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Beyond the Core Belief Cycle: Finding New Ways of Being

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

This article explores the ways our childhood experiences shape our beliefs, and the necessity of cultivating new ways of living in our world. This article goes beyond the Core Belief Cycle Activity, and offers new insights into transforming your experiences. It is recommended that you read my previous article on core beliefs, and work on the Free Core Belief Cycle Activity (below) before working through this guide.

Core Belief Cycle Activity

Free Printable PDF or Fillable Download

This Core Belief Cycle Activity can be used to track where our beliefs come from, and how they influence our thoughts, feelings, actions and experiences.

Our inner beliefs are shaped by our experiences, and these beliefs can be explored to better understand certain difficulties and repeating patterns we face in our lives.


Childhood Stories

What did you internalize as true growing up? We all had stories that we were told, or that we told ourselves, in order to cope.

Very often these childhood stories were warped versions of realities that we were shielded from or truths we were denied. Secrets and denial have a funny way of impacting the stories we tell as kids.

Childhood stories are a patchwork sewn together with assumptions and simplicity helping us to deal with the unknown. Kids are sponges, they soak up whatever juice their environment feeds them. They listen to everything and are sense-making machines.

When I was in middle school, I loved to watch Lizzie McGuire on Disney Channel. She was a creative and honest teenage girl who always tried to do the right thing. Lizzie stood up for her friends, learned from her mistakes, and had a big heart. I related to her anxiety and social awkwardness, she was sensitive just like me. I felt seen by the animated version of her ‘inner thoughts’ that frequently had awesome quips and come-backs that Lizzie rarely had the courage to speak aloud.

As you may remember, throughout Junior High, Lizzie had an archenemy, Kate Sanders. Sanders was the classic mean girl school bully type.

In the Lizzie McGuire Movie, before she goes off to Rome to become a pop star, Kate and Lizzie have a confrontation at their graduation ceremony. Lizzie is already feeling insecure about how she looks and says to her guy best friend, Gordo, “so… do I look okay?”

Kate immediately approaches Lizzie, and boldly states:

“Oh My God! Only you would think you could hide that powder blue puffy sleeved - it’s kind of a peasant dress but it might just be a baggy disaster of questionable fibre content that you wore to the spring dance - LIZZIE MCGUIRE YOU ARE AN OUTFIT REPEATER!"

This quote has lived rent free in my mind for most of my life.

What happens when I go to my closet to find an outfit? I tell myself I can never repeat an outfit. I have to dress differently every day, even slightly, in order to not be an outfit repeater.

If I am seen wearing the same exact dress today that I wore to an event last year, this will be social death.

The dominant cultural norms surrounding me asked me to navigate my day to day life, including what I wore, based on other people’s standards. Standards I didn’t care about or agree to, but that my adolescent mind internalized as rules that I needed to follow to stay safe.

Surviving socially, fitting in, was very important to me growing up.

I’m not exactly sure why, but comparison was thriving in my home and school environments (as it may have been in yours) and I so desperately wanted to fit in. I wanted to be like everyone else, and I also wanted to be the best. Comparison asks us to “be like everyone else, but better!” which is an impossible standard to meet.

I had no idea that true belonging wasn’t about changing myself to fit in. That I needed to be more myself to belong. Fitting in was what my childhood mind wanted. I believed that if I could fit in and uphold my reputation as ‘the best good person’, that I would be socially safe.

Alas, my inner child internalized a false truth:

I would not be safe, I would not get love, if I didn’t fit in.

And, simple as that, I gathered rules from the world around me about what was accepted and what was 'abnormal'. I learned on TV that repeating an outfit was an abominable act that may lead to being bullied and so I never, ever repeated an outfit.

Core Beliefs - The Blueprints of your Inner House

Just like Lizzie McGuire, I carry many insecurities. I have fears, and anger, and desires for things to be different. I also have stuck parts that refuse to budge, and deep wounds that need love.

It hurts to admit that I have struggled with very negative core beliefs about myself throughout my life.

The strongest of these beliefs is “There is something wrong with me” followed closely by “If I let others know what I am feeling and thinking, I will burden them. I am a heavy burden, a source of darkness, I am not good.”

These negative beliefs live in my thoughts and my inner dialogue, even now as a full grown adult. These false narratives about myself can do real damage. As any false belief can.

When I give the negative beliefs about myself power, they poison my mind, show through my actions, create negative experiences, and confirm themselves to be true.

My inner child holds onto these beliefs as fears. Little Dani is in there, scared, trying to protect me from being hurt or rejected. My inner child doesn’t know that I can handle adversity. My inner child needs to be comforted by my adult self in order to stop clinging onto the belief “I wont be loved because there is something wrong with me”.

