My life sucked. But I couldn’t change it.
At the age of 25, I should have been socialising, meeting friends, enjoying myself. Travel, start a promising career, go on dates. Have fun, be daring and outgoing, open to new experiences, challenges and adventures.
I should have been happy.
But instead, I was scared. Terrified of facing the threats of a dangerous world. So, I sat at home, a hostage of my anxiety.
At night, my heart raced and I choked at every unfamiliar sound. During the day, I avoided meeting new people. Sweating and panicking at the mere thought of the humiliation, rejection and self-flagellation that would inevitably follow.
I functioned at work. But it took all my strength to appear normal. To hide the unbearable state of terror that was my life. To pretend that I was calm and collected while anxiety was ripping my body apart.
Fear destroyed my life, ruined my happiness. I felt stressed, lonely, paralysed. Trapped in a puny comfort zone that had become a nightmare.
I was desperate to transform my life. And yet, somehow, I remained stuck.
Because I feared one thing more than anything. I just didn’t know it yet.
I had read self-help books, took self-improvement courses and immersed myself in all theoretical aspects of personal growth. I believed I wanted to move forward, transform my life. Stray from my comfort zone into an exciting new world brimming with possibilities.
And I understood what I had to do. Knew countless techniques, meditations, affirmations and exercises. But nothing changed.
My anxiety raged on undisturbed.
For a long time, I beat myself up. What was wrong with me? Was I a hopeless case, too damaged to recover?
I felt ashamed of my weakness. Hated my pathetic inability to rescue myself from anxiety’s prison. And wept for days when I finally surrendered to a half-life controlled by my fears.
But then, one day in December 2005, everything changed.
It was the evening of the work Christmas party. As I got dressed for the occasion, I stared into the darkness through the bedroom window. Bloodcurdling visions of danger, threats and embarrassment swirling in my mind.
What if I was mugged on the way to the restaurant? What if I made a fool of myself at dinner? What if a psychopath followed me home from the subway in the middle of the night?
I felt my stomach turn, my chest tighten. Sweat trickled down my sides, I could scarcely breathe. With shaking hands, I called my boss and told her I was sick.
I stayed home. Safe. And guilt-ridden over my lies, furious at my failure and disappointed in myself.
With downhill skiing on TV in the background.
I was lost in endless thoughts of self-criticism and self-condemnation. But my mind still absorbed one sentence the commentator said: “If you want to be a world-class skier, you can’t stay home and read books about it. You have to go on the slope and practice. Every day.”
The realisation hit me like an avalanche.
I had hoarded theoretical knowledge on how to ease anxiety and transform my life. Dabbled in a few affirmations, exercises and meditation. But I had never seriously put any of it into practice.
No wonder my anxiety still destroyed my life! I had procrastinated, postponed, otherwise prioritised. Never taken action.
For one simple reason: I was terrified of change.
Change had never come easy for me. Sure, at times, the misery of my anxious existence became too overwhelming, the emotional pain unbearable. Forcing me to attempt escape.
But soon doubts crept in. Fear of change raised its manipulative head.
“You want to transform your life? But you were rejected in the past. You finally have a few friends now. What if they don’t like the ‘new you’ and leave?
And your life will be different. What if it gets even worse? What if you’ll hate it?”
I had always surrendered to these worries, given in to my fear. Abandoned my new anxiety-busting practice.
But after this fateful December evening, I knew that I first had to conquer my fear of change. Or I would never escape my anxiety and transform my life.
I just had to find out how.
So, I started the journey of eliminating my fear of change. Sought the true reasons why I dreaded everything new, unknown and uncertain.
I needed 7 years to complete the puzzle. But eventually I discovered that I feared change for 3 astonishing reasons:
For our ancestors, the unknown posed a serious threat.
If they walked an unfamiliar path, they could tumble off a cliff or be slaughtered by wild beasts. Strange berries could be poisonous and new people might be enemies.
So, the mind created fear of change to encourage them to avoid new situations. Especially when they resembled lethal scenarios they encountered before. Because as long as they stuck to the familiar routines of their comfort zone, they were safe.
And back then, safety equaled survival.
Fear of change, as a protective mechanism, is as valid today as it was in the Stone Age. But fortunately for most of us, our life is no longer threatened on a daily basis. Our existential struggles have changed.
Where we used to battle for our life, we now fight for our livelihood and position within society. Struggling to pay the bills, keep our job or maintain our relationships. Anxious to fit in, impress and be loved.
All my life, fear of change had discouraged me from abandoning integral aspects of my life. Even if these aspects were anxiety, unhappiness and suffering.
To stop me from facing the unknown.
And I hated it for destroying my life. Cursed it for crippling my efforts to transform my life. When it only meant to protect me.
But why did it believe I was at risk? Why did it think I was unable to cope with change?
The answer to these questions came several years later. When an energy healer diagnosed low self-worth as the root cause of my struggles.
At first, the thought offended me. After all, I didn’t feel worthless, I didn’t hate myself! It had never occurred to me that I lacked self-worth.
But I soon discovered that it was true.
I didn’t believe in myself. Felt insecure, defenseless, somewhat weak. Not good enough.
