Change is uncomfortable. Back in the day when we all huddled together in caves, ‘new’ posed a significant increase in threat. ‘New’ meant unseen and untested and could quite possibly see us gobbled up by something larger and furrier than us. It stands to reason then, that as humans, we seek out habit, routine, and familiarity; they provide security, and in turn safety. The hitch of course is that this hardwired aversion can hold us back in the modern world, a place where the ability to change is heralded as a prized skill in the world of work.
What then specifically gets in our way of, even cautiously, embracing change and what can we do to tackle them?
Inner critics and imposter syndrome:
We ALL have inner critics, every single one of us. They are the sarcastic, snide, impatient, scared, and judgemental thoughts and comments that we direct at ourselves. The things we would never dream of saying to another but are adept at punishing ourselves with.
They have one purpose only – to keep you safe. They will attempt to achieve this by any means possible and if nicey nicey doesn’t do it, they will be perfectly comfortable getting out the knives. They live in a state of perpetual fear that you may step out your lane, out of the comfort zone and into something ‘new’. For them, your little internal cave people, this means imminent death.
Your chief tactic with critics is purely awareness – start to notice and name when you are criticising yourself, notice the language. Don’t beat yourself up for having these thoughts – we all do it, but as you start to notice and name how often you are doing it, you open the route to choose something else. Inner critics seek to be soothed, remind them who’s in charge of the vehicle, that they and you are safe, and that trying something new doesn’t mean a tiger is waiting round the corner.
When facing the idea of change, imposter syndrome is one of the big guns we wheel out to sabotage ourselves. It sees us struggling to acknowledge our own skills and strengths, comparing ourselves to those around us and believing that everyone else has got it all figured out and that we are lacking. The fear that they will soon notice this and “out” us as a fraud will play on our minds to the point of freezing us into inaction. And to add insult to injury, when we are successful, we bat it off, consider ourselves just lucky and reject the notion that perhaps we deserve the pat on the back.
There are many techniques to manage these feelings, here are two to get you out the blocks:
1. Keep a success diary. It’s a quiet and private way to help build up your confidence. Make a record of things that have gone well. Write down compliments you’ve received. It’s a myth buster on the days when you can’t see your value.
2. Volunteer yourself for a project at work – say yes to stretching yourself. It’s fantastic for self-confidence, for side lining your inner critics and showing them whose boss.
Change calls for movement yet perfectionism freezes us in inactivity. For although we are continuously hastening on to the next target, we aren’t actually allowing ourselves to evolve anywhere meaningful.
Perfectionists often want to debate how helpful this trait has been for them. They believe that all their major achievements in life are thanks to their perfectionist tendencies. Professional qualifications, promotions, financial security, and their stellar reputation - all thanks to perfectionism. It’s what keeps them focussed, motivated and consistently being, well, excellent, right?
The main problem for those of us who believe perfectionism works for us, is that we have had the notion reinforced over and over by the outside world. We get praised and rewarded – normally because we have worked so damn hard, terrified of messing up, that our work has taken four times as long as the next person, so of course it’s awesome – it’s also false advertising.
Here’s two simple steps to start to change:
1. Delegate some tasks at work. I can feel the shudders from here. Perfectionists like to be in control – if you are doing something, you at least know it will be done right. We live in fear that delegating means it won’t be done properly. Notice how judgemental and presumptuous that is! I will do it better than them. Here’s a reframe to help you delegate – by asking others to complete something, you are giving them a new opportunity to learn and develop, if you are a leader, it’s a vital skill to be practicing. It demonstrates trust, fundamental to all relationships and teams.
2. Test your theories. So, you believe that unless you spend x hours on this report, there will be complaints about your performance. Test it – spend half that time and measure the feedback. Believe you must respond to a request immediately – leave it till the following morning and measure the reception.
But I don’t know what I want
Ah ok here we go. It so often goes hand in hand with perfectionism and critical thinking, we strive for the perfect answer, and until we have that clear in our minds, we don’t change anything at all, choosing instead to battle on with mediocrity, frustration, and a lack of fulfilment. We are bombarded with information that tells us we need to be living our best life, identifying our one true purpose, and I witness how disheartening this can be to so many. Sure, some people know what they want to do and be and they go out and do it, and I salute them, but the majority of us won’t have this, instead we can derive satisfaction and joy from multiple paths and experiences. But in order to experience this we need to try new things; we need to experiment, and we need to change – frequently!
Start by understanding what makes you tick; identify your core values they will act as a compass for you in decision making.
Seek to understand what motivates you; what are you doing when you lose all sense of time, when you are in flow? What is it about this that makes it so satisfying?
Who are you surrounding yourself with? A former coach of mine once said if you want to fly with the eagles, don’t scratch about with the turkeys. Find people who inspire, stretch, and challenge you.
Accept there doesn’t need to be one thing and nothing needs to be forever – your task is to identify what is right for right now?
Change is hard and if you are waiting until you figure out how to make change easy, I’m afraid you are going to be waiting a long time. We just aren’t wired for change to be comfortable. But there is hope! Practice, practice, practice. The more we can step into change, again and again, the more familiar the feelings become. The anxiety does lessen, the nausea does subside (!). And my goodness it’s worth it; so many doors become visible to us that we just hadn’t seen before. There are so many fascinating people and experiences waiting for you.
How to work with me:
If I’ve piqued your curiosity, I offer a free 30-minute call. You can book that directly in my diary here. I don’t do hassle, I can’t bear it when people try it with me, so of course you get to mull it over and a no thanks from you is final, I promise. And for those that like the detail (I’m one of those), have a look at my website, where I aim to provide complete transparency on what to expect – and that includes pricing.
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I work with individuals, teams and organisations, helping them become more self-aware so that they can appreciate choice and make decisions to change with confidence.
My one-to-one clients have a corporate career which, often, is not currently satisfying them. They often don’t know why, because it used to, or because it looks great on the surface. I help them figure out what’s getting in their way and where they want to go next.
My organisational clients are seeking support via coaching, workshops and webinars with leadership development, confidence in business and wellbeing. See what’s available.