Why is growth so difficult? How to get through change, even when it's good.
As the year ends, many of us look back with mixed emotions. Regardless of whether you judge your time as "good" or "bad", the fact remains that you changed in some way. Everyone changes from year to year, even if only minutely. The world is constantly in transition and we are all affected by it. If you lost someone or something, you changed; if you gained someone or something, you changed; if someone close to you lost or gained someone, you are affected because they are.
Being that we are constantly in flux, it seems funny that most of us would be afraid of change, even positive adjustments, in some way. But it's a natural fear of the unknown. We're creatures of habit, so when we don't know what's coming next we get excited, and maybe a bit anxious. Adrenalin pops in to say hello and prepare us for whatever dangers might be ahead. This is why transitions, even positive ones, can be hard to handle.
Sometimes growth is really difficult because it involves some type of loss. Ever had to dump a friend, lover, or spouse because they just didn't feel "right" for you anymore? Ever left a job for a new one or moved to a better neighborhood or another state or country for a new opportunity? All sorts of feelings pop up in these instances, and they usually involve excitement, anxiety, and sadness.
Guess what? Every single one of these feelings is PERFECTLY NORMAL. Many of us shit on ourselves about feeling the bad feelings, though. "I SHOULD feel happy. This is a GOOD thing, so WHY do I feel so scared and sad? I SHOULD stop feeling that way." These thoughts are a one-way ticket to feeling worse. The ironic thing is, the more you allow yourself to feel those bad feelings, the easier and faster you will move through them. And I don't mean wallowing in self-pity, staying in your bed all day. I mean giving yourself permission to feel the myriad of emotions that go along with growth and transition.
Here's an awesome excerpt from Melody Beattie's The Language of Letting Go. She uses the metaphor of growing out of things as a child to describe the feelings that go along with personal growth.
Just as when we were children and grew out of our favorite toys and clothes, we sometimes grow out of things as adults - people, jobs, homes. This can be confusing. We may wonder why someone or something that was so special and important to us last year doesn't fit the same way in our life today. We may wonder why our feelings have changed.
When we were children, we may have tried to fit an outgrown article of clothing on to our body. Now, as adults, we may go through a time of trying to force-fit attitudes that we have outgrown. We may need to do this to realize the truth. What worked last year, what was so important and special to us in times past, doesn't work anymore because we've changed. We've grown.
We can accept this as valid and important... We can let ourselves go through experimentation and grief as we struggle to make something fit, trying to figure out if indeed it no longer fits, and why. We can explore our feelings and thoughts around what has happened. Then, we can put last year's toys away and make room for the new.
The key points from this quote are: 1. Growth and change are permanent fixtures in our lives. 2. We can choose to let ourselves be just as we are while we move through the process.
Think of it this way: do you think it's right to tell others how they should feel? No? Does it make you feel any better when someone says "you should be happy!"? Didn't think so. Then why is it alright for you to tell yourself how you should feel? I know we all want to feel happy and great all the time because, well, it feels good! But that's just not how humans are. We experience the whole roller coaster of emotions and unfortunately, some of those feelings are difficult, even scary.
There's a lot of people in media and advertising telling you to "be fearless", usually with some incredible image like someone jumping out of a plane or diving off cliff. I'm willing to bet that the people doing those things are super afraid of doing what they're doing, they're just good at recognizing that fear goes hand-in-hand with excitement. It seems that instead of "be fearless", the mantra should be "don't let fear stop you." Because really, no one is fearless.
So I'm here to tell you: it's alright to feel tentative about any type of change. Everyone feels anxious at some point in their lives. Give yourself a break. Let yourself grow and unfold slowly. You'll find it's easier to move forward when you maneuver through those "bad feeling" obstacles, rather than try to pretend they don't exist.
Need a little extra help getting through a change? Hit me up for some transition coaching.