I can’t speak about intention, and healing our relationship with self, without discussing the beliefs we internalized as true as a child.

Our beliefs are everything. What we understand as true, and what we know will culturally be accepted, directly impacts how we see ourselves, how we make sense of relationships and how we live our lives.

Intentional living requires a present focus. We can't be living today with intention if we are focused on the past. If we still hold the same black and white beliefs that we held as kids, we won’t grow. We will remain afraid. Our nervous systems will constrict in order to self-protect, and we will rob ourselves of expansion. We won’t be able to step into freedom and agency if we don’t evaluate our core beliefs.

If we hold onto the belief that repeating an outfit is social death, we may never find our favorite pant and t-shirt combination. We may never allow ourselves to settle into a sense of comfort in our own clothes.

If you remain afraid to express yourself fully because you are clinging to fear of rejection, you may never experience the fullest expression of your aliveness, the most authentic version of yourself.
As kids, we make sense of the world through simple stories. Our minds understand the ‘good guy / bad guy” dynamic, and binaries make that simple. As we mature, the stories we tell must become more nuanced and complex in order for us to grow as people.

If you have black and white beliefs, your life will be robbed of color.

Throughout life, as your circumstances change and develop, you may feel stuck in the same patterns. Even though you grew up or moved out, you still worry you won’t be enough in the same way you worried as a kid.

If this sounds like you, investigate your core beliefs. Make sure your beliefs are able to hold all the color and complexity of your current life. Update your inner child by allowing yourself access to new experiences that challenge the negative belief that you are not worthy of joy, ease, and a pleasurable life.

If you haven't completed the Core Belief Cycle Activity, now is the time!

Core Belief Cycle Activity

Free Printable PDF or Fillable Download

This Core Belief Cycle Activity can be used to track where our beliefs come from, and how they influence our thoughts, feelings, actions and experiences.

What do I do now that I understand my negative patterns?

Now that you have unpacked your beliefs and identified practices to respect and embrace yourself, take your time to practice new ways of being. This is the best way to interrupt negative patterns in your thoughts, actions and experiences. It takes practice and time to unlearn negative core beliefs.

Here are a few tips:

  • Notice how you feel when you act in alignment with yourself, your experience may be expansive.

  • Challenge your negative inner dialogue by speaking to yourself with love and understanding. Offer acceptance and care to yourself verbally and internally.

  • Process your feelings! Take time to feel your emotions in your body, witness yourself in each moment and allow openness to express your experience.

  • Practice self-trust, radical acceptance, and tolerating the discomfort that arises in the unknown.

  • Notice small shifts and give yourself credit. This is not easy work. Your efforts to interrupt negative cycles and heal yourself are noble.


Challenge your Negative Core Beliefs

If you grew up believing you were not enough, and couldn’t do anything right, you would develop a strong inner critic, judge yourself harshly, and feel discouraged and frustrated. If you believe that you are not enough, you feel and act like you are not enough. Our actions, and the way we show up for our life, work, and relationships directly create our experience.

So, if you believe and think and feel that you are not enough, you will act that way, and your experiences will confirm the belief that you are not enough.

The opposite is also true. If you act like you are worthy of time and attention, you experience yourself as being worthy.

If you offer yourself tenderness, without having to earn it, you experience yourself as enough.

If you are asking yourself how you can shift out of your negative core belief systems, the answer is to act differently.

It is up to you, which beliefs you want to be true about yourself. If you worry you are not a good friend, work on being a better friend and your friendships will transform. Imagine how a good friend would think, and feel, and act, and try out those positive ways of being.

You don’t have to do an impression of who you were yesterday. You can change if you want. You can be better if you want to. People make changes all the time.

New Ways of Being – Redrawing your Inner Blueprint

Make a commitment to yourself to try out new ways of being. This is how we realign with our truth. By identifying these new ways of being, you will redraw the blueprints for your inner home. Make sure your new ways of being create space to host all parts of you. As you draw up the floor plan for your inner home, make sure there is room for growth, space to transform, and connections to sustain.

Journal Prompts:

  • New Truths about myself: I want to embrace the truth that ______

  • How I want to think: What ideas, opinions and expectations do I want to invest in?

  • What I hope to feel: What will I need in order to feel my feelings and process my internal reactions?

  • How I will show up for my life: What boundaries may be needed to remain connected to the truth about my needs?

  • What behaviors, actions, and daily practices keep me aligned with myself?

  • What belief system informs my approach to my relationships:

  • What will I hold true about being myself in the world:

Conscious unlearning is a practice. New truths can take a lifetime to integrate.

Good thing that is the exact amount of time you have.

You can’t rush your healing. Allow time to carry its teachings.

Please approach this practice with flexibility and grace.

in deep gratitude,

Dani Sullivan, LCSW

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