Change is difficult for most people. There are few individuals who don’t experience some level of anxiety when preparing for change. Some people view change as a threat; it is a disruption of what they perceive as consistent. Others may see change as an opportunity to learn, grow, or improve their lives. We’re all entitled to our own opinion and perception on life and our future.
The underlying problem that exists for some people, however, is when the fear of change prevents a person from achieving a healthy, fulfilling life. When fear becomes debilitating or paralyzing, growth cannot occur. This is more than situational anxiety regarding a move or a major life event; this is about when fear of change affects the daily routine, the most minor details of a person’s life, and well-being. It’s when fear prevents a person from living.
People will tolerate the unhealthiest of situations to avoid change. A common example is the person who remains in an unfulfilling relationship due to fear of being alone and the perceived risk of finding someone new. It is very common for people to accept the status quo or toxicity in relationships because the fear of the unknown is scarier than the daily struggle presently endured.
Some people will remain at a boring, toxic, or thankless job because emotionally and mentally preparing for a job change or career growth creates too much stress. It seems easier to tolerate the current circumstances, count down the days to retirement, or complain to others. People convince themselves that remaining in the comfort of predictability is preferable to the risk of growth, change, and possibly striking out.
Personally, I struggle with the simplest of changes: my hair. My poor hair stylist will confirm the struggle. I have such resistance for something so temporary. It is a situation that resonates with many people but changing something about your identity is often avoided. It might be something like getting or removing a tattoo, where you go out to eat, hair color, people you associate with, where you sit at church or at the table, or the type of car you might drive. When people change something about who they are or something they personally identify with, they may feel uncomfortable and question if they are being true to themselves, who they are, and who they have become.
Fear has the ability to influence our perception, attitude, and our beliefs. If we see the world as negative, non-trustworthy, problematic or risky, then naturally we are going to avoid and resist those experiences. We will resist anything new that potentially will result in a temporary feeling of discomfort or pain. Know this: Resistance will only work if pushing, cannot have the resistance unless you push. Without push there is only fear.
So, people stick with what is safe and familiar. People will endure the comfort of their current situation regardless of the circumstances or lack of satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy. The possibility that change could result in something unsafe prevents many people from experiencing opportunities for growth. They might fear if they end a relationship they may end up alone, fear that if they quit a job then they will struggle financially, fear that if they purchase a Ford truck instead of a Chevy they will be disappointed and have countless problems.
Living a life in fear and merely tolerating the comfort of your current situation is not living your life. It is a decision you make, a choice to remain trapped into a life that you don’t want. Change is scary; results are not guaranteed; and it is unpredictable. But, more terrifying than the unknown is living a life that doesn’t bring joy and living a life without fulfillment where your potential is not achieved and opportunities are not experienced.
Fear is not something a person just instantly conquers and gets over. Overcoming fear is recognizing the opportunity in the present moment to implement change. It is acknowledging the emotion of discomfort when you resist the fear and let yourself be who you want to become and live the life you deserve. People look for the consistencies, it is how we identify threats, we continuously evaluate our environment to assess for change in the status quo so we can reduce risk, reduce harm, and avoid pain. In all reality, the majority of what we perceive is not real.
There is a difference between perceived threat and actual threat. We perceive risk when we are not facing any harm. We avoid change based on assumptions, beliefs, and the fear of what if. We avoid change not based on what is real.
Even if you try to avoid or resist change, it will still occur. You have a choice to create change or react to it. Avoiding change is a choice to remain in your personal zone of comfort, with a false perception of control. It takes courage to choose growth over comfort and to accept reality versus fear it. When you choose to embrace change you will grow and learn. You will have the opportunity to develop new perspectives and have new experiences. Change improves a person’s ability to adapt, grow, and develop. Change will often require a person to evaluate their life, identify goals, dreams, mistakes and lessons learned. Embracing change will develop strength. Life is not a fairy tale. If it was, you would have already met your Prince Charming and your fairy godmother would’ve granted your wishes.
Choosing change over comfort is making the active choice to close one chapter and start writing a new one. You are the author of your life; stop letting fear write the story. Life is what you choose it to be, change is what you perceive it to be.
Without change, there would be no butterflies, we would not have stars in the sky, and there would be no beautiful sunrises.
Rachel Velishek is a licensed professional clinical counselor with Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, Fisher-Titus Medical Park 2, Suite C, 282 Benedict Ave., Norwalk. Her office can be reached at 419-668-0311. For more information on Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, visit fishertitus.org/behavioral-health.