negative core beliefs with alternatives

Core fears and beliefs tend to cluster around themes. This is a simplified list to highlight the main themes that have been recorded in cognitive- behavioural literature. These beliefs can develop at a time of high emotion and/or trauma, or from repeated conditioning at a time when we were not able to challenge them. They can become a filter for how we view situations.

  • Self-defectiveness
  • Responsibility
  • Control and Choice
  • Safety and Vulnerability

Self-defectiveness (there’s something wrong with me)

Negative core beliefs

I’m not good enough

I’m inadequate

I don’t deserve love

I’m unloveable

I’m worthless

I’m weak

I’m damaged

I’m shameful, ugly

I’m stupid

I’m different I’m a bad person

Positive alternatives

I’m OK, I don’t have to be perfect I am capable.

I’m enough as I am

I am worthy of love

I am loveable

I have value, I am worthy

I am not completely weak; I can be strong when I need to be

I am alive and I am able to do many things, I am not completely damaged

I believe I have value as a person. I am more than my appearance. If I did do something wrong, it doesn’t mean I need to hide myself for ever

There may have been things I did not know at the time, and I cannot know everything. 

It is OK to get things wrong. I can learn. It does not mean I am stupid just because I have forgotten or did not know something

I am OK as I am. I care about things and am not completely bad. No one is all bad or all good. We all have our flaws. Just doing a bad action does not mean I am completely bad as a person.


Negative core beliefs

I did something wrong

It’s my fault

It is my responsibility to make things right

Positive alternatives

I did the best I could knowing what I knew at the time

It was not 100% within my control there were other factors. I did what I did at the time. I can learn from it.

I have a part to play, but I am not responsible for everything. I have to let others take some responsibility.


Negative core beliefs

I am powerless

I am helpless

Positive alternatives

I am allowed to have a choice and a say I can communicate what I need. I do not have to stay silent anymore.
There are things I can do to help myself.


Negative core beliefs

I’m vulnerable, not safe

I can’t trust anyone

I can’t trust myself

Nobody will protect me

I might die

Something bad will happen if I show my emotions

Positive alternatives

I am safe now; I need to remind myself of this

I can choose who to trust

I can learn to trust my judgement now

I am not in danger, but I know what to do if I am. I can look after myself

I am safe and I am alive

I can feel and express my emotions and nothing bad will happen

One of the things I’d like to point out about these core beliefs, and perhaps you have noticed this, is that the ones on the left are like absolute labels. Statements of fact and very all or nothing. This is because the brain likes to categorize, and usually these are developed in times of high emotion or when we are quite young – both of these are times when we will not be thinking in shades of grey or in abstract terms. As a result, we develop these quick ways to label ourselves, and they can be there for many years undetected and unchallenged.

Notice how the alternatives are less global labels, and more accepting of the shades of grey in a situation, and within us.

Do any of these core beliefs resonate with you at all? Did you notice a slight flinching or movement in your body, or did you look twice at one or two of them? Do you use any of these labels at all? It maybe that you have been using them without realizing the effect they can have on you. If you did identify with any of them, I want to let you know that you can re-evaluate them. This is where therapy can be helpful, in showing you how to change patterns like these, but the first step is to know what your patterns are and that it is possible to change.

The next time you find yourself rushing to negative labels that make you feel bad, such as ‘I’m just not good enough to do this’ or ‘I can’t cope’, pause and try your hardest to look for some shades of grey, don’t just believe the absolute label straight away.