Three Reasons Why Implementing Change is Hard
As we move through our healing journey, we may start to recognize that there are patterns or behaviors in our lives that are no longer serving us. When we start gaining this awareness, we may start to think about changes we would like to make, so we can start improving our lives. Often, we feel motivated to start making these changes because we know that our overall well-being will benefit. As time goes by, we may start to realize that we are doing our best to create shifts in our life, but the changes don’t seem to be sticking. We may start to worry that something is wrong with us. We might start comparing ourselves to others, experience feelings of shame or guilt, or we may shut down and tell ourselves that it might be easier to just give up. Change can be challenging even when we know it’s healthy for us. Here are some reasons why we may struggle making changes.
1. Old patterns, old behaviors, and old beliefs may actually be serving us in ways that we don’t recognize. These are sometimes referred to as secondary gains. Even though we know we would benefit from shifting away from these patterns, behaviors, or beliefs, there may be some advantages that are subconscious. Does it give me a sense of belonging? Do these behaviors lead to care and support that I worry I may not receive otherwise? How might this pattern be meeting my needs?Do these patterns make me feel needed which gives me a sense of worth? Does holding this belief provide a form of protection? Once we start to acknowledge the ways in which patterns or habits might be serving us, we can begin to unpack our subconscious and explore what behaviors may be healthier for us. It may be that we need to address some of our fears. We may also need to look for a new habit or pattern to help us meet those needs rather than just stopping the behavior on its own.
2. There are are also what is referred to as secondary losses. Will making these changes lead to any losses in your life? Would it mean that you can no longer tolerate working in an environment that you know is leading to burnout, but has provided a sense of stability? Would holding healthy boundaries mean losing certain relationships? Would it mean I stop recognizing myself and who I have known myself to always be? Sometimes there can be feelings of uncertainty of what might happen if we make these changes. Because we can’t predict the future, the uncertainty may prevent us from making the changes that we want. To move forward, we need to ask ourselves about the potential losses. We may hold beliefs about these changes that aren’t true. There may be some losses that we will need to process and grieve before we can move into acceptance.
3. Another challenge of making shifts in our lives is because sometimes it’s easier to just continue doing the same thing that we have always done. These habits, patterns, beliefs, or behaviors have been a part of us for as long as we can remember. It can be hard to let go when it feels familiar. Sometimes familiarity is mistaken for safety. To explore how these patterns or beliefs have shown up in our lives, we can ask questions such as, “how has this behavior helped me to cope during certain times in my life?” “How did this particular behavior help me while I was growing up?” “Was it a way to protect myself?” “Did it help me to reduce stress in a chaotic situation growing up?” “Do these patterns or behaviors feel safe because they feel familiar?” It can be easy to be critical of or judge ourselves for patterns or beliefs that continue to show up in our lives. Sometimes we need to make peace with or honor the ways in which habits or behaviors have helped us throughout our lives. We can have empathy for what we didn’t know and remind ourselves that we now know healthier options to help us move through life.
You may hear from some people that making changes is easy and all you need to do is put your mind to it. This may be the case for some, but not for everyone. Healing is a journey, not a destination. We may have periods of time where we feel confident in the changes we have made in our lives, and the next day we can feel like we are back at square one. As frustrating as it can be, change takes time. Give yourself grace and know that one moment, one day, or one year of regressing doesn’t erase the hard work you have done. Sometimes we need support from friends or family, and sometimes we need professional support to help us get to where we want in life. I would be honored to be a part of your journey.