unhealthy beliefs into healthy beliefs is one of the factors
associated with attaining and maintaining true happiness. If
you’ve decided to make changes to your system of beliefs,
the first step is to identify which beliefs to change.
identify which beliefs to change, on a piece of paper, in
your journal or computer, list all of the beliefs you think
are unhealthy for you (beliefs that work against your happiness,
are limiting, self-defeating, or negative). They don’t
have to be in any particular order just yet. Simply list
them from our list, as you think of them, or as you come
across them in your daily life. You can find an updated list
of common unhealthy beliefs here:
listing of common negative beliefs.
you are having difficulty identifying some, or all of your
unhealthy beliefs (some will be easy to identify, others may
not), here are a few suggestions to help you uncover them:
you find yourself feeling nervous, ask yourself, “What,
in this situation or circumstance, is making me feel
nervous? Why am I feeling nervous? What am I afraid of?
What worst case scenario do I fear may come true?”
you are feeling nervous, most often there is a belief,
or system of beliefs, that is causing you fear (we become
nervous when we are afraid that some potentially negative
outcome may occur).
example, Patrick is nervous when in new social settings.
As he began to challenge his system of beliefs, he discovered
that he becomes nervous because he has two unhealthy beliefs
that cause him fear. One belief that states, “I NEED
everyone to like me,” and a second belief that states, “If
someone doesn’t like me, that means there’s something
wrong with ME.”
with these two beliefs (that he BELIEVES ARE TRUE), his fear
is that someone may not like him, and if someone doesn’t
like him, his worst fear comes true—that there IS something
wrong with him.
it is natural to want to be liked by others, it’s unrealistic
that everyone is going to like us. It’s also unhealthy
to have our self-worth contingent upon whether others like
us or not. You can see why these beliefs are unhealthy for
Patrick (they cause him stress, are limiting and negative,
and restrict his happiness).
the beliefs Patrick has, naturally he would be fearfully
nervous in new social settings.
you find yourself worrying, ask yourself, “What
is causing me to worry? Why am I fearful? What am I afraid
of? What worst case scenario do I worry about coming
try to identify the unhealthy belief(s) that are causing
you fear. There may be one, or many. Do your best to uncover
what they are and how many may be inter-playing.
example, Catherine continually worries about her future (whether
she will be able to support herself, find the right man,
get married, have a family, or whether things will work out
for her at all).
Catherine uncovered some of her unhealthy beliefs associated
with her worry, she discovered she had four unhealthy beliefs
working together. One, “Things aren’t going to
work out for me,” two, “I’m not smart enough
to succeed,” three, “I’m not pretty enough,
so nobody is going to love me,” and four, “My
future is already predetermined. It’s not good and
I can’t do anything about it.”
these unhealthy beliefs are true would cause anyone to worry
and live fearfully and pessimistically.
your quiet moments, pay attention to what you are saying
to yourself. If it is negative, self-critical, or self-defeating,
ask yourself, “Why am I saying this to myself?
Do I really believe this is true for, or about, me? What
is causing me to be so negative, self-critical, or self-defeating?”
your happy moments, do you self-sabotage your happiness? If
so, identify the negative messages you are saying to
yourself. Then, ask yourself, “Why am I doing
this? What beliefs are causing me to limit my happiness?
What am I afraid of?”
knew she lived pessimistically, but she didn’t realize
how negative she was until she caught herself limiting
and negating her happy moments. For example, at her grandmother’s
eighty-sixth birthday party, she was really having a good
time until she found herself thinking, “Don’t
get too happy, it’s not going to last. Something
awful is going to occur to ruin everything. Maybe my grandma
will die this year, and then how will I feel?”
are just a few suggestions to get the ball rolling. As you
become practiced identifying unhealthy and limiting beliefs,
they will become more obvious to you. Also, as you replace
unhealthy beliefs with healthier beliefs, you’ll begin
to notice other unhealthy beliefs. The process gets easier
the healthier you become.
week, we’d like you to become aware of, identify, and
list your unhealthy beliefs. As you do this, it’s a good
idea to write them down or type them out. Keeping a visual
record of them helps to free your mind of them and will help
you to see the positive results as you make changes to them
(which we’re going to begin next week).
as thorough as you can. This will give you good practice as
we move forward. Certainly, you’ll be adjusting your
list as you go, so if you miss some now, that’s okay.
Others will most likely surface later.
you next week.
For more information about anxiety
symptoms, see our Anxiety
NOTE: The Member's area of our website
contains a more comprehensive section on anxiety symptoms, including
completed descriptions, why they occur, and tips on how to get
rid of them.