I frequently work with clients on taking a long, hard look at their core beliefs. Core beliefs are our most deeply held beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. These beliefs create the lens through which we see and experience the world, and they influence our perception, thoughts, words, actions, and emotions. In other words, core beliefs are a powerful influence on how we experience everything and everyone in our lives.
We adopt our core beliefs from our life experiences as well as what we are taught by tons of influences such as our parents, family, friends, teachers, religion, region, and culture. Because of this, many times, we hold on to core beliefs that aren’t ours to begin with and may have a negative, unhelpful, and unhealthy impact on our lives without our even realizing it. In dealing with these core beliefs, the first step is to simply become aware of the belief. Then, we must explore the difference between fact and opinion.
This may sound a bit off topic, but it defintely relates. We know that a fact is something that has proof to back it up- without a doubt. The definition of a fact states that it is “something that is indisputably the case”. And some of our beliefs are truly based in fact. However, many of our beliefs are based on opinions- both our own and the opinion of others. This is where we can get into trouble because we are now shaping our lives around an opinion that is many times unhelpful to us.
In the Disney movie Inside Out (which I highly recommend watching if you have not), the characters represent emotions and an imaginary friend inside of an adolescent girl’s head. In one scene, they are on the “train of thought” in her mind and crates containing facts and opinions get overturned. The imaginary friend starts randomly throwing the facts and opinions back into the crates and is warned that they are getting mixed up. The imaginary friend replies with something along the lines of, “Oh, it doesn’t matter; that happens all of the time.”
When we mix up facts and opinions and accept the opinions of others as fact, we can end up shaping our thoughts and behaviors around beliefs such as “I’m worthless”, “I can’t do anything right”, “I don’t deserve good things”, “I will never be happy”, “There is nothing good in the world”, etc. This leads to great challenges in living a happy and healthy life.
In becoming aware of these core beliefs, we must have the courage to truly look within. This inquisitive look within is much like the yoga teaching of Svadhyaya or self-study. Svadhyaya teaches that we must look at how we identify ourselves and assess if our beliefs are valid and helpful in moving us toward who we want to become. We must recognize that we may be identifying ourselves as layers of our past, our family, our accomplishments, and even what someone told us over and over as a child. Those things have happened to us in our lives, but they are not WHO we are. We are the spirit that lives inside of this body on this journey and we have inherent worth simply because we are alive.
Awareness is always the first step. If we are not aware, we can not work to change anything. However, just because we are aware does not mean that it will be easy to change core beliefs that we have held for years and shaped our lives around. These beliefs may have influenced our thoughts, perspective, and reactions for years. Sometimes for our entire lives. From these beliefs, our thoughts have become mantra-like to support what we believe so that we feel comfortable in ourselves. Looking at these beliefs and then beginning the work to change them can be challenging, painful, and at times, require the help of others or even a professional.
But it is SO worth it. You are worth it. And your happiness is worth it.
Once we are aware of our beliefs and our thoughts, we may notice that it is very difficult to get out of the “rut” our thoughts seem to be stuck in. We seem to have the same thoughts or patterns of thoughts daily. Our thought patterns run over and over and support our beliefs as well as our perspective and attitude about our lives.
Our thinking today is forming our future. Working with a positive and affirming mantra can help to get our thinking out of the unhelpful rut and moving in the direction that we want it to go in. The word mantra is based on the root “manos” which means mind and “trai” which means to direct or control. So, your mantra is your mind train. Send it in the direction you want to go in to become the person you want to become. What you think about, you bring about. If we can practice thinking about more helpful things, we will feel happier and more integrated in who we truly are.
I do not expect you to be able to assess your core beliefs and instantly change them. However, if you can look at your thinking patterns and start to become aware of where your thoughts go every day, you can start to become aware of your belief system. A simple and neutral mantra to start with would be something like, inhaling and thinking “I am” and exhaling and thinking “here”. This can provide a timeout from any negative thinking patterns and help to bring you into the present moment. From there, you can decide how to move forward. Give it a try for several breaths or for 1 minute. 60-seconds of shifting your thoughts several times a day can have a powerful effect on your attitude, perspective, and ultimately, your beliefs.
I will be practicing right along with you.
Chat again soon,