Core Beliefs: What Role Do They Play In Anxiety and Depression?
Most of our minds have some sort of constant chatter. Our inner dialogues range in personality, even though they're our thoughts. Sometimes, they can be light, joyful, and positive. And other times, our thoughts can be dark, self, critical, and all-consuming.
Whatever they are, our inner core beliefs or the beliefs that we hold to be true about ourselves and the world around us play a role in our daily lives and our mental health, whether positive or negative.
Read on to discover some of the most common core beliefs that contribute to anxiety and depression and a few ways you can stop them from tearing you down.
What are core beliefs?
In short, core beliefs are general truths that you hold about yourself, other people, and the world around you. Whether they're true or not, our minds run these comments and beliefs in our daily experiences. And, in turn, shape the way we view these experiences.
So ultimately, we can see our experiences as positive or negative, or see ourselves as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ people.
Example: Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you call yourself a bad name or insult yourself? If you did, you might have an unhelpful inner belief that reflects your abilities, self-worth, or self-esteem, along with the like.
Ultimately, core beliefs shape and influence everything you do. Most of them come from childhood experiences, major life events, or particular life circumstances. They become the 'voice in our heads that grows stronger as we grow up.
However, not all core beliefs are harmful. Some of them that we've developed over time can also be helpful, such as 'it's important to be kind and respect other people.'
Common core beliefs
These examples of core beliefs are the assumptions that we can make about ourselves that don't weigh them, but we firmly believe them nonetheless.
A few examples of core beliefs you may have about yourself:
● I’ll never be good enough for my parents.
● I need to ‘earn’ my happiness.
● I need to control my surroundings to manage my emotions.
● Feeling good isn’t okay.
● I don't deserve the things I want.
● I’m not capable of loving other people.
● I need to hide my emotions.
● Even my best efforts aren’t good enough.
● I’m unattractive.
● There's always someone more exciting or better than me.
● I’m unworthy of love.
● I’m unintelligent.
Core beliefs you may have about the world around you:
● The world is a dangerous place.
● Authorities aren't to be trusted.
● Life isn’t fair.
● Risk and danger can be anywhere.
● I never feel safe.
● People are bad at heart.
● Everything is out of my control.
● The future is bleak.
Core beliefs about other people:
● Once someone knows me, they’ll lose interest
● If I don't have control over my significant other, they'll leave me.
● I’m not a ‘relationship’ person.
● Breakups are a sign of weakness.
● The people I love always end up leaving me.
● I can’t rely on other people.
● I’m not good enough for my partner.
● My partner’s attributes reflect on me.
● Nobody accepts me for who I am.
● All successful relationships should take a lot of hard work and effort.
● Nobody understands me.
● I need to protect other people.
● The opposite sex only wants one thing.
● I should settle for anything, and anyone I can get.
● Other people are out to get me.
● Other people only like me for materialistic reasons.
● I need other people to feel good. Otherwise, I can't feel good.
● Caring about others means being weak.
● Getting too close to other people is a risk.
While we all have different core beliefs based on our experiences and upbringings, they are still mighty and play a role in our day-to-day lives.
Research has shown that people with generalized anxiety disorder hold unhelpful or harmful beliefs about worry, uncertainty, and the problem-solving process. Experts discovered that the beliefs present in those with anxiety and depressive symptoms were about worry and uncertainty. These can include:
Unrelenting standards: 'I need to meet all of my responsibilities all of the time.'
The need to self-sacrifice: 'I'm the one who has to take care of everyone.'
There are less favorable views of other people and their intentions: 'Other people won't do it right, ' or 'other people aren't fair.'
Core beliefs, anxiety, and depression
Unhelpful core beliefs play a significant role when it comes to mental health, specifically anxiety and depression. And, symptoms of these mental health conditions seem to emphasize our negative views and beliefs. Without stopping the negative spiral of thoughts, our views and perspectives turn negative, only to exacerbate symptoms.
In a way, our core beliefs may have formed to protect us or help us succeed in life.
Example: 'i can never make a mistake, or 'the world' is dangerous.'
But when we apply these core beliefs too rigidly, they're likely to harm the way we feel about ourselves and how we relate to other people and the world around us.
How to challenge your core beliefs:
Every thought we have builds up over time to solidify our core beliefs. This is why it can feel so challenging, even impossible, to change them when they're negative. However, the benefits of doing so can be enormous and life-changing. So, what if you affirmed the things you like about yourself that you know to be true instead of tearing yourself down?
Here are a few ways you can start decreasing negative core beliefs about yourself:
Notice your thinking patterns. What types of thoughts do you tend to have? Do you have more negative thoughts in particular places, like school, work, or at home? How often do you criticize or think negatively about yourself?
Examine the origin. Once you can start noticing patterns in your self-talk, consider why you have those particular thoughts. Can you think of a time where you felt judged or humiliated? How did that inform the way you think about yourself? Are there any specific situations that trigger your negative self-talk?
Challenge yourself. When you notice a negative or judgmental thought about yourself, pause and take a second to observe it. Is it true, or is this the voice of someone else in your head? Rather than rushing to call yourself worthless, think of three reasons why you're worthy. Or, if your instinct is to call yourself unlovable, think of a few people that love you unconditionally to help you contradict that belief.
This is known as cognitive reframing, or when we take a good look at our thoughts and beliefs, recognize that they aren’t always true, and choose to head in a different direction.
Over time and with practice, you start to reframe negative core beliefs about yourself and other people and your environment. In turn, you'll notice symptoms of anxiety and depression decrease; your relationships will improve, and most importantly, so will the relationship you have with yourself.
Keywords: negative core beliefs