What Makes Core Beliefs Powerful?

Positive Core Beliefs strengthen a positive or desirable sense of self. They develop through constructive, favorable, supportive, or effective experiences.
For example:

“I have demonstrated over and over again that others can depend on me.”
Positive Core Belief: “I am reliable.”

In contrast, Negative Core Beliefs strengthen a negative or undesirable sense of self. They develop through unproductive, adverse, harmful, or problematic experiences. For example:

“No matter what I do, terrible things keep happening to me.”
Negative Core Belief: “I am helpless to stop this” or simply, “I am helpless.”


We often presume our Negative Core Beliefs are accurate because there is usually some element of truth to them.

However, Negative Core Beliefs can be transformed. We all do this when we change any aspect of our life. For example, a woman might think, “I am too old to go back to school; after all, I am 47 years old and you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” As long as she believes this, she will not even attempt to enroll in an educational program. However, if she sees an article about a 60-year-old grandmother who just got her high school diploma, she might say to herself, “I can do that!” The next day she talks to a school counselor to see what programs are available, and soon she is enthusiastically working towards completing her educational dreams.

In this example, she became aware of her Negative Core Belief, “I am too old to learn.” She created a new Positive Core Belief, “I am a capable learner.” Finally, she acted on this belief and enrolled in school. This is a process that we all have done many times. It is how we learned to crawl, walk, ride a bike, drive a car, use a smart phone, etc. But most of us were not conscious of how changing our beliefs changed our lives.

The process of change can be summarized in four steps:

  1. Become Aware: What is the Negative Core Belief?
  2. Create: What is an alternative, accurate Positive Core Belief?
  3. Act: What can I do to behave in a way that reinforces the Positive Core Belief?
  4. Practice: Repeatedly take action to strengthen the Positive Core Belief.

When we focus on applying this process, we become capable of developing richer, more fulfilling lives. The sidebar box below illustrates these steps in action:

Core Belief Development


  • Core Belief: “I am scared around all strangers.”
  • Become Aware: What is the Negative Core Belief? “I am fearful.”
  • Create: What is an alternative, accurate Positive Core Belief? “I want to be self-confident. My core belief will be, ‘I am confident.’”
  • Act: What can I do to strengthen my Positive Core Belief? “From now on, when someone greets me, I will say, “Hi.”
  • Practice: Repeatedly take action to strengthen the Positive Core Belief. “I will consistently say hello to strangers even when I am anxious.”