What you are REALLY afraid of

Fear | Kelly Brealey | Blog


A core belief is an unconscious concept, which drastically dictates the way we conduct our lives. They can be either positive, or negative, however, it is the negative ones that cause us issues.

A negative core belief is not a belief we want to have – it is something that has developed from experiences, and/or bestowed upon us by a parent, teacher, or even a stranger.

It is a construct which we unconsciously adopt, yet vehemently fight against in a conscious way.

Each core belief carries with it a set of supporting beliefs in addition to a rigid set of rules regarding the way we move through the world. The rules also dictate how we expect others to treat us.

There are many different core beliefs, and we can often hold more than one.

As such, we conduct our lives in a manner that ensures we do anything to avoid proving that core belief, or only behaving in such a way that refutes it. We constantly struggle to do, and be, the OPPOSITE of what our core belief tells us.

Additionally, the way we react to other people is based upon that core belief; if they say or do something we perceive as confirming our core belief, we are triggered to react – to push away any confirming evidence, as well as any of the feelings that are associated with it.

Without a doubt, the most common thing I hear from my clients is the belief they suffer from a “fear of failure.”

My belief is they suffer from hearing too much psychological jargon – because fear of failure is actually, NOT the real issue; fear of proving a core belief to be TRUE, is what we are really afraid of.

But it takes quite a lot of effort to get to the REAL fear – the core belief.


When my clients explore where they are stuck in their business, I ask them many questions to get to the bottom of what their core beliefs are, to understand their supporting beliefs, and to ascertain the “rules” that they live by in order to deny their core belief.

To discover your own core beliefs without the help of someone who is trained can be difficult. And isolating a core belief is not nice work to do. It hurts, it’s painful, and it doesn’t feel good. However, when you discover what it is that controls so much of your life, it is actually liberating, because you can then change it.

I will explain how I discovered my own core belief, and how I changed it, so that you too may do the same.

When I discovered my core belief, I did it from a bottom-up perspective. First, I identified my triggers. This took a while, as there were many, however, I will tell you what they were for me, and you can assess if they apply to you.

  • I had a habit of correcting people’s grammar and spelling – not that I am an expert in this in anyway, it was just something I felt compelled to do.

  • While I was speaking, if someone corrected me, I would google what I was saying to prove I was right.

  • Whenever I saw some-one I knew, graduate with their degree, or undertake something which required dedication and commitment, I felt a tinge of jealousy.

  • I have undertaken SOOO much study in my life – always onto the next course or next qualification.

  • When-ever anyone did anything similar to me, I would feel as though they had copied me, and I would resent them.

  • If I received a bad grade for an exam or an assignment, I would quit the course and find amazing reasons as to why I should not proceed with it.

  • My qualifications were never enough – I felt that if I had more credentials, people would respect me more.

I am sure you can see the pattern forming already...

When you look at your behaviour (the resultsof your core belief), you begin to identify the underlying issue.

Next, I addressed the feelings I had around each of my triggers. For example, if someone corrected me whilst I was speaking, I felt compelled to prove them wrong; literally! My body felt mildly anxious, and at times, I could even feel my face flush. It was imperative that person knew that I was not wrong – and I would even give a “So there!” after I proved myself. Looking back now, I felt my behaviour was so childish – but I will get to that.

There was one time when a dear friend (who is non-medical) was talking with us over a glass of wine. She had said “I was so horrified, I just wanted to curl up in the faecal position and die!”

My husband, who is in the medical field, let the comment slide as to not cause our friend any embarrassment; not me. I pointed out that what she meant to say was the “Foetal position”, as faecal means poop. I felt it was my place to correct her, as I knew better, and I was doing her a favour by doing so. Wasn’t she lucky she had me there to save her any embarrassment??

She was so mortified at her faux pas, and I was left feeling as though I should have been the one curled up into the faecal position, because I felt like shit for humiliating her. I even asked my-self why I felt the need to do that? Was it that important? Why did I humiliate her, just to show that I knew more?

One more example is when a friend started a new degree at Uni. I was very happy for her, yet I remembered feeling as though I needed to go back to Uni, too. I didn’t know why I felt that way – I had been a Uni student three times and disliked it so much each time that I quit my degrees! I just never seemed to feel as though I was enough, just the way I was. I was always looking for the next “big thing.”

And it was exhausting, not to mention expensive.

In assessing each of the feelings and thoughts around these examples, I asked my-self more questions. Like an incessant four-year-old, I kept asking “WHY?”

Why does that make me feel bad? Why is that so bad? What is so bad about that? What does that mean about me?

And by drilling down with question after question, I arrived at an answer that when I said it, I felt as though I had been punched in the chest – that is how I knew I had reached the bottom of what my issue was; I found my core beliefs.

I am not smart. I am not good enough. I am unlovable.

My supporting beliefs were; I need to be smart for people to like me. If I’m not smart, I am nothing. People don’t take me seriously because they think I’m unintelligent. People will try to take advantage of me if they think I’m stupid.

My rules that I put in place to ensure that my core belief wasn’t supported were;

People must not make me feel that I am not smart. If they do, I must correct them. If someone says something which is incorrect, to show them I am smart, I will correct them. People will not think they can pull the wool over my eyes, because I demonstrate how smart I am. People will admire me and all of my qualifications because they are proof that I am smart. If some-one tries to correct me, I will offer proof that I am right.

These are just a few examples from my own learning. Can you see how exhausting and illogical all of this can be? And how we can react inappropriately to someone if we perceive them to have broken one of our unspoken, unconscious, personal rules?

These core beliefs are usually formed in childhood or adolescence – which is why our enactment of them can be so childish.

Realising that what we fear most is actually encountering ANYTHING that proves our core belief to be true. As a result, we avoid any situation where we believe there is a threat of that happening, and push away or react to any event which may do the same. Our lives become dedicated to the pursuit of things which oppose our beliefs – which is why we become blocked to success; instead of focusing on our goals, we focus on not confirming that deeply held, hurtful, core belief.

If you would like help to identify what it is that is holding you back from success, I offer Self-exploration sessions. These are a 1:1, private session where I will ask you many questions to find out what your core belief is, and how it impacting your business, your life, and your success.

Kelly Brealey

Business Mindset Coach