Blocks to Change
years, I taught a self-help course at my local adult school. At
the end of the class, I always passed out a list of self-help books.
Inevitably, at least one student would raise her hand and say, “I
have read most of these books, and they don’t help. I don’t
know what I’m doing wrong.” Speaking to these students
after class, I often discovered that they were stuck because they
didn’t understand one fundamental truth—our lives don’t
get better when we read a book or go to a class; our lives get better
when we put forth the effort to change.
Change is not only the solution to many of our problems, it is a
natural process from which we get a feeling of self-worth and well-being.
It feels good to change because we intuitively know this is the
only way to reach our full potential.
Despite the importance of change, it is not always easy. There are
countless stumbling blocks. Understanding these stumbling blocks
is the first step in breaking them down and moving them out of the
and Defense Mechanisms: Many times, we can’t change
because we adamantly deny that there is anything about us that needs
to be changed. Denial is usually a defense mechanism. A defense
mechanism is anything we think, say, or do to manage the feelings
we want to avoid. Sometimes even our feelings are defense mechanisms
against other feelings. For instance, I get angry to avoid fear
and blame others for my problems to keep the fear at bay.
Breaking through denial happens
when we are ready. Sometimes quietly, and sometimes in the middle
of great chaos, we have a moment of clarity. They we remember something
that someone told us years before, but we were afraid to acknowledge.
Perhaps this will happen when we wake up one morning. Sadly, for
those less fortunate, it will happen when a judge sentences them
to a life in prison. During these moments, we will open our eyes
and acknowledge the truth about our situation.
Perfectionism: We do not know if perfectionists
are born or made. I know I have always been driven by some inner
compulsion to do things over and over again until I get them “just
right.” Something deep within me gets great satisfaction from
this. On the other hand, I remember my mother saying, “If
it is worth doing, it is worth doing right.” Perhaps trying
to please her is also a part of my perfectionism. Whether perfectionism
is good or bad, I do know it can be a stumbling block to change
if we can’t move forward because we are afraid of making mistakes.
If you struggle with perfectionism, try to treat yourself as you
would an eager child who presents you with his first drawing. Would
you point out the flaws or would you praise her for the precious
gift she has presented to you? Your efforts to change are just as
precious and worthy of praise.
Fear is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to change because most
of us are afraid of the unknown. Fear usually manifests itself as
something else like ambivalence or denial. Fear also sends us all
kinds of negative messages like, “What if things get worse
instead of better?” “What if I fail?” “What
if I succeed and I can’t handle the responsibilities?”
To deal with our fear, we must make a decision and move forward.
Even if it is the wrong decision, it is better than doing nothing.
Moving forward by trial and error is a legitimate way to change.
There are several helpful expressions that describe this: “feel
the fear and do it anyway,” “act as if,” and “fake
it ‘til you make it.”
We often bond with our bad habits. The intimacy we create with the
person we have always been is hard to give up. When it is time to
change, we must grieve the loss of who they we were yesterday. Many
of us cannot bear any form of loss and the grief that goes with
it. It is much easier to just remain the same and never change.
Grieve if you have to, but move on.
Problems: Depression, shame, low self-esteem and other
emotional problems act like a wet blanket smothering the desire
to change. They make us tired and apathetic. They sap us of enthusiasm
and the energy we need to change. All of these things can be treated
with therapy and support groups. I recommend both.
Addiction: Nothing stands in the way of change
as much as addiction. Addiction is all about holding on to mood-altering
experiences and dangerous rituals at the expense of change, even
when the changes are necessary to save your life. If you are to
change, you must first treat your addictions.
stumbling blocks stand between you and change, tackle them one by
one, and become the person you were meant to be. And remember this:
“Change is to human life what the metamorphosis is to the
caterpillar. It is the inevitable cycle of life. If there is not
change, there is no life.”
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