Why and how to get out of our comfort zone?
Resisting the temptation to strangle your neighbor who pushes the decibels at three in the morning is wise, and resisting the urge to eat cake when you’re allergic to gluten is reasonable. But fighting against the changes needed to improve our lives and fulfill ourselves is an act of sabotage, often unconscious.
Resistance is, by definition, a fight, a struggle with the inside or outside of ourselves; we do it, at best, to protect ourselves or others. But we sometimes stand against ourselves, with the collaboration of our brain attached to our habits, to maintain us in our “comfort” zone, which has become harmful to our peace of mind.
To remain faithful to what gives us discomfort is, in this case, an irrational behavior controlled by our resistance to change.
Those in constant change and whose instability is inherent to their lifestyle are not exempt from this difficulty in making the transformations that would promote their well-being. For some, their escape from immobility is a habit whose ultimate goal is to keep their beliefs in place.
For example, experiencing emotional and affective insecurity at home in early childhood can lead the child, now an adult, to fly from the attachment inscribed in their unconscious as a source of danger.
There is nothing more comfortable for them (they do believe) than registering in this tumultuous area.
Why, when we feel trapped in alienating habits, do we resist the transformations that would free us from them? What prevents us from moving towards the best when we hope and pray for it in adversity?
Here are some explanations that will allow you to understand the issues of our resistance to change.
Then, some advice to let go of what keeps you in sometimes repetitive and uncomfortable situations, to consent to live your life.
Why do we resist change?
We resist change to remain faithful to our identity.
Our identity is what we give of ourselves when we interact with the outside world and what the outside world perceives of us when it comes into contact with us.
In its objective dimension, it integrates our genetic heritage. In its subjective aspect, it results from a construction process that begins before birth (in our parents’ imagination) and its transformation throughout our lives (notably through our social and family experiences).
Some of the foundations of our identity are difficult to modify. Because transforming the parameters that define our role and place in society makes us fear the unknown that, buried deep within ourselves, could emerge.
For this reason, we try to remain faithful to our identity and maintain our legitimately acquired status over time, even if our unhappiness underlies a need for change.
Example: Professional success is inherent to men of my lineage who know how to take responsibility. I run a company and devote all my time and energy to making it prosper.
That does not leave much room for leisure and my family. It’s not always easy, and I admit that sometimes this life weighs on me. That’s just the way it is. I don’t have a choice. What would happen to my loved ones if I didn’t assume my responsibilities?
We resist change to avoid being excluded from our group.
By accepting change, we modify our interaction with others and take the risk of being confronted with resistance and rejection from our environment. We try to avoid this threat to our legitimate belonging to our social and family group by questioning the role we identify with and are assigned.
Because non-membership and exclusion refer to our imperative to satisfy our fundamental needs such as recognition, love, affection, sharing, communication, etc.
Example: I have just finished my engineering studies and dream of taking a year off to travel worldwide. How will the people around me perceive my decision when a job in a big company is waiting for me?
How can I tell my parents? My future is mapped out for them, and I am afraid they will not understand me to the point of any longer talking to me. And when I return, will I still have a place among my peers?
We resist change to avoid facing the unknown.
Change is also about leaving what you know because you have experienced it to go towards what you don’t know.
This unknown that makes us say, “I know what I am losing, but not what I will gain,” is similar to the unconscious fear of death, which we will never experience in our lifetime. Change is mourning for something to face the unknown, which generally scares us.
Example: I have been promoted to a position of responsibility on the other side of the world. I had been dreaming about it for years.
But now I’m not sure I want to go. I’m afraid to leave my family, friends, and environment only to find myself in a country whose culture is very different from mine and where I don’t know anyone.
We resist change to avoid the risk of failure.
In our society, success is given excessive importance to the detriment of valuing experience as an essential learning process for our evolution. We fight failure daily to obtain illusory glory, even though it is relative.
The change, considered a risk, awakens the fear of failing in us. However, the only “danger” we run in deciding to change is that of going through the learning stages necessary for self-realization.
Example: I would like to become self-employed. I’ve been working on my project for a few years now and believe in it. It is ready, and there is nothing left to do. However, I can’t get started. What if I fail…?
Accompanying oneself towards change.
The awareness necessary to initiate change generally occurs when we have just gone through a storm or a challenging event: a separation, a death, a dismissal, an illness, etc.
It can also occur when we are trapped in a deep malaise or when particularly uncomfortable situations are repeated. The emotions we experience and the trials we go through promote awareness of our needs and allow us to make the necessary adjustments for our fulfillment.
The desire for change must come from within.
For it to be appropriate, change cannot be decided and imposed by an external will, nor can it be influenced by events that trigger the awareness of a need for transformation.
This dimension of the personal approach is essential to the profitable orientation of change and favors the confrontation of our fears and beliefs that block our evolution.
Example: I can’t stand the idea of being locked into a relationship, and I have never given in to my partner’s demands that we live together. However, I want to overcome my fears and look forward to having a family. I want to get rid of this conviction that living together is a deprivation of freedom.
The process of change requires full awareness.
Whatever events provoke the need for transformation and beyond a sense of urgency, change must be done with full awareness. That is to say, by being present, attentive, and vigilant, we can direct our perceptions toward the essentials and decide what is good for us.
Example: I was raised with strong family values. I got married, we had children, and then we got divorced. My identity as a mother and a woman, the guarantor of these values, was deeply shaken. Clinging to my beliefs, the foundation of my shattered identity would have prevented me from rising again.
Projecting myself as a mother and a woman in a different way and outside my beaten path was my salvation. I did not renounce the values that still seem fundamental to me today, but only those that would have prevented me from rebuilding myself as closely as possible to myself.
The change must allow us to go and meet ourselves.
This process of evolution requires us to let go of some of our limiting beliefs; it is not an abandonment of ourselves but an introspective journey to meet the unknown parts of ourselves left dormant.
Example: Thinking I had missed my life, I left everything behind: my wife, job, and friends. Then, my frustrations and my uneasiness came back even more violently. What I had been looking for on the outside was inside me.
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I then allowed myself to embody the creativity I was repressing, and I started to paint with my strengths and weaknesses from which I draw my inspiration today.
The process of change must be followed step by step.
One should not cling to a schedule or predefined result when deciding to proceed with changes because making some adjustments along the way may be necessary.
The work of awareness that leads to transformation is like clearing the brush on land that has sometimes been left fallow for too long: pulling out the weeds uncovers some of the grounds, and mowing reveals others.
Therefore, it is wise to move forward at one’s own pace, without setting excessive objectives, and to tame the change to anchor it better.
Example: I thought I was made for acting. So, without thinking, I dropped law school to enroll in acting classes. In the end, it’s writing that I’m passionate about, and I want to be a playwright. So I will finish my year and give myself time to write my first play.
“Life is a permanent change, and the only thing that doesn’t change is that everything changes all the time,” is an Oriental saying.
The impermanence of all things is inscribed in the infinity of our cells to the infinity of the universe.
Change is inherent in all life forms, and we cannot resist it without risking injury. So, is it better to find the resources to accompany it within ourselves?
And if some doubts and fears remain, let’s remember that:
- Before walking, we fell and got up again.
- Before taking off the little wheels of our bicycle, we trembled at the idea.
- We didn’t know what it was like to be a parent before having a child.
- If we feared the dark, we now love looking at the starry sky.
I wish you to dare to make the changes necessary for your fulfillment, to offer yourself and give the world the most beautiful version of yourself.
B. Gerber Fleury loves to write, share, and inspire. Mother of four, author, and counselor, she can be reached here on FB.