A self-defeating belief is an attitude that will hinder you from achieving success and happiness. It is often directly linked to the development of depression or anxiety and it may make you vulnerable to mood swings and/or conflicts in your personal relationships.
We all have belief systems; these are our personal philosophy on life and our value system. Basically, these are the rules that we guide our life with. Some are healthy while others will stop us in our tracks. For example, let us suppose you have this belief: “I must be productive to be a worthwhile person.” Lots of people have this belief because it goes back to the work ethic our society was founded on. The idea is that if you are lazy and unproductive, you are no good and people will look down on you. In contrast if you are hardworking and productive you a good and worthwhile person.
There are certain benefits to this mind-set. If you work hard and do your best, you will enjoy the benefits of your efforts. The more successful and productive you are, the more worthwhile you may feel. What happens when you stop to rest or try to have fun with a friend? All the sudden your belief system triggers negative thoughts of laziness, or that you are a burden to others. You feel pressure to keep working or find another home improvement project to start. But without proper rejuvenation then you become worn out and start to fail which may trigger feelings of depression and worthlessness. If you are not as successful as you think you should be, then you may feel inferior and jealous of others who have achieved more. Most of the self-destructive beliefs we develop are two sided, with a healthy productive side and an unhealthy destructive side.
The 10 most common self-defeating beliefs are:
Entitlement: “People should always be the way I expect them to be.”
Emotional Perfectionism: “I should always feel happy, confident, and in control of my emotions.”
Fear of Disapproval or Criticism: “I need everyone’s approval to be worthwhile.”
Performance Perfectionism: “I must never fail or make a mistake.”
Fear of Being Alone: “If I’m alone, then I am bound to feel miserable and unfulfilled.”
Perceived Perfectionism: “People will not love me and accept me as a flawed and vulnerable human being.”
Fear of Failure: “My worthwhileness depends on my achievements or my intelligence or my status or my attractiveness.”
Emotophobia: “I should not feel angry, anxious, inadequate, jealous or vulnerable.”
Fear of Rejection: “If I am not loved, then life is not worth living.”
Conflict Phobia: “People who love each other shouldn’t fight.”
Once you have identified your own self-defeating beliefs you can modify it into a healthy belief. To do that you take the belief and look at what are the benefits to the belief and what are the drawbacks? Then try to think of a new attitude that will maintain the advantages while removing the disadvantages. For example: "I must be productive and successful to be worthwhile" could be revised into: It’s great to work hard and be productive but my value as a human being does not depend on how successful I am. Sometimes I will be successful and sometimes I will not. That is part of being human.
This exercise can be challenging as beliefs are developed overtime and it is difficult to remove our own blinders to be able to challenge ourselves. If you have recognized some of your own self-defeating beliefs and are struggling to find the healthy alternative, it is time to make an appointment with a registered psychotherapist, as we are here to help!