By Alexa Bailey, MSW, LMSW

There’s a hard truth that exists in life and it’s this: we don’t all live in the same world. This isn’t to say that you live on Mars while your friends live on Venus, but rather that the world we each view from our own eyes will look distinctly different to us than it does the people around us. And there’s a reason for this: we all have our own beliefs. We have beliefs about ourselves, about other people, and about the world in general. We have beliefs about anything and everything we experience, and our beliefs color the way in which we live our lives.

A belief can be defined as a conviction or idea that we hold in our minds to be true. And beliefs are formed from a really young age. Think back to your own childhood and things you experienced. You probably learned a lot of things from parents and teachers that you would label as being simply a truth, but are actually beliefs. If someone were to ask you what color the sky is, you’d probably tell them it’s blue. And this is because you’ve been taught from the very beginning of your life that the sky is blue. But is it really? How do we know? What evidence to we have? If the news were to turn on tomorrow and suddenly declare we’d been wrong all along and the sky was actually green, you would have a really difficult time believing that, because your belief has always been that the sky is blue.

The beliefs we form about the world, others, and ourselves shape the way we show up. And while believing the sky is blue is a harmless belief, a lot of us hold onto and believe some really hurtful beliefs, and often these are beliefs about ourselves. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we look at the concept of core beliefs, because these are what create our thoughts, feelings, and our behaviors. When these core beliefs are negative, they create negative patterns of thought that turns into negative or unhealthy behavior, which then leads to difficult emotions as well. A common core belief is“I am not enough”. This core belief can lead to many different experiences, many of which will look like feelings of depression and hopelessness and sadness, and to a pattern of collecting the evidence that says this is true. And like most beliefs, when we are given evidence that would disprove or challenge this belief, and that would maybe point to the fact that we are actually enough, we don’t believe it because it doesn’t fit our belief system. This phenomenon is known as belief perseverance, which when we hold on so tightly to a belief that even when contrary evidence is shown, we still cling to our own negative belief instead.

It’s important to recognize that much of our life is dictated by our beliefs so that we can start to question the patterns we are in and forge a new way. If we can take a step away from our experience to examine what we’re thinking and where that thinking comes from, we take back our power to challenge the negative pieces of what we believe to be our reality. It might feel odd and a little bit scary to think about giving up long held beliefs, but within that process is a sense of freedom and empowerment that we so desperately want. When life is feeling heavy and you’re feeling trapped and your brain doesn’t feel like agreat place to be, that’s the perfect time to stop and reflect and challenge that this is just your reality, and to challenge the beliefs that no longer serve you. You are the master of your life, and it’s time to feel in control.


Alexa Bailey is a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW), who works in private practice providing therapeutic services at Evolve Counseling. She has experience treating several different populations and areas, including trauma, anxiety, depression, relational challenges, and life transitions with both young adults/adolescents and adults. Alexa is a big advocate of self-care and creating whole personal wellness through positive change and healthy habits.