styles. We may believe different things about ourselves related to the trauma (abuse or neglect) we faced in childhood.

Because adverse childhood experiences often alter core beliefs, many who have a wide range of these experiences often have complex post-traumatic stress disorder as well.

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Negative Core Beliefs

One of the core features of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) is the loss of positive core beliefs. This loss can lead to distrust, shame, guilt, and alienation from other people.

People with CPTSD view themselves negatively and the world as a hazardous and complicated place. Too often, people who have both CPTSD and negative core beliefs struggle to form and maintain healthy relationships and experience abandonment and abuse that echoes what they knew as children.

Although we cannot avoid having negative core beliefs, there are things we can do to change them and have a more positive outlook about ourselves.

Recognizing Negative Core Beliefs

The first step in changing your core beliefs is understanding what they are and naming them. The way to identify your core beliefs is to do some radical self-reflection and introspection.

Take a hard look at how you feel about the world and yourself. Attention to recurring patterns in your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions is critical. Pay attention to your thoughts that make you feel unsafe, disconnected, or hopeless.

You may be experiencing bouts of self-sabotage, avoidance of others, perfectionism, and people-pleasing (fawning). While you might recognize your negative and positive core beliefs, many people who have worked through their negative thoughts about themselves recommend you seek the help of a mental health professional, as they can help you see yourself more clearly and work things out better.

Replacing Core Beliefs

Although core beliefs are engrained in our being, they are not unchangeable. One can take many paths to change core values, which involve performing emotional work, which takes time.

Psychotherapy allows one to examine oneself in a neutral environment, and the therapist acts as a seeing-eye dog, leading you through the turns and curves involved in getting to know yourself.

In therapy, you may begin to examine how negative core beliefs affect your life, your thinking processes, and your opportunities for advancement. It isn’t easy to move forward with any positive life goals if you believe deep down that you do not deserve them.

To replace harmful core beliefs, you need a plan to allow you to know what a negative core belief is and what to do when one hits you. Remind yourself that negative thought patterns are not productive and instead are highly destructive to your life.

In addition to seeing a counselor, journaling can help you recognize your progress and bring to light any hidden negative beliefs you still harbor.

Ending Our Time Together

Everyone inevitably has at least one negative core belief, as no one’s life at home in childhood was perfect. Also, negative thoughts about oneself are normal if they do not change the trajectory of your life.

I understand negative core beliefs. I was full of negative thoughts about myself when I entered therapy thirty years ago. I thought I was weak and to blame for the abuse I endured when I was a child.

It took a mental health professional who was willing to be patient with me and teach me what to look out for in my thinking. Once I recognized my biased opinions against myself, I could work through them individually and put them to rest.

I will not say that I do not harbor negative core beliefs today, as I am still a bit of a people-pleaser, but I live today free from the baggage I once carried.

I wish to invite you today to examine yourself. Do you feel your life is going nowhere and that you are lost? It is time to look hard at your core beliefs, overcome them, and make a better future for yourself.

Remember, no one owns your future but you.

“Our enemy within is our Core Negative Beliefs. Negative beliefs hide from the Consciousness, and they get exposed by the Magic of Mindfulness and Awareness. Explore Your Core Beliefs, Challenge Existing Beliefs, Train Mindfulness, Understand Beauty, Work with Emptiness, Meditate.” ― Natasa Pantovic Nuit

Originally published at https://cptsdfoundation.org.

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CPTSD Foundation

Successfully equipping complex trauma survivors and practitioners with compassionate support, skills, and trauma-informed education since 2014.