Change is hard.
You’ll meet a lot of people who’ll tell you that it isn’t, that if only you have the right mindset and enough determination, you can do anything. I’m a firm believer that you CAN do what you most want to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
If you’ve been struggling to change yourself or your life in some way, don’t beat yourself up! It isn’t because something’s wrong with you. It’s because change really and truly is difficult, even when we’re desperately unhappy with the way things are and see clearly how we want to be different.
The first step towards changing is to accept that it’s an uphill battle. Not an unwinnable battle, not an impossible battle, but a difficult one that requires courage and strength to succeed at.
The key towards winning any battle is to know your enemy, and that’s true even when the enemy is something intangible like fear. In this blog post, I’m going to look at some of the reasons change and growth are so hard and give you a few strategies for success.Change is so hard for two reasons: it can inspire uncomfortable feelings within you and it can make the people who know and love you best uncomfortable enough to try to undo it. #lifecoaching Click To Tweet
The #1 reason that change is difficult is that we don’t live in a vacuum.
You didn’t develop the habits, beliefs, and personality traits you did for no reason. Your genetics played a role — but so did your life circumstances.
Some behaviors develop in response to problems. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a big issue like drug addiction, but it can be true of anyone. Sometimes we do things to avoid feeling pain or to solve some problem, and then we outgrow the situation but keep the behavior.
In addition, we tend to surround ourselves with people who are like us — people who have the same kinds of feelings, opinions, and behaviors. But when we change, it sometimes calls those relationships into question because we are no longer like the people we’ve loved for a long time.
How to Deal With Yourself When You Want to Change
When you decide to make major changes in your life, it can make you feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, you might feel sad, angry, or afraid because of the changes you’ve decided to make.
This might seem weird. After all, you’re making changes in your life because you’ve decided that your new way of being will make you happier! But if you think about the fact that your old behavior developed for a reason, it makes sense.
Sometimes, your habits protected you from things in your life that made you unhappy or angry and that you felt powerless to do anything about. So when you change those habits… BOOM! Those negative feelings come back.
If this is happening to you, it may be helpful to speak to a coach or a therapist. But there are also things you can do on your own:
- Keep a journal. Write down your feelings when they occur. This can help you express yourself in addition to helping you begin to see patterns and get a handle on what’s causing you to feel that way. Processing your feelings through writing can also loosen their hold on you.
- Meditate. Meditation isn’t just for people who follow Buddhist teachings. Lots of people use meditation to help them stay centered throughout the day. The simplest type of meditation involves just closing your eyes and focusing on your breath going in and out for a few minutes. When I’m dealing with painful feelings, I like to do a more complex meditation:
- Close your eyes and focus on the emotion you are feeling. Try to locate the emotion in your body. For example, you may feel anxious feelings in your stomach or anger in your throat.
- Breathe in and out while focusing on the feeling. As you breathe, in your head say to yourself, I fully accept that I feel ____ [fill in the blank]
- As you continue to breathe, in your head ask the feeling if it has any message for you. Breathe in and out and listen closely for the message behind the feeling.
- After you get a sense of what the feeling is telling you, thank the feeling. Breathe in and out a few more times and then open your eyes.
- Write, draw, or play music. If you are artistic or musical, sometimes expressing your feelings through your chosen art form can help you process them.
These techniques can help you process negative feelings so that you keep moving forward on your new path.
How to Deal With Friends and Family When You Want to Change
The tricky thing about change is that your friends and family may be as scared as you are!
Often, other people see the changes you’re making in your life differently than you do. While you feel you’re getting healthier and doing things that make you happier, they may feel this isn’t the “real you” or that you’re doing things that are unhealthy.
In some cases, they also may fear that your new attitude means something bad about them. Sometimes people worry that you won’t think they’re good enough to be your friends anymore if you change in certain respects or feel guilty about continuing to engage in behaviors that you don’t engage in anymore.There is a difference between people discouraging your new self and people actively sabotaging it. If someone is deliberately trying to pull you down when you start rising up, that is not a healthy person to be around. #lifecoaching Click To Tweet
In many ways, this can be harder than dealing with your own fears. We all like to think that other people’s opinions don’t affect us, but it’s hard to keep moving forward when it means you might be moving forward alone.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though! There are definitely things you can do about this kind of problem.
- Talk with your friends and family. Explain why you are making certain changes in your life and reassure them that they are still important to you. Explain how they can help support you while you are making these changes. Sometimes knowing that they are an important part of your support system can help the people who care about you feel more secure about the changes you’re making.
- Avoid people who are truly toxic. The question of whether someone is just scared or is actively trying to poison your success in life could fill an entire blog of its own. But for now, if someone is constantly tearing you down, making you feel bad about yourself, or trying to tempt you back into behaviors that you’re serious about leaving behind, you might want to consider leaving them behind! This is not an easy decision to make and shouldn’t be made lightly, but if you pay attention to how the people around you make you feel about yourself, you can more easily decide who deserves a prominent place in your life.
- Remind yourself of why you’re doing this. Put up pictures or words on your walls that remind you of the reason you’re doing what you’re doing. When someone else’s reaction shakes your confidence, looking at your reminders can help you realize that you really do want this no matter what anyone else has to say about it.
The bottom line is that change is harder than it looks. Books and movies are full of people who struggle heroically to become something specific, and you are no less heroic when you undertake the journey of letting go of behaviors that no longer fit you.
Have you ever struggled to change some aspect of yourself? Share your story in the comments below — you just might inspire other readers to keep going on their own change journeys!
About Jack A. Ori, MSW
Jack A Ori is a life coach and author who empowers young adults to live life on their own terms through stories. He currently offers one-on-one coaching to young adults who want to create more fulfilling and authentic lives for themselves as well as to parents who want help supporting their children’s transition into adulthood. Jack is also the author of Reinventing Hannah, a novel about a 16-year-old girl who struggles to reinvent herself positively after she is raped at a party, and Rewrite Your Life Script, a self-help book for those who want to make serious changes in their lives.