What is a negative belief?
Sometimes called ‘limiting beliefs’ or ‘core beliefs’, negative beliefs are the conscious or subconscious notions that cause us to doubt our Inherent Worth. They feed the self-talk that tells us we are not good enough, that we don’t belong, that we are unlovable or that we are weak and powerless. They undermine our confidence and derail our happiness. They cause us to experience unpleasant feelings and they drive our behaviour.
How do negative beliefs get started?
Until a child is six or seven they are egocentric in their world – meaning that they think they are responsible for whatever is going on around them. Whenever a situation arises in which a feeling comes up that is not one of love or peace or happiness, the child will assume that the situation as his or her fault. They must have done something wrong for the situation to be as it is. They may decide that they are unlovable or bad, guilty or weak, stupid or flawed – even though the situation has nothing to do with them. This judgment then becomes a negative belief, which drives subsequent behavior.
How do negative beliefs drive behaviour?
A negative belief demands evidence of its veracity. Once we have a negative belief we will seek evidence to support it. If I believe I am stupid, I’ll do stupid things to prove it. If I believe that I am worthless, I will notice every time someone treats me that way, but I may not notice when people treat me with great respect. Every time I find evidence, my belief is strengthened.
You may have noticed that some behaviors recur. Character traits such as perfectionism, contrariness, messiness or clumsiness are examples of behaviour patterns that are the result of the negative beliefs that drive them.
Is there an antidote to our negative beliefs?
Our negative beliefs combine to give us a snapshot of who it is we think we are - the small ‘ego’ version of ourselves. The antidote, then, is to fully understand who we Truly are. According to the mystical branches of the major religions, we are spiritual beings; Images of God; inherently worthy human beings connected to the Oneness of the Universe, and the essence of our being is Love. In order to begin to deconstruct our negative beliefs we must replace them with knowledge of the Truth of who we are. This can be done by forgiving ourselves for believing that we are anything less than part of Oneness, part of God.
We can simplify this notion, and make it secular, by stating that each of us has Inherent Worth. Our awareness of having Inherent Worth serves well as an antidote to our negative beliefs.
I know firsthand the emotional and financial costs of having a troubled teenager and I don’t want that to happen to you. That's why I wrote my book What They Don't Teach in Prenatal Class: The Key to Raising Trouble-Free Kids and Teens (available on Amazon).