Change for the better rarely comes from within. Left to our own devices we tend to go around in circles, thinking the same old thoughts, repeating the same old actions. We may be so stuck in these loops that we just think, “This is who I am.”
Thankfully we don’t exist in isolation, otherwise we’d be stuck.
When I think of the times when I have changed for the better in my own life, there has always been something from the outside that has made the difference.
Sometimes it was that I was deeply listened to and felt understood, and in that understanding I was able to put down a burden.
Sometimes it was that the consequences of my own foolish actions shouted so loudly I was jolted out of my usual habit patterns and into something different – into asking myself what have I done, and what could I have done differently.
When I look back across my life it is often the most difficult times that have been the greatest teachers.
Sometimes change came from taking myself to another place. When we are surrounded by the same people, the same things, and the same views, it is harder to get out of our stuck patterns.
Once I was struggling with something a friend had done and I couldn’t shake my frustration. I took this frustration walking in the hills. It was the beginning of summer and a butterfly landed on the path in front of me. At first I didn’t notice it. As my loud footsteps got nearer it flew away, just for a moment, before coming to land on the path again. This time I noticed. My friend was as fragile as this butterfly I realised, and my heart softened.
Sometimes changing our community can support healthy growth. My friends in recovery usually have to keep their distance from friends still in active addiction, for example. This kind of move on its own is not always enough and usually has to be alongside some personal reflection if it has any chance of lasting.
Asking for help from another person is one of the most powerful conditions for change, particularly if you can find someone who is not invested in any particular outcome for you, and can listen, understand and be a mirror for you.
What stops us from asking for help?
The first step is admitting that there is something we need help with. Perhaps we get a clue from how we, or from seeing the consequences of our actions but not knowing how to change them, or perhaps from other people letting us know.
We usually get stuck in the same old patterns because there is some underlying fear about what might happen if we were to do something differently. Finding someone you trust can support you to change even though change can be scary.
We may believe that it’s weak to ask for help. If we notice ourselves thinking this, or something like this, we can ask if it’s really true, or remind ourselves of where not asking for help has got us.
Places to go for help:
- Ask a friend or family member
- Reach out to the Samaritans hotline: 116 123
- Talk to your GP
- Join a supportive community
- Book an appointment a therapist
If we can overcome our resistance to asking for help we are doing one of things that is most supportive of change, growth and wellbeing.
This article first appeared in All About Malvern