When and how to challenge a belief

In brief:

When beliefs are not serving you well – when they’re causing you unnecessary anxiety or making you “less you”, it’s worth examining them to determine where they came from and whether or not they hold up against more objective criteria.

Ask yourself:

  1. Where did this belief come from – as explored in Episode 6, beliefs come from a variety of sources and we often internalise beliefs we gathered from others.
  2. What other beliefs do I need to subscribe to in order to hold this belief in place?

In detail:

Beliefs are shaped by our experiences and then go on to shape our experiences. This means your version of reality can literally be altered by your beliefs. Think of the differences between someone with a fear of heights and someone exhilarated by them. Stand them side by side on the top of a building. Same situation. Different beliefs. Different experiences.

Someone with a fear of heights might benefit from working out what the belief is that underpins the fear, the “central belief” about heights.

Where did it come from? An experience? Someone else’s fear? An association with something else? etc.

Imagine the central belief to be the centre of a spider web. It needs an infrastructure – the rest of the web – to support it. Central beliefs can’t stand on their own. ¬†They need other, satellite beliefs to support them and hold them in place. Often the central belief feels too difficult to tackle head on so the satellite beliefs can provide a great starting point.

In the podcast, I use an example based on my own experience but here, let’s stick with the fear of heights. Let’s say your father was afraid of heights and you internalised that fear and the corresponding central belief.

What other beliefs might be required to hold the fear in place?

  • My dad is right about everything?
  • If my dad was scared, I must be scared too?
  • I use my dad’s experiences to shape my own? etc.

Whatever the satellite beliefs, they’re usually blatantly flawed and therefore far easier to challenge.

If you can’t subscribe to the satellite beliefs, you weaken the structure of the central belief and can start challenging it more consciously.

So what?

Not all beliefs need to be examined and challenged. When elements of your life feel misaligned, you feel overly anxious or chronically stressed, it’s likely there is benefit in examining the beliefs driving your choices and behaviour.

By challenging – and possibly changing – the belief, you’ll notice new choices become available to you, in terms of what is true and not true, what is possible for you and what might happen if you take a particular course of action. These could shape your experiences in new ways and lead to greater alignment with your values and stronger feelings of satisfaction.


I am not a psychologist. The information in this blog and the accompanying podcast is based on my experience and learning and should not be taken as therapeutic advice.






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