Rethinking Your Beliefs
Beliefs are firm convictions resulting from your experiences in life. The best leave you feeling positive about yourself, other people, and the world; the worst leave you feeling powerless. Identify helpful beliefs, and learn to change those are not.
Building Positive Belief
Strengthen your useful and supportive beliefs by noticing whatever confirms them. For example, your belief is, “People really value me”: over the next week or so note down every time someone does or says something to support this. Notice when people ask for your opinion. Accept when people compliment you. Remember times when someone tells you you are important. Ignore any feelings you have about being unvalued - these are simply feelings. Look at the actual evidence.
Collecting the Proof
If you struggle to convince yourself about a belief such as “People value me,” get a friend or partner to tell you the ways in which they admire you. Or in a work appraisal, ask your manager to list the ways you are valued. Talk to others about whether they feel valued. It is likely you will find they feel as insecure as you do, however confident they seem, and you will realize you are not alone.
Setting Up Experiments
Test your core beliefs. For example, to prove “People value me,” you might ask ten friends to do you a favor. Your fear may be that they will all turn you down, but most likely, the news will be better than you think. If six friends respond well, you will have proved that a majority of people do value you, and you can take on that positive belief. (If all ten do say no, consider making changes with the help of a counselor.)
Evaluating Your Attitude
Your core beliefs have developed out of the life lessons you have learned. With the passage of time, those beliefs may no longer be useful. To check out whether you should retain a belief or jettison it, ask what benefits and limitations it brings to your life. A negative core belief harms more than it helps: “People do not value me” may protect you from disappointment in life, but it also makes you wary and suspicious. So change it. A positive belief helps, so hang on to it: “People value me” leaves you feeling self-assured.
If your belief centers around something you fear, face that fear in your mind. If, for example, your core belief is that people do not like you, your “worst fantasy” might be that everyone is talking about you behind your back. Play out that fantasy in your mind. How would you defend yourself? Run it to the end, and notice that scary though it is, you survive. Once the terror is gone, the belief is likely to change to a more useful one.
A negative core belief is usually created by a key event in your life. The good news is that if you rethink this event, you may realize that there are positive beliefs to be gained from it. For example, a belief that “People think I am weak” may have first taken hold when you were bullied at school. But if you recall that in fact you stood up to the bullies, you might conclude, “I am brave.” And if you can see that the bullies envied your academic success, you might also realize, “I am intelligent.”