How To Recognize And Overcome Self Defeating Beliefs

We all have beliefs. Whether they’re about ourselves, the world around us, or our place in it, these thoughts and convictions form the foundation of how we see ourselves and interact with the world. For some people, their beliefs are empowering and help them achieve their goals. But for others, self-defeating beliefs can hold them back from reaching their potential and lead to a lot of unhappiness. In this post, we’ll go over how to recognize if you have any self-defeating beliefs and how to overcome them.

we are our worst critics

Do you ever feel like you’re your own worst enemy? Like, no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to get out of this negative mindset and shake off certain self-defeating beliefs?

Well, you’re not alone. In fact, most of us have at least a few of these belief patterns that hold us back in life.

As humans, we can be our harshest critics. We second-guess our every decision and punish ourselves for our mistakes. It’s easy to get caught up in negative self-talk, but we should try to be gentle with ourselves. We are, after all, only human.

The good news is, that once you become aware of these limiting beliefs, you can start to change them. And when you do, your life will transform for the better.

What are self defeating beliefs, and how do they hold us back in life

The majority of us have, to some degree or another, self-defeating beliefs that constitute a false belief system.

Self defeating or limiting beliefs are negative thoughts and beliefs that tell us we can’t do something or are not good enough to achieve our goals.

They’re the negative voices in our heads that say things like, “I’m not good enough,” “I’ll never be successful,” or “I don’t deserve happiness.”

They hold us back from taking risks and pursuing our dreams. And often, they’re based on nothing more than our own self-doubt.

Self-defeating thoughts can harm our self-esteem, mental health, and wellbeing. Negative thinking is at the root of both anxiety and depression, and self-defeating beliefs can fuel these destructive thought patterns.

If we believe we’re not good enough, we’re more likely to feel anxious and depressed. We may start to avoid situations that make us uncomfortable, which only reinforces our belief that we’re incapable of handling them.

Fortunately, with time and effort, we can overcome our self defeating beliefs. It takes work to change our thinking, but it is possible. With each step forward, we’ll gain a little more confidence in ourselves and our ability to achieve our goals. And eventually, we’ll find that self defeating thoughts and beliefs are no longer holding us back.

So, if you want to move forward in life, it’s essential to identify your self defeating beliefs and thoughts and work on changing them.

I guarantee that once you start seeing yourself more positively, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

>>Read more here to learn about “The Ten Most Common Limiting Beliefs That Hold Us Back.

self defeating beliefs

Where Do self defeating beliefs Come From? 

There are various causes of self defeating beliefs, but the most common ones are: 

Family and friends

We often develop self defeating beliefs based on what our family and friends say about us. If we’re constantly told that we’re not good enough or that we’ll never amount to anything, we start to believe it.

Past experiences

Our past experiences can also shape our self- defeating beliefs. If we’ve been rejected, failed, or hurt in the past, we may start to believe that we’re not worthy of love or success.


Society also has an impact on our negative self beliefs. We are constantly bombarded with messages telling us that we must look and act a certain way to be considered attractive and accepted. We are constantly exposed to unreachable standards of perfection, and these norms can make us feel inadequate.

But the truth is, there’s no such thing as perfect. You can achieve your goals even if you have flaws and imperfections. Nowadays, whenever I doubt my abilities, I try to remind myself of this. It has enabled me to let go of my perfectionism and start accomplishing things.

Signs that you have self defeating beliefs and need to get rid of them.

There are several indicators that you may have negative beliefs and thoughts that are causing you to engage in self defeating behavior that you need to overcome. If you notice any of the following signs, it is time to address your negative thoughts and beliefs:

  1. You’re not motivated to achieve your goals
  2. You procrastinate and put off taking action
  3. You have a negative attitude towards life and others
  4. You’re afraid of failure
  5. You doubt your abilities
  6. You give up easily
  7. You’re always looking for excuses
  8. You’re not open to new opportunities
  9. You’re negative and pessimistic
  10. You have a fixed mindset

If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to start working on changing your self defeating beliefs.

Remember, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. But first, you need to believe in yourself.

How to get rid of self defeating beliefs

Negative thoughts are like pesky little house guests. They overstay their welcome, make themselves comfortable, and you’re entertaining them full-time before you know it.

According to psychologist Albert Ellis, these unwanted thoughts are actually irrational beliefs. And like all beliefs, they’re just a matter of perspective.

The good news is that once you identify your irrational beliefs, you can start to change them. After all, our words, thoughts, and beliefs shape our reality.

Source: McLeod, S. A. (2019, January 11). Cognitive behavioral therapy. Simply Psychology

#1. Pay Attention to Triggers

The first step to stopping negative self-talk is figuring out what is triggering these negative beliefs in the first place. 

Albert Ellis called these so-called triggers “activating events.” These can be everyday problems and occurrences that happen to us or around us. Anything from having your boss or supervisor yell at you to experiencing a humiliating scene at an event can be an activating event.

So, what is triggering your negative self-talk? Are you in conflict with another? Did something not go your way?

Noticing the patterns in your thoughts can help you reframe them in a more helpful way. Paying attention to the form of your self-talk is also essential. The tone, words, and volume you use can make the situation better or worse. 

Once you figure out the source of your negative thoughts, you can start to work on changing them.

Paying attention to your triggers can help you anticipate them in the future and start to reframe them before the negative self-talk takes over. 

You can refrain from your negative thought with positive affirmations that better reflect who you are and what you’re capable of. For example, “I’m such a screw-up” becomes “I’m doing my best.”

Affirmations can also be used to cultivate many positive things, such as a growth mindset and an abundance mindset.

So, the next time something happens that sets off your negative self-talk, take a step back and ask yourself what just happened.

