Breaking Belittling Beliefs

Cory Mazure | 19 Mar, 2023

Were your parents right when they said “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right?” Or was it just another stupid saying that has been passed down for generations? In this article we’re going to take a deep dive into how exactly the beliefs you possess can shape the outcome of your life.

We’ll start by looking at how I’ve seen my beliefs influence my own development. All through my childhood, I was deeply engaged in golf. It all started when I was 5 years old and would see my dad get excited about going out with his friends for a round. I started to watch golf tournaments on TV and see the greats like Tiger Woods winning million dollar tournaments and would putt in my basement to get a feeling of what it would be like to be him. I started to get lessons and joined a junior league. At the time I was playing golf not only to have fun, but to become the best. I was a very competitive child and would not enjoy myself unless I was doing well. As I grew up, so did my obsession for the game. I started to join junior tournaments and eventually found my way into high school golf. Reflecting on my relationship with the game, it is now clear that it was becoming unhealthy. When I was in a tournament, I was dialed in. I would barely conversate with the other players in my group, it was all business. I wanted to be the best and would not let any thought enter my mind which could interfere with that. 

Unfortunately, this mindset also transferred over to social rounds. When I was out with my dad or a group of friends, I began taking it too seriously. I had such high standards for myself that I would get extremely frustrated when I was not performing well. Even if my friends and I were just there to have fun, a part of me was still trying to perfect my game. The problem got worse and worse overtime. It started with me mentally beating myself up in frustration, and progressed to me verbally assaulting the golf course and abusing my golf equipment in the process. In a high school tournament, after missing a 4 foot putt to shoot one of my best rounds of the year, I launched my golf ball into the woods and punted my golf bag like I was a NFL kicker. Later that year, I was playing with my dad and had another violent outbreak. Although I was playing well and was out scoring him, I was not scoring to my self defined standards. After blading a chip over the green, I screamed out in agony and used my wedge as a pickaxe and buried it deep into the fairway. In the heat of these moments, I was not self aware at the time to control my intense frustration. I would be so extremely disappointed in myself that I left myself no choice but to dissipate this negativity through my actions. It never made me feel better, and always led to further bad performance. I would destroy my self confidence by belittling myself with remarks about how bad I was, and hang onto these thoughts while I was in a compromised emotional state. 

Luckily for me, I had people around myself who were willing to step in and help me break free of the mental prison I had constructed for myself. One day after a miserable round of golf, my dad sat me down and laid out the big picture. He showed me how I was behaving and where this behavior would lead to if I did not regain control over myself. He explained how although I was in a competitive season of golf, there is much more to the game, and that I would isolate my friends and family from wanting to play with me if I continued to act out my emotions on the course. I was ashamed of myself for how I was behaving and knew he was right. Something needed to change about my behavior, and it was now my job to understand how to make that happen. Through a long process of self exploration, I found the root of my problems. What I discovered not only helped me gain clarity on what went wrong in golf, but was also transferable to all areas of life where I sought to perform well. At the root of my poor behavior lied an unhealthy relationship with myself which was continuously reinforced by belittling beliefs. 

Through this article, I will take you through the journey I went on to analyze this problem, and how I began to fix it on and off the golf course. 

Define Your Problem 

If you want any hope of solving a problem, you must first define it. Easier said than done. There are many ways you could define this problem. At the surface I could tell that I had a problem with anger and violent physical outbursts. Although this was true, they were not the problem themselves. These behaviors were simply a byproduct of a larger problem. In order to control my aggression, I had to analyze what was causing it in the first place. As I previously discussed, I had a perfectionist mindset which caused me to get mad at myself when I would not live up to standards. So there it is, the solution to my problem. If I was not a perfectionist, then my undesirable behaviors would go away! Not quite. I was not ready to give up my perfectionist mindset because it has pushed me to accomplish so much. If I stopped trying to be my best, I was afraid I may lose a core part of myself. There had to be a way to still try my best, but not let that belief lead to undesirable behavior. Now I was close to defining the problem. It was not necessarily the fact that I wanted to be the best, it was how I responded when I was not my best. I let actions like a missed putt or a bad drive cause a negative belief about myself. I would say I suck at this game or I will never be good enough to win a tournament. These beliefs I would tell to myself were in conflict with how I wanted to identify, which was a good golfer. With my ideal identity and my current beliefs in conflict, negative emotions came to the surface. I felt this inner conflict and let my emotions materialize into self destructive acts of violence. I was now confident that I discovered the root of my problem. To define it in plain english, I suffered from belittling beliefs about my abilities. A belittling belief is one which degrades your self worth and makes you believe you are not good enough to act in alignment with your intentions. 

