Many of us live our lives based on guiding principles - these principles tend to dictate how we see ourselves, others and the world around us. They also lay the foundation for how we show up in the world and in relationships. These guiding principles are referred to as our core beliefs, which are deep-seated truths we hold about ourselves and the world - we accept our core beliefs as absolute and may never challenge them. While some core beliefs are positive and affirming, we can also have negative, harmful, and limiting beliefs; which in turn affect our self-worth and esteem.
- Identify any unhelpful thoughts/beliefs you have about yourself: Chantée advises tackling one core belief at a time. It can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing to attempt to change all of your negative thoughts at once, so pick one belief and begin there. It’s often said that working to improve one area of our lives affects all areas of our lives. Take a deep breath, start small and know that any change is good change.
- What does this core belief mean about me? This is a really difficult section because it requires us to dig into the not-so-nice parts of how we see and speak to ourselves. This entire journaling exercise is a practice in patience and self-compassion, therefore, take breaks when you need to and know that you can always revisit it at any time.
- Does this belief still serve me a purpose, how does this belief make me feel? We hold our core beliefs as truth because we have evidence to support them, hence why we very rarely challenge them. Therefore, we might believe that a negative core belief like “I am unloveable” keeps us safe and protected from hurt. While this might hold some truth, does it really serve you? And does it feel good to constantly berate or criticize yourself. You might feel a lot of resistance when answering this question, which is also a good sign!
- What supports this belief or what is this belief protecting? Ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy? If we believe that like attracts like, then we often pay attention to the situations that confirm and reaffirm our core beliefs. If I believe that people are inherently bad, I most likely will pay attention to all the actions that confirm this belief while ignoring anything that counters it. This question gives us the opportunity to dig into the experiences or narratives that support and uphold these beliefs. Once we have an answer, we can begin to challenge these thought patterns.
- What or who is the source of this belief? Our core beliefs are often formed in our early childhood and are based on assessments made by our childhood and adolescent selves. This question helps us to establish where a core belief may have developed. It also allows us to truly see how untrue a core belief might be, because as children we lacked the perspective and insight we posses as adults to truly analyze a situation.
- Is this belief helping me work towards my desired outcome? As guiding principles, our beliefs are meant to lead us in the right direction, they are supposed to allow us to live the lives we desire. If you believe that you are deserving of rest and ease, then you will take the necessary steps to manifest this desired outcome. However, if my desired outcome is ease and rest but my core belief is that I am lazy and not enough - there is a disconnect between what I want and what I think/feel.
- What are 2 small things you can do differently to limit yourself from reinforcing this belief? This is where the action comes into play. By listing two things you can do, starting today to rewrite limiting beliefs, you can slowly begin to break old thought patterns. Therapist, Chantée Dardaine suggests trying the if - then method which helps to guide and/or direct out behaviour. For example, “If I allow myself to ask for help when I need it, then I will feel more supported”; using this pattern helps us to see the steps we need to take to achieve our desired outcome, while utilizing positive affirmations.
As women of colour, we exist in a world that constantly tells us who we are - often ignored, under-appreciated and over worked. It becomes really easy to internalize these external messages coupled with our individual traumas. However, nothing is absolute and we can take little steps to heal. It can feel really daunting to challenge something we believe as fact or truth, but there is great strength in allowing ourselves to see when something no longer serves us and choose to let that go.
What negative, limiting beliefs are you choosing to let go of today?