This blog article discusses explores the reason behind our fear of change. It offers a few techniques you can use to overcome this illusory fear.
Think back to the last time you found yourself on the brink of a major change. Maybe you felt a need for change. Maybe the change was out of your control—losing your job, for example—and you had to pick up the pieces afterward.
What about fear of change?
How did you feel in the face of this change? Were you able to evaluate your options and move forward relatively confidently? Or did you feel paralyzed? Maybe you are still grappling with your fear of making this major life change, feeling like everything is on hold until you’re able to make the necessary choices. The problem is, you just can’t.
Could your fear of change derive from a Substitute Sense of Self?
Your feelings when standing at a crossroads reveal much about your Sense of Self (SOS). Virtually everyone experiences a certain amount of apprehension, anxiety, or fear when faced with change. But when you operate from a Substitute Sense of Self, you live with a more pervasive dread: that of not truly existing as a “real” person.
This is not a conscious fear, but one that developed unconsciously when you didn’t receive confirmation from your parent or caregiver as a person with needs and desires independent from their own. You were instead dependent on their approval to achieve a temporary feel-good-about-self state, a habit that has carried over into adulthood.
Known as “fear of annihilation,” apprehension is the root from which all Substitute Sense of Self oriented fears stems, including the fear of change.
But why do I have a fear of change?
Change implies a loss of routine. Whether the loss is short-term or long-term is immaterial. With a Substitute Sense of Self, even a temporary loss of routine means a loss of control.
Loss of control threatens your ability to fulfill your ego-references, which you perceive as essential to your existence as a “real” person. Anything that diverts energy from your quest for validation feels like a threat to your very being.
Three questions to help you overcome your anxiety
Working toward a restored sense of Self will help you understand your fear of change at work as well as in your personal life. When you never developed a healthy sense of Self, the effects are enduring and systemic. Your strategy for addressing your state of Self will also have to unfold over the long-term. Begin by asking yourself the following questions to help understand the anxiety you feel about big changes.
What am I really afraid of? Are you truly afraid of moving or quitting your job? Or are you scared of something else? I, for example, have put off relocating for years. I tell other people that I’m afraid of not being able to get a job, of getting stuck with horrible roommates, and running out of money.
But what I’m terrified of is finding a job too easily, a less-than-desirable job that I settle for and that ends up defining me to others—family, friends, potential employers—who will then dismiss me as unworthy of their attention. And moving will have done nothing to change the fact that I am a failure.
The indirect motivations behind this fear remain largely unmapped for the moment, but I have managed to identify a fear deeper than that of changing cities.
What are my ego-references? What rules have you set for yourself to be the person you “should” be for others? And how do these rules affect your ability to change your life in so many big or small ways?
Examples of ego-references may include keeping a clean and organized home; working out every day no matter what; providing stability and predictability for your children and/or partner; or having a clear plan for next week, next month, or next year.
In her book, The Motivation Cure, Healthy Sense of Self founder Antoinetta Vogels explains:
In trying to fulfill your ego-references, you’re like Don Quixote battling against windmills . . . striving for a fictitious, unattainable goal, but you can’t see that for yourself.
A kind of willful blindness, ego-references don’t help you move forward. They keep you stuck in the zone of self-sabotage.
What are my stress triggers?
When you feel stressed out about other issues in your life, big or small, working on major life changes feels even more daunting. Knowing your stress triggers will help you mitigate or avoid the daily situations that trigger your anxiety.
Practicing self-care may feel like a waste when you’re desperately attempting to achieve a feel-good-about-self state. But it’s actually the latter that’s a waste of your time and energy.
You have a choice.
You do yourself a disservice to remain passive in the face of your fear. Changes will happen regardless, but they won’t be the changes you want to see. Instead of growing, you’ll fall into entropy. Instead of finding fulfillment, you’ll end up mired in frustration—without knowing its source.
Your fear of change is a coded message from your deepest Self. Listen to it! Discover which of the three types of Self is dominant in your own life. Take the Healthy Sense of Self Quiz, and follow it up with a look at the Sense of Self comparison chart in The Motivation Cure.