The 4 R’s 

Understanding a problem is a big milestone. Many of us attempt to solve our problems when in reality we are off on a wild goose chase, trying to solve a symptom of that problem. Hopefully through my story, you can apply this logic to your own life and dig past undesirable behavior to find the beliefs that are driving it. Once we identify these beliefs and label them as problematic for the behaviors they promote, we must take strides to remove them from our lives. Knowing that I suffer from belittling beliefs does me no good if I continue to have them and the poor behavior that comes with it on the golf course. Finding a solution to this problem was extremely difficult and is a continual work in progress. Of all the things I tried, I have found just 4 steps which led to real results. If you want to break free of these belittling beliefs you have to abide by the 4 R’s: 

  • Raise your self awareness
  • Relax your stress response 
  • Recruit productive thinking 
  • Reframe your belief 


If you want any hope to solve this problem, you need to become self aware when it is occurring. If you are able to raise your self awareness and recognize when you are belittling yourself and acting out of alignment with your desired behavior, then you can proceed through the rest of the exercise. If you stay unconscious through your tantrums, there is nothing I can do to help you. You would have to rely on an external source to wake you back up and I can not be there for you everytime you belittle yourself. At first, you may not be able to identify the belief itself which is triggering the bad behavior. You may be only conscious of the bad behavior. This is okay, and still a strong starting point. If you can at least identify you are doing something undesirable, you can move onto the next step. 


Relax your stress response. When we have a belittling belief, it will typically trigger our stress response and promote a fight or flight. I always chose to fight. My stress response led to the release of energy expressed through anger, but you may find yourself wanting to run away from your belief. If you are in a social situation and try to tell a joke but it does not land, you may have a voice in your head telling you how stupid you are and how you will never make any friends if you continue to act this way. This belittling inner critic might convince you this is true, and prompt you to get the hell out of the situation by igniting your stress response. In the presence of this completely natural phenomenon, you must approach the situation from a heightened state of self awareness, and employ a relaxation exercise to get back down to earth. A simple breathing exercise where you breathe in then exhale through your nose for 5 breaths has been scientifically proven to counteract our stress response and get us back into a relaxed state. Simply exhale longer than you inhale and before you know it you will be back in control of your emotions. 


Assuming you are able to identify the belief and mitigate the stress response it triggered, you are well on way to overcoming it for good. There are just two steps left for eradicating this belief from your life. Now you must recruit productive thinking, which simply means to replace the belittling beliefs with productive beliefs that encourage progress. If I pull a drive into the woods, I may belittle myself for not living up to my potential and get angry at the fact I have to take a penalty stroke, but if I am able to focus on my breathe and relax, I must shift my focus back onto something productive, which is how to deal with the situation I left myself with. No amount of complaining or slamming golf clubs will make my game improve. I must accept the conditions I put myself in, and think productively about what is my best course of action from here. If you told a bad joke in the social situation and are now in a calm headspace from your breathing exercise, you can shift your focus on productive thoughts for how to get back into the conversation and still make a good impression. The bottom line is, whatever you did to cause a belittling belief is in the past, and you have to accept the conditions you are faced with. In the presence of the current situation, you need a clear mind to think objectively and move forward to still be the person you desire to be. 


The last step is to reframe your belief from a growth mindset. When I miss a putt and automatically tell myself I am worthless and a pathetic golfer, I need to replace that with the belief that I have more work to do in order to be as good as I want. I need to tell myself that through focused concentration and repetition, I can make more of these putts in the future. A growth mindset is one where you believe that you can become better and grow into the person you desire to become. If you suffer from a belittling belief, it is pulling you into victimhood and away from the path of growth. Once you establish a productive thought of how you are going to proceed in the current situation, cap it off with reaffirming to yourself that you are in control and can grow into a better person. 

The only way growth occurs is through intentional action, which is impossible in the face of a high stress response. By following these 4 steps, you will be able to mitigate the damage of belittling beliefs and begin to replace them with more empowering ones, raising your performance and growing into what you know you are capable of. 

The Power of Awareness 

If you have read my material before, you will recognize that this tool starts the same as every self help concept, and that is to raise your awareness. Awareness is all about recognizing the gap between who we intend to be, and how we are acting in the moment. All that life has to offer exists by shrinking this gap. None of the tips I provide in these articles will be of any service to you if you do not take self awareness seriously. It truly is the path to solving any personal problem you are facing in your life. Whether it be with belittling beliefs or another mental obstacle, the path to a desired future comes from a heightened awareness of our own condition. If you are looking for more practical tips on raising your self awareness, I suggest you check out this article on meditation, where we cover 5 different meditation styles for raising your self awareness. 

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