For many people, the ability to make changes comes naturally, depending on the nature of the change. Trying a new food, learning a new task, making a new friend, starting a new job…these may just be part of daily life. For the most part though, we are merely changing what we are doing, where we are going, and it’s not too difficult.
What if, however, the change that needs to happen, is one on the inside? A change within the fabric of our being, and change in how we see ourselves in our core identity? Then the issue of change is difficult, even if we don’t like ourselves.
For one reason or another, we carry around an image of ourselves that is, for the most part, fairly stable and unchanging. If it is a pretty positive image of ourselves as confident and capable and worthy, then there probably won’t be much motivation or incentive to change. And of course, why should we?
But on the other hand, what if that self-image is one of incompetence, incapable, and unworthy? Perhaps this describes you or someone you know. You find yourself continuing to ask the question, ‘If that self-image isn’t working and causes so much distress, why does it hang around? Why can’t I just get over it and move on?’.
The issue is that if we do carry within ourselves a negative self-image, all of our behavior patterns and relationship patterns develop and are reinforced over and over again. This is because we choose people, friends, activities, etc. that feel familiar and comfortable, but ultimately only reinforce our sense of self.
To change, therefore, requires us to try something that feels so opposite of who we are, so that even if we know it might be good for us, ends up feeling really scary because we don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. Maybe we try some new way of being once or twice, but then on the third time we get a bad reaction from someone else, we’re tired, or whatever, we end up going back to the old comfortable ways again. This is because at least in the old comfortable ways, even if they don’t truly get us what we want, at least we know that we can take comfort in expected result. We know what will happen, because it has happened over and over and over again in our past experiences.
So how do we change ourselves? Well, there are several key ingredients. 1) We must be sufficiently fed up with the results we have been getting the old way. 2) We must have the support of someone we trust. 3) We must be willing to take some risks. 4) We must develop a sense of compassion for ourselves when new things don’t work perfectfly. 5) We must learn how to relax and calm ourselves.
As a therapist, I have walked with many people through the tough process of change, whether its to change old habits, old self-concepts, old behaviors, or old patterns. It is never easy, and there are many twists and turns in the road. It requires patience and trust in others and in yourself. But ultimately, the hard work is always worth it. And so are you.