How do you feel about change? If you’re anything like me, you probably have mixed feelings about it. While it often depends on our perception of the type of change – big or small, good or bad, needed or unnecessary, easy or hard, etc. – most of us seek and fear change simultaneously.
I’ve recently been dealing with quite a bit of change in my life – both big and small. Building my new website, which on the one hand is a pretty small change in the scheme of things, ended up being a very big change for me and allowed me to take a deeper look at a number of things about myself, including my relationship to change in general.
The decision to create a new website was pretty simple and clear – my old one was outdated and a new one was long overdue. In practical terms, not having an updated website was probably costing me some business and credibility. In addition, the type of website needed for my business is pretty simple and straightforward.
However, the actual process of creating the new website (even though it’s something I’ve done a few times in the past and was eager to do now on many levels) posed two major challenges for me personally.
First of all, I tend to be a creature of habit, especially when it comes to things I don’t totally understand or have the skills to do myself (like build new websites). Instead of embracing change with technology, I often find myself avoiding the uncomfortable feelings associated with not knowing things or being dependent upon others to do what I don’t have the skills to do myself.
Second of all, the biggest reason I’ve avoided creating a new website for the past few years has been my resistance to getting new photos taken and new videos filmed. As I’ve written about before, one of the most significant ways self criticism shows up in my life is related to my appearance. Getting photos taken and watching videos of myself has never been my favorite thing, but in the past few years it has become even more challenging for me as my aging process has included the thinning of my hair – a change I’ve had a hard time embracing and something I’ve definitely considered “bad.”
The thought of getting new photos taken and posting updated videos of myself online has often been accompanied by the voice of my inner-adolescent saying mean things to me like, “You’re ugly,” “People will laugh at you,” “No one will take you seriously,” “You don’t look as good as you used to,” “You should be ashamed of yourself,” and more. Not fun or kind at all – maybe you can relate to this in your own life?
While I have chosen to “embrace” the change in my appearance in my real life by shaving off most of what’s left of the hair on my head, something about posting new photos and videos on my website seemed even more scary and real to me – hence my resistance and fear to actually doing it for the past few years.
Going through the process of confronting these fears (i.e. getting the new photos and videos done) wasn’t all that easy or fun. However, like most things in life, facing these fears has been incredibly liberating and not nearly as painful as I thought it would be.
While I can’t honestly say that I’ve completely transformed my relationship to my appearance and made peace with how I look, I can say that this process has been a big step for me in embracing the changes to my appearance (and to myself overall), and has enhanced my capacity for embracing change in general at a deeper level.
Our ability or inability to deal with change effectively is directly related to our relationship to change and our relationship to ourselves. We spend a great deal of time focusing on the circumstances, situations, and details of the particular changes we’re facing, instead of taking a deeper look at what’s going on for us emotionally, which is where both the impact and the resiliency needed to deal with the change exists.
Here are a few things to think about and do to enhance your ability to embrace change:
- Acknowledge and express your emotions. Change is fundamentally an emotional phenomenon, much more than a practical or logistical one. Whenever we’re dealing with change – big or small, good or bad – it’s our emotions that drive both our experience as well as our effectiveness in dealing with it (or lack thereof). The more willing we are to acknowledge, own, and express the real emotions we’re feeling in relation to the change itself, the more able we are to both move through and learn from the change we’re facing in a positive way.
- Get support from others. It’s always easier to deal with change when we remember that we’re not alone. Whether it’s practical support, emotional support, or both – we always have people around us we can reach out to and ask for help. Many things that are scary and challenging for us are easy for others. Remembering that we can lean on others when we’re going through change is essential for our own well-being, sanity, and overall success.
- Take conscious and courageous action. Staying in action, in a conscious and courageous way, is an essential aspect of moving through change effectively. We sometimes get stuck in fear, perfectionism, or both. When we stop taking action, it’s easy for the critical voice in our head (the “Gremlin”) to take over and convince us that we can’t do it, everything is messed up, it won’t work out, etc. If we let the Gremlin take over, we give away our power. By staying in action and doing so in a mindful and bold way (not simply rushing around to avoid our feelings or just doing things in our comfort zones), we remind ourselves that we have the power to deal with whatever change we’re facing. As the late Susan Jeffers taught us all through her bestselling book, one of the best things we can do in life is “feel the fear, and do it anyway.”
As the saying goes, “the only constant in life is change.” It seems that now more than ever, so many of us are dealing with change in our lives personally, professionally, and all around us. If we’re willing to address these changes with a sense of authenticity, compassion, and courage – remembering that it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being real – we give ourselves a chance to not only deal with change effectively, but to embrace it in a way that allows us to grow, develop, and become more of who we truly are.
- Mike Robbins