Core beliefs can arise from childhood experiences, innate dispositions, cultural influence, and/or any combination of these. Consequently, they can be difficult to identify and/or change. Core beliefs tend to underlie many of our negative and unhelpful automatic thoughts. Assumed to be true, core beliefs often go unnoticed and unchallenged. Identifying and challenging them can help change the way we feel and transform our approach to life.
Below are some examples of common core beliefs. When reading their descriptions, determine whether any seem characteristic of your personality. Notice any childhood experiences or other environmental factors that may have contributed to the belief.
Caretaking, responsibility and self-sacrifice could be separated into independent categories, but they reflect similar beliefs, and can be addressed as a group. Self-sacrifice beliefs refer to excessive forfeit of one’s own needs in the service of others. Individuals often feel guilty, and compensate by putting the needs of others ahead of their own. Such people often believe they are responsible for the happiness of others and apologize excessively. Responsible individuals may take pride in their diligence and dependability, without necessarily feeling a need to care for others or engage in self-sacrifice. People who maintain core beliefs rooted in caretaking, responsibility, or self-sacrifice may have felt overly responsible for family members in their youth. Related thoughts include:
- I have to do everything perfectly.
- People will betray me.
- If I make a mistake, it means I’m careless/a failure/etc.
- I’ve done something wrong.
- It’s not okay to ask for help.
- I have to do everything myself.
- If I don’t do it, no one will.
- I’m responsible for everyone and everything.
- If I care enough, I can fix him/her/this.
- I can’t trust or rely on another person.
- If I trust people, they may hurt me (and I won’t survive.)
- People are untrustworthy.
- My needs are not important.
- I shouldn’t spend time taking care of myself.
- When I see that others need help, I have to help them.
- I’m not a worthwhile person.
- I’m only worthwhile if I’m helping other people.
- If I express negative feelings in a relationship, terrible things will happen.
- I have to make people happy.
- It’s my fault.
Entitlement is a sense of specialness that causes individuals to make demands or engage in behaviors regardless of the effect on others. Those who maintain an entitlement core belief assume they are superior and deserve a lot of attention or praise. Often times, people develop and entitlement core belief to compensate for feeling defective or socially undesirable. Entitlement beliefs can lead to unreasonable demands that others meet your needs, rule-breaking, and resentment of successful others. Some entitlement-related beliefs include:
- If people don’t respect me, I can’t stand it.
- I deserve a lot of attention and praise.
- I’m superior (and am entitled to special treatment and privileges.)
- If I don’t excel, then I’m inferior and worthless.
- If I don’t excel, I’ll just end up ordinary.
- I am a very special person (and other people should treat me that way.)
- I don’t have to be bound by the rules that apply to other people.
- If others don’t respect me, they should be punished.
- Other people should satisfy my needs.
- People have no right to criticize me.