I know quite a few people who are reluctant to change. Change means letting go of what is comfortable, letting someone else influence of some aspect of my life, or admitting failure at what I am doing. When I dig down deeper into this resistance to change, it usually comes down to fear, stubbornness and pride. Generally speaking these are not traits folks crochet on pillows. I’ve learned to deconstruct them in order to sustain my wellness.
Fear. One of the only things I dislike more than being afraid is admitting I’m afraid. It is much simpler to consider all the benefits of maintaining the status quo than to think I am scared to make a change. If I do something to rock the boat then the consequences are on me. How silly would I feel if my new situation is worse than my current one? If I leave it to the universe to initiate the change I know it is “meant to happen”. That way I am off the hook for the outcome.
Fear exists to protect me from danger. However, when I allow it to be overprotective it keeps me in a gilded cage.
The problem with functioning in fear is it makes me lie to myself. I don’t compare the subpar present situation to the amazing possibilities. Instead, I assume the outcome of a change will be the worst case scenario. I convince myself quitting the steady, high-paying job will lead me into debt and despair which will ruin my relationships with my friends and family. I don’t consider that building a life that feeds my soul will make me successful in all aspects of it. I would be a stone-cold liar if I said I don’t get scared about change any more. However, now I acknowledge the experience of fear so I can disempower it and move past it much faster.
Stubbornness. I’m very strong-willed and kind of a know-it-all. I have never been one to follow the crowd because I hate to think I am impressionable. At times this has kept me from making changes that were clearly for my own good, just because it was someone else who suggested it. The most common response I give is some version of, “That sounds like a great idea…for someone else.”
It’s that inner 5 year-old who refuses help getting dressed. I get it done eventually, but it takes so much longer than necessary.
There is a complicated dance between being open to new opportunities and being coerced to do something someone else thinks is beneficial. The key is to use a consistent standard against which I measure my options. When something is on purpose for me, I know it. I am able to assess whether my hesitancy to change is due to close-minded stubbornness or because it conflicts with the most basic motivations for everything I do in life. Having that clarity makes all the difference.
Pride. For years I believed needing a change was an admission of failure on my part. Pride says, “If I am doing everything right, why would I need to change anything?” There is a flaw in that reasoning. For instance, changing from stilettos to running shoes when I go to the gym after work is an appropriate adjustment to a new environment. It’s not an overall indictment of my high heels.There are also times when I really have messed up and need a do-over. There is no shame in acknowledging that.
Life is about learning and growing.
Nothing is gained from sticking with a wrong decision purely out of vanity. When it is in my power, I swallow my pride to make a change for the better. However, it does soften the blow to my pride to consider myself “innovating” rather than “having to start over”. My ego is right up there with fear in its attempt to protect me.
Traditionally for me, change happens when the desire to have or be something different trumps my reasons for not taking action. Now I recognize many very good reasons are excuses in disguise. When I rip off the mask and see the truth, there is rarely anything more important than my own well-being.
What protective mechanisms do you employ to keep from making needed changes? How could your life be better if you ignored them and changed anyway?
Editor’s note: To see how Dr. Senesie made a major change in her life, here’s her bio.