We all hold deep, foundational beliefs about ourselves, the world, and other people. We call these ‘core beliefs’. These beliefs have a significant impact on our lives, including how we see ourselves, what we think of our bodies, how we treat ourselves and how easily we trust other people.  Core beliefs can be helpful, such as ‘I am a worthwhile person’, or unhelpful such as ‘I am unlovable’. Unhelpful core beliefs can contribute to hopelessness, low self-esteem and excessive self-criticism. They can cause people to push themselves too hard, cope in unhealthy ways or shy away from exciting opportunities.

Fortunately, these unhelpful beliefs can be changed with time, effort, and self-compassion. Over time you can learn to value yourself for who you are, so that you can live an enjoyable, meaningful and connected life.  

Our core beliefs often lie at the root of how we respond to different situations. Unhelpful core beliefs can grow into false assumptions and insecurity. For example, if someone holds the core belief that they are incompetent, they may then assume that others will be unforgiving if they make even a small mistake. These assumptions then grow into day-to-day negative thoughts and worries (e.g., “My colleague must think I’m not doing a good job”), which become the leaves of the tree. You can see that the way we behave has grown from our core beliefs and assumptions.

Self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness, care and respect. Self-compassion can help comfort negative emotions in the present, heal painful memories from the past and encourage you to challenge unhelpful core beliefs.