• LisaWatson, LICSW

Harmful Core Beliefs and What We Can Do With Them

We all have a set of beliefs that act as an operating system within us. These beliefs generally develop out of early and significant life experiences. To keep it simple, one example could be:


A child whose parents did not provide praise and positive reinforcement may grow to have the core belief “I am not good enough”. Their efforts were not recognized and perhaps only their faults gained attention.


This core belief will follow them as they develop into adults and will create a lens which they see the world through. Work, schooling, relationships and even hobbies will all be impacted by this belief system. This could result in an individual who no longer puts in the effort because they have learned that no matter how hard they try- it will not be good enough.

Our core beliefs will come with a set of rules that we create for ourselves. The core belief “I am not good enough” may have the rules:


“Do not try new things”

“Do not set challenging goals”

“Do not advocate for yourself”


An exercise that can help us begin to chip away at harmful core beliefs and one day have them replaced with a healthy belief system is to break your own rules. I like to refer to this as a test or an experiment.


Someone with the core belief “I am not good enough” and the rule “do not try new things” could experiment or test the belief by simply deciding to try something new. Another way to test this belief would be to break the rule of not advocating for themselves and take advantage of an opportunity to be assertive.



There are many ways in which your therapist can help you discover your personal core beliefs, identify the rules you have been living by and assist you in breaking those rules. This is also a process that you can likely find success in navigating yourself. With good insight, honestly with yourself and motivation to make a change- you can begin turning around those negative core beliefs about yourself and the world around you.

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Online therapy is not for everyone. Please contact the nearest emergency room, 911 or a suicide hotline if you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or you are in a life threatening situation.

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