Why change is so f*cking hard

Imagine that you’re caught in a riptide. The water is tossing and dragging you out to sea. You’re terrified and about to drown. Suddenly, a log floats by. You grab it and cling for dear life. The log carries you to calmer waters.

You’re safe now.

All that’s left is to let go of the log and swim back to shore.

And yet…you can’t.

You’re traumatized from nearly drowning and that log is the reason you’re alive. Letting go is terrifying, especially since the last time you swam you nearly died. On top of it all, you’ve drifted far from where you entered the water and don’t know exactly where you are.

Changing our bad habits is hard. Even blatantly positive changes like letting go of toxic relationships, procrastination, disordered eating, or addictions can sometimes feel insurmountable. So it’s often easier to stay stuck than to grow. 

The simple truth is that many of the things we wish to change are also logs that saved our lives. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t change them. Just that changing them can be harder – and scarier – than it seems.

For example…

  • The alcohol you can’t quite give up masks a core pain you’d rather not feel. 
  • You were raised by people who put their needs before yours, so putting everyone else first feels safe, even though it’s tearing you apart. 
  • You worry – consciously or unconsciously – that you’re not worthy of love, comfort, and connection, so you sleep with people you’re not compatible with. 

You get the idea.

The trick to letting go of the metaphorical log is to be kind to yourself and acknowledge that change is hard (even if it seems like it should be easy). You might ask yourself, “How were these bad habits subtly keeping me safe when I was younger?” Take your time and move slowly with change. With each struggle, lean on self-compassion.  Consider that humans weren’t meant to do the deep work alone and ask yourself if now is the right time to recruit a friend, accountability buddy, therapist, spiritual teacher, or mentor to walk alongside you.

Letting go of the log and swimming to the shore is possible. The trick is to keep a soft focus on the goal, move forward bit by bit, and meet setbacks with gentleness.

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