Change is Scary
In my last article I wrote about the power of making small changes, and how these changes done consistently can lead to big results. I’ve been continuing to think about change, and have had many conversations with our Breakthrough members about changes they want to make in their lives. Even positive changes that we really want to make can be hard to accomplish. We can be in terrible pain, want to feel differently, and even have a pretty good idea of some simple things that might help, yet we don’t do them. Why?! Simply put, change is scary.
I believe fear is the number one reason that we humans stay stuck in any number of patterns we have outgrown, and are not helping us thrive. We might say we are “lazy”, are “too busy”, or “don’t have the willpower” to make the changes we desire. But the truth is, all statements of that nature are really just covering up fear. Here are some of the ways I have experienced, and witnessed fear as it relates to change:
Fear of the unknown - New is scary. The less we know about something, the more frightening it tends to be. When I meet with potential new Breakthrough members, people who have trained before, or who know someone who is already a member tend to have less nervousness than people who have never trained and don’t know anyone at the gym. Not because the former is more brave than the latter, but because there are fewer unknowns.
Fear of failure - Failure is scary because it can expose all the ways we worry we won’t measure up. What if I discover I can’t do what I set out to do? What if I can’t lift as heavy as I think I should be able to? What if I can’t keep up with the rest of the class? What if I make mistakes or embarrass myself? What if I say or do the wrong thing?
Fear of success - Similar to fear of the unknown, fear of success can keep us stuck in old ways because there are things about our current situation that we don’t want to lose. In order to succeed, will I have to give up everything I like about my life now? If I want to eat healthier, will I never be able to have birthday cake again? If I want to get better sleep, will I not be able to watch my favorite TV shows anymore?
Fear of other’s reactions - The thought of what other people might think of us if we become a different version of who we are can definitely cause fear. Will my friends support me if I want to start exercising a few days a week? Will my co-workers judge me if I start bringing my lunch instead of ordering take out with them? If I start cooking differently, will my family be angry with me? Will my household laugh, or disrespect my wishes if I want some quiet time for a meditation practice?
Fear of taking responsibility - Stepping up and advocating for yourself is scary because you become responsible for your own outcomes. There is no one left to blame. This is by no means an easy task. Despite statements like “self-care isn’t selfish” and “treat yourself” being popular on social media, the fact is our society doesn’t really understand or value what it truly means to take care of ourselves. It’s scary to set work boundaries because our livelihoods feel at risk. It’s scary to set personal boundaries because we don’t want to hurt or let down the people we love.
Fear of what we might discover - The bigger the changes we want to make, the greater the likelihood we will discover something challenging to face. We may come up against past traumas, old beliefs, and patterns that are terrifying to look at. This fear of what is under the surface is definitely strong enough to stop us from trying to make certain changes.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of the ways fear can hold us back, but it’s enough to get us thinking and asking some questions of ourselves. Or maybe enough to make us so scared we decide to give up on change altogether! Hopefully not, because change comes for all of us whether we want it or not, so having habits in place to navigate the inevitable is worthwhile indeed. As I’ve been spending time reflecting on this topic, I want to share some things that help me, and might help you too:
Seek out and name the fear - When I feel stuck, unable to take action on something I want or need to do, or not making progress with something, I look for the fear. What about this am I afraid of? What do I think will happen? Usually as soon as I can name the fear, it dissipates at least a little bit.
Remember it’s ok to be afraid - Fear is totally normal. I’ve learned over the years I will never win the battle of having “no fear”. So instead of trying to not be afraid, I allow myself to feel it, but remind myself that fear isn’t the only thing I can feel, and fear doesn’t have to stop me from doing something. I can be afraid and still move forward.
Reframe “failure” - If I can view “failures” as learning opportunities, they become way less scary. It’s not easy to do, but with practice and time we can learn valuable lessons from minor mishaps to downright train-wrecks. Mistakes are how we learn to do better the next time. Being afraid of making them either causes us to make even more, or keeps us stuck where we are so we cease to grow.
Let changes be as small as they need to be - If I’m feeling overwhelmed by a change I want to make, or something I want to accomplish, I look for ways to make it more manageable. I had a conversation recently with someone about nutrition changes, and sensed that the thought of making changes to every single meal in the week was causing anxiety. We kept breaking things down to smaller actions until we arrived at just making a couple adjustments to breakfast a few days of the week. Much less stressful and scary than trying to change too many things at once!
Ask for help - The bigger and scarier the change, the more help and support I might need. When I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes 9 years ago, I needed a lot of help, understanding, guidance and support from a variety of sources. When Caleb and I first decided to open Breakthrough 8 years ago, we needed lots of help from family, friends, clients and we also hired business coaches to mentor us. Asking for help can also come in the way of that scary “advocating for self-care” and creating some boundaries to give yourself space. And of course, big scary change might absolutely need to involve help from appropriate mental health professionals.
Improved health and fitness, strength gains, and body composition goals are all achieved by small changes, done consistently over long periods of time. It doesn’t really sound that scary... until we try to make those small changes. Allow yourself to be curious, treat yourself with kindness, let yourself make mistakes, and ask for help when you need it. It’s ok to be afraid, and still move forward.
Strength & Love,