Chances are, you’ll be able to identify the trigger and start to reframe it in a more positive light.

Triggers can also be incredibly personal to you and unique to your life. These are sometimes referred to as “red flags.” Red flags are issues that pertain to you alone, such as your weight, family and close relationships, integrity, and anything else you deem sacred.

You become immediately alarmed whenever these issues are brought up. As a result, it’s critical to be aware of your red flags and have a plan in place for when they appear.

Working on changing your negative self-talk is a process, but it’s worth undertaking. 

Source: McLeod, S. A. (2019, January 11). Cognitive behavioral therapy. Simply Psychology.

#2. Identify Irrational Beliefs

The next step is to identify your irrational beliefs. These are the thoughts that are responsible for your negative self-talk.

You know that feeling you get when something really bothersome happens, and then you can’t stop thinking about it? Or how about when something small sets you off and you get angry or upset, even though you know it’s not a big deal?

Albert Ellis claims that our own irrational beliefs are what trigger these reactions. Ellis claimed that it’s not the trigger that causes the negative self-talk and emotional states but rather the beliefs we hold about the trigger.

In this way, by identifying and then changing these beliefs, we can experience fewer negative consequences. 

For example, let’s look at this process:

  • You just learned that you got turned down for a promotion at work.
  • You start thinking, “This always happens to me. I’m never going to get ahead.”
  • You feel angry and frustrated.

In this example, the activating event was you being turned down for the promotion. But it’s not the event itself that caused the negative self-talk and emotional state. Instead, it’s the belief that “this always happens to me” and “I’m never going to get ahead.”

Here are some other common irrational beliefs:

  • Everyone has to like me and agree with my decisions.
  • Other people must treat me fairly.
  • I can’t stand it when things aren’t going my way.
  • I need to have things under control at all times.
  • Disagreements mean somebody is wrong, and somebody is right.

#3. Dispute these Irrational Beliefs

These beliefs are what caused the negative self-talk and emotions. If we change these beliefs, we can change how we react to the event.

So, when something happens that sets off your negative self-talk, take a step back and ask yourself what you’re really upset about. 

What is the belief that’s causing this reaction?

You can then start to dispute this belief by asking yourself questions that will challenge the validity of the belief.

For example, going back to the promotion example:

  • I got turned down for a promotion.
  • My beliefs are “this always happens to me” and “I’m never going to get ahead.”

To dispute these beliefs, I can ask myself questions such as:

  • Has this always happened to me?
  • What evidence do I have that supports this belief?
  • What evidence do I have that disproves this belief?
  • What are some other possible explanations for what happened?
  • What is the worst thing that could happen if this is true?
  • How likely is it that this will actually happen?
  • What can I do to prevent this from happening?
  • How can I cope with this if it does happen?

By asking these questions, we can see that our beliefs might not be accurate. We can also develop a plan for what to do if the worst-case scenario does happen.

#4. Replace the Irrational Belief with a More Rational One

Now that you’ve identified and disputed your irrational beliefs, it’s time to replace them with more rational ones.

This process is similar to the one you used to dispute your beliefs. But instead of asking questions that challenge the validity of your assumptions, you’ll be asking questions that will help you develop a more realistic and positive belief.

For example, continuing with the promotion example:

  • I got turned down for a promotion.
  • My old beliefs were “this always happens to me” and “I’m never going to get ahead.”

To develop more rational beliefs, I can ask myself questions such as:

  • What is the evidence that this doesn’t always happen to me?
  • What are some things I’ve done in the past that have led to success?
  • What is the evidence that I can get ahead?
  • What are some things I can do to increase my chances of getting promoted?
  • What worst thing could happen if I don’t get promoted?
  • How likely is it that this will actually happen?
  • What can I do to prevent this from happening?
  • How can I cope with this if it does happen?

We can develop a more healthy mindset by creating more realistic and positive beliefs about the situation by asking these questions. We can also devise a plan for what to do if the worst-case scenario happens.

#5. Accept the Things You Can’t Change

There are some things you won’t be able to change no matter how much you want. In these cases, the only thing you can do is accept the situation and move on.

Continuing with the promotion example:

Let’s say you didn’t get the promotion you wanted because someone else was more qualified for the position.

  • You’ve disputed your irrational beliefs and replaced them with more rational ones.
  • But you still can’t change the fact that someone else is more qualified than you.

In this case, the only thing you can do is accept the situation and move on.

Acceptance doesn’t mean that you have to be happy about the situation. It just means that you’re willing to accept it and move on.

The goal is to focus on the things you can change and take action to improve your situation. Dwelling on things you can’t change will only make you feel worse.

As a result, the best approach is to try to see the bright side of any situation you can’t change, accept it, and move on. That is part of having a healthy mindset.

Self-defeating beliefs can be challenging to overcome. But with a little effort, you can start to identify and dispute your irrational beliefs. You can also replace them with more rational ones. And you can learn to accept the things that you can’t change.

By taking these steps, you can start to overcome your self defeating behaviours and live a happier, more abundant, and more fulfilling life. And if you don’t want to do it all alone, don’t worry, you can go for therapy. It’s a great way to get help and support from someone who knows what they’re doing.

Final thoughts

So, what is self defeating beliefs? We’ve seen that they can be negative thoughts and emotions that hold us back from reaching our goals. They can come from various sources, including our families, friends, or society including the media.

But the good news is that we can get rid of them!

The first step is recognizing when you have them and then actively working to change your thinking. With a little bit of effort, you can banish those pesky self defeating beliefs for good and finally start living the life you want.

Have you struggled with any self defeating beliefs? How did you get rid of them? Let us know in the comments below!

>>Read more: How to Develop an Abundance Mindset: 20 Exercises for a Happier and More Successful Life

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