Many of us are very uncomfortable with change, and even when we are ready and want to, we find that it is very hard to do or stick with it. Our brains, as well as our bodies, get stuck in patterns that are very hard to break. Additionally, for many of us, change is a “not safe” kind of thing. Mainly because somehow, we have convinced ourselves that change, emotional and personal, is bad. So the question begs: are we supposed to stay the same forever?
Obviously, the answer is NO, that is why today I would like to invite you to think about ways in which you are not allowing yourself to change, the reasons why you remain stuck either in a place in your life where you’d rather not be or with thoughts and behaviours that are standing in the way of you being the authentic amazing person that you were meant to be.
“Being your authentic self will take time and work and a lot of courage, but it is better to go through it now than to get to the end of your life and wonder “what would have happened if I had decided to really show up?”
In the quote above, I am paraphrasing Brene Brown (with whom I am obsessed). Reading about her research made me think of how we struggle with change. It allowed me to string together a series of variables involved in change. Variables such as self-awareness, issues from the past, mindsets, etc. all seem to be a part of our “stuckness”. Of course, we are complex beings, and as such we cannot look at change (which is also a complex process) unless we consider those variables. If you are ready to do this, this might be a good place to start.
1. Do you understand how nurture and your childhood have influenced your life? It is well known that we are the result of both nature and nurture, obviously here I want to address the influence of nurture. I am talking, of course, about life script, attachment style, our core beliefs and interpretation of the world around us. Have you thought recently about your core beliefs? Are you aware of which ones belong to you and which ones were passed on to you? What are some of the messages about you and the world that you picked up as a child? Have you checked and updated your defense mechanisms? Are you aware of your life script? How are the things you were told about yourself affecting or helping you today? Did you believe them? Do you still believe them? Why yes or why not?
2. What cognitive distortions do you hold about yourself and the world around you? Cognitive distortions keep us stuck because they lead us down a road of disconnection and self-deceit. The messages that we received as children (both intended and unintended) also contribute to the way we see life. Think for a bit about in which ways are you letting your beliefs take you down the road of rejection and loneliness? What is the story you are telling yourself about the way you are loved, cared for, or seen by others? In which ways are you stopping yourself from living the life you want to live because of the stories that you are telling yourself? Review your stories, challenge them and change them if they are hurting you.
3. What is your attachment style? Attachment styles play a big role in the way we connect with others especially because we pick it up in childhood and continue to apply it through life. It is the reason why we end up having the same relationship over and over just with different partners. This is a very deep and interesting venue to investigate, so I encourage you to look into it and discover what your attachment is. In a very simplified way, there are two kinds of attachment styles, secure or insecure. The insecure attachment style can be either: a) avoidant/dismissing, b) disorganized or c) anxious/preoccupied. When we operate from any of the three types of insecure styles, we are bound to run into disconnection, lack of intimacy, and of course unauthenticity. Click here to access a sample of the attachment assessment.
“Self-exploration is the way to take the armour off”
4. What armours do you wear when you feel threaten or vulnerable? This was a game-changer for me. Brene Brown in her books talks about the armours and the walls that we put around ourselves. She is referring to the behaviours that we engage in when we are uncomfortable and about to be “seen”, in other words when we are feeling vulnerable. If you have not read about this…you should. Some of the armours she mentions are cynicism, perfectionism, know-it-all attitude (which is common for those who value intelligence), and people-pleasing. Of course, technically there is no list because there are as many armours as people in this world, you have to find the one (s) you use. Ask yourself: How do I react when I feel vulnerable? Do I recognize the times when I feel exposed? What do I do when I feel exposed or seen? How did that behaviour serve you? What did you gain from it? How does it help you get what you want or need or deserve? What is the cost of it? What is the final cost of not saying what you really think?
”The armour weighs 100lbs, but the resentment you are left with when you are not authentic weighs 1000lbs”. Brene Brown
5. What is your comfort zone? Do you ever step outside of it? Do you have a fixed mindset about your skills and your capacities? If you do, how does it feel? Do you test yourself? Do you push yourself? I actually find that many of my clients are completely unable to name the feelings they have when they are uncomfortable. Is it the same as you? Are you able to differentiate the times when you are uncomfortable because you are afraid of the times when you are uncomfortable because the situation goes against your values? How able are you to override your comfort zone?
6. Do you know what kind of goals you are setting for yourself? Many don’t know that goals are either intrinsic or extrinsic. Extrinsic goals are based on rewards or external prices that we get such as recognition, or money, or acceptance. Needless to say, extrinsic goals only take us so far. On the other hand, intrinsic goals are based on what we want for ourselves, regardless of what others think or wish for us. To get a gold medal, to get into shape, to finish a degree, to become more self-aware, to have a great relationship. Caution with intrinsic goals can be tricky. If our goals all about a final outcome instead of focusing on the journey (as it is the case with the first three examples) and we are always setting up those kinds of goals, there will always be a gap (timewise) between achieving the goal and setting new ones, that gap can be painful, many lose themselves for a while in that battle. The questions “what’s next?” and “what else do I want?” can bring a few moments of confusion and loss of self-worth.
For the record, I know that none of these questions are neither simple nor easy to answer. If you are truly honest with yourself you will also find a lot of blind spots indicating areas where you really don’t know what is what you are doing to remain stuck, or prohibited from being who you really are or what you really want to do. In that case, I suggest you talk to someone you trust. This work has to be done with people that care for you and that love you. If you don’t have that then a qualified counsellor can help you.
In a PodCast, I heard John Assaraf describe the brain as an “organism that sees safety above all things.” I found that it matches what the research has found. He explained that when we start to think about anything we want to do and there is any potential or real danger, our brain will, as he put it, “put the brakes on” and stress levels will go up. This, of course, means that when we want to do something that is outside of our ‘normal’ we have to learn to override the natural tendency of our brain to self-protect. I know you have done it, it’s like when you first went on a plane, or when you go on a roller coaster, or skydiving or a slide at the water park. You get a rush and your heart starts to pound faster, you are afraid and in your head, you go through all the things that could go wrong, but you override it and do it anyways. In the same way, we are able to override our fears of being authentic, we just need to remember why is important that we do it… we are worth it.