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Core beliefs underlie all our thoughts, feelings and actions. Identifying and then challenging these beliefs can not only change how we feel but also transform our approach to life. Assumed to be true, core beliefs often go unnoticed and unchallenged. Through identifying automatic thoughts, we can sometimes uncover the main beliefs that underlie our personalities.

Some core beliefs serve us well, and some don’t. In fact, they affect our lives adversely because we create what we believe. Core beliefs can arise from childhood experiences, inherited attitudes and cultural influences. They can be so deeply entrenched in our psyches that they can be difficult to perceive and change. As many of my clients know, in a coaching session I always have my antennae out for these underlying beliefs. I list below the most common core beliefs that can sabotage us. You may want to read the following descriptions and determine whether any seem characteristic of your personality, and you may be able to relate the belief to a childhood experience or environmental factors. Awareness is the first step to healing.


Beliefs about defectiveness reflect a general sense that we are inherently flawed, incompetent or inferior. People who maintain thoughts characteristic of a defective core belief withdraw from close relationships in fear that others may discover that they are inherently bad. Thoughts that come from a belief we are defective may be: ·

  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m inferior
  • I’m stupid
  • I’m useless
  • I’m unattractive
  • I always get it wrong
  • I don’t measure up
  • I’m a failure


When we believe we are unlovable, we may feel we don’t belong and question whether we deserve love or can be loved. We may withdraw from relationships or maintain superficial friendships to avoid the suspected pain that will arise when we are “found out” and, inevitably rejected. This belief can lead to significant feelings of loneliness even in the presence of others. Some related thoughts will be: ·

  • I’m not lovable
  • I’m always left out
  • I’m not important
  • I don’t matter
  • I’m bound to be rejected
  • Nobody wants me


When we hold core beliefs rooted in abandonment, we assume we will lose anyone we get close to. Abandonment and unlovable core beliefs can often be related. If we believe that people will ultimately leave us, we subconsciously set up the very thing we fear. Consequently, people with abandonment beliefs will come across as insecure, needy and seeking reassurance. Examples of thoughts related to abandonment can include: ·

  • People I love will leave me
  • If I assert myself people will leave me
  • I can’t be happy if I’m on my own
  • My partner isn’t interested in me
  • I’m all alone and unsupported


When we hold helplessness or powerlessness beliefs, it can result in feeling a lack of control and an inability to handle anything effectively or independently. We may face difficulties making changes. We may try to compensate by over-controlling our environment or completely giving up control. Some common thoughts reflecting helplessness/powerlessness core beliefs include:

  • I’m helpless/powerless
  • I must have control to be okay
  • I’m weak
  • I’m trapped
  • I’m needy
  • I’m unsuccessful
  • I can’t change
  • I can’t say no


Entitlement core beliefs are related to a feeling of “specialness” that causes us to make demands on others regardless of the effect it has on them. Entitlement is deservedness run amok! Those who maintain an entitlement core belief assume they are superior and deserve a lot of attention or praise. Someone may develop an entitlement core belief to compensate for feeling defective or undesirable. Entitlement beliefs can lead to unreasonable demands that others meet your needs, rule-breaking, and envy and resentment of others who appear to be doing better than us. 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)
  • I can do whatever I like
  • 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
  • Other people don’t deserve the good things that they get
  • People don’t understand/get me (because I am special/brilliant/etc.)


These all reflect similar beliefs and can be addressed as a group. Self-sacrifice beliefs refer to the forfeiting of our own needs in the service of others. We may feel guilty, and compensate by putting the needs of others ahead of their own. Caretakers/sacrificers 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
  • If I make a mistake, it means I’m careless/a failure/etc. ·
  • I’ve done something wrong
  • I have to do everything myself
  • 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 ·
  • I’m only worthwhile if I’m helping other people
  • Doing things for myself is selfish
  •  It’s my fault

It’s important to realise that if you have any of the above thought patterns, know that they are NOT true; they are simply thoughts resulting from beliefs that are NOT true that come from a combination of childhood experiences, and environmental and cultural factors. Some people believe these ideas so strongly that they cannot see the untruths underlying them. Because core beliefs are often borne in childhood, they may reflect messages communicated by family members. While it can be helpful to determine their origin, it’s not necessary. Recognizing the beliefs can be an excellent first step. Coaching, energy and forensic healing are effective ways to clear sabotaging core beliefs and re-align you to the truth.