Plagued by self-doubt, I questioned my abilities. Felt incapable of dealing with unfamiliar situations, crumbled under pressure. And was devastated by any rejection, disapproval or failure.
No, my life wasn’t in danger. But my feeling of worthiness certainly was. And my fear of change knew it.
So, it protected me.
From the catastrophic consequences of my perceived incompetence. Because, deep down, I believed that every endeavor I started, every challenge I faced would end in disaster, disappointment and pain.
And kill whatever self-worth I had left in the process.
Low self-worth powered my fear of change. Misled it to assume that I was too fragile to cope with life outside of my comfort zone. So, it advised against any change, no matter how small or positive.
But fear of change was never designed to give unbreachable commands. It was aimed to be a voice of reason, provide well-meant (if misguided) advice.
Intended to safe my life, not destroy it.
So, what went wrong? Why could I not ignore my fear of change and move towards a better life?
Our emotions and fears are waves of energy. Moving through us, touching us briefly to then disappear. The same applies to our thoughts.
They aren’t part of us. But, at some point during our evolution, we started to identify with them. Mistook our ruminating worries and the fears they create as who we are.
Eliminating them would require self-mutilation. Ignoring them would be self-denial.
Which is why they’ve become so powerful. Subconsciously, obliterating a fear or habitual thought feels like removing a kidney. We could survive it, but it would be agony and part of us would be gone.
So, while fear of change started as a life-saving tool, we soon made it a piece of our identity.
All those years, I clung to my anxiety and obeyed my fear of change because I believed they were me. And I was unwilling to abandon or disregard part of who I was. Even if it ruined my chances of a happier life.
But it had to stop.
I had to discover ways to conquer fear of change by boosting my self-worth. By acknowledging my fears for the tools they were.
So, I could make my own decisions. And finally start to transform my life.
Over the next months, I finally put my theoretical knowledge into practice. Not with the primary goal to transform my life. But to find easy, yet powerful ways to subdue fear of change.
So, I could focus on my recovery from anxiety. Without vetoes, distractions, doubts and opposition. Stay the course, even if the path was unfamiliar.
After weeks of trial and error, I arrived at a 3-step strategy that wasn’t too time-consuming. But still made a considerable difference in a short time.
I’m sharing it with you today. Hoping that you too may overcome fear of change. And become free to transform your life.
Yes, fear of change blocks your way to a happier life. But it is a vital tool that helped to guarantee our species’ survival for eons. And it will continue to do so.
Because that’s its job.
You can never get rid of it. But you can quieten it, diffuse it and stop listening.
My major breakthrough came when I realised my true worth. You see, I never considered myself entirely worthless. Yet, compared to other people, I still felt worth less.
I believed I was inferior to others, weaker, less capable. Somewhat irrelevant.
And based my perceived worth deficit on the misconception that human beings are inherently devoid of worth. That we have to earn worth, accumulate it through our achievements.
I believed that every success, accomplishment, possession increased my worth. While every failure, rejection and misstep diminished it.
That’s what society teaches us.
And I simply wasn’t good enough to acquire much worth.
But the truth is, that we cannot gain worth. Neither can we lose it. Because, unlike fear of change, it truly is part of our Being.
We ARE worth. Every one of us.
I was never worth less than others. Because we are all 100% worth. All equal, no exceptions.
I just had to remember it. So, I started to affirm: “I AM worth.”
Three times a day, sometimes 10 (or even 50 times), I reminded myself of my true worth. Whenever I felt weak, incompetent, powerless. Whenever I battled with my fears, thought I couldn’t cope.
And my self-worth healed. Not over night, but bit by bit. Until I understood that I was capable to face the world.
Even outside my comfort zone.
Fear of change is a tool. Like Siri on your iPhone.
What would you think if you asked Siri for a restaurant in a town you’ve never visited before? And instead of suggesting places to eat, she tried to talk you out of it.
Reminding you that the meal you ate at the last new restaurant gave you food poisoning. And listing all the risks and dangers that might lurk on the unfamiliar way.
Chances are you would get her checked for faults. But at the very least you’d ignore her.
So, why do you listen to the doomsday prophecies of your fear of change? The answer is simple: because you identify with it.
But fear of change is not part of you. And the best way to understand this is to give it a name. Make it an entity separate to yourself.
My fear of change is called Gertrude. I know she has my wellbeing at heart. I listen to her concerns and warnings. But I decide whether to accept her advice to stick with my comfort zone or move forward.
Because I am the only one who knows what’s best for me. And Gertrude isn’t me.
Anxiety confined me to my puny comfort zone for over 10 years. With fear of change as the prison guard.
But once I learned to ignore it, I could escape. Venture outside. One tiny step at the time.
And I soon discovered that the world was a safe place. That I didn’t need to fear the unknown. Because it was full of wonderful possibilities.
As my self-worth and courage grew, I began to appreciate new challenges, meet strangers and explore unfamiliar places. They enriched my life, spiced up my once limited routine.
And made me happy.
I started and maintained different practices to transform my life. Enjoying the change, embracing the new person I was becoming.
She was still me, she was still loved. She was free. And she never missed a Christmas party again.