People often desire change for months (or even years) before they do anything about it. It’s useful to understand why we hold onto the status quo – even when life isn’t great – and helpful to think about what we need to let go of so that we’re free to move on to better things.
For the most part, we’re creatures of habit. We feel safe with things that are familiar. Which is why we recreate circumstances similar to those that we experienced growing up and why we’re sometimes drawn to people and situations that aren’t in our best interests. Often, these are simply the things that we know.
It’s difficult to create change until you become aware of your patterns of behaviour – only then will you be ready to do the work that’s required to get off the perpetual merry-go-round.
Changing deeply ingrained behaviours isn’t necessarily easy. As my client Amy (not her real name) told me recently, ‘The only thing I know about partner relationships is that there’s always conflict.’
This was what she’d grown up with and what she’d managed to recreate in every relationship in her adult life. She had recently met a man who was loving and kind and she found herself quietly sabotaging the relationship by picking arguments with him.
Amy and I talked about three things she needed to do before she could move on.
1. Let go of the past
As you can imagine, this is always easier said than done. In Amy’s case, it involved spending some sessions with Kristen (my psychologist colleague) to work through the process of understanding her parent’s fiery relationship and forgiving them for not being able to provide the kind of home environment she’d longed for.
People often resist the idea of forgiveness because they believe that forgiving means condoning bad behaviour, but this isn’t the case at all.
Carrying around resentment and anger from things that happened in your past is toxic for you. The people who committed the acts that caused you pain may well have moved on from them and you can too by working through the process of forgiveness.
For significantly painful memories, I’d recommend you work with a qualified psychologist or for smaller hurts, try using this method described by Byron Katie. It can take some time to fully understand this method, but once you do, it’s completely liberating.
2. Let go of your limiting beliefs
Amy discovered she had a limiting belief about her worthiness. Because she’s grown up with a lot of yelling and criticism, she had a strong sense of not being good enough. In her new relationship, she felt that once her partner really got to know her, he’d start being critical of her and treating her badly. Her behaviour pattern was to ‘fast track’ that process by picking arguments.
Amy and I worked on challenging that limiting belief by looking for signs that she was ‘good enough’ and by catching herself when she started to behave habitually in ways that weren’t in her best interests.
3. Let go of your need to be perfect
This one is often the hardest for people who feel that they have to work doubly hard to be loved, which was the case for Amy. Under the surface, she was still a vulnerable little girl trying to please her parents.
Despite our imperfections, everyone’s worthy of love. In the words of Brene Brown, ‘You are enough, just as you are right now.’
A fulfilling life isn’t about being perfect, it’s one where you learn to get to know yourself and accept who you are and one where you’re courageous enough to let go of the past and move onto a brighter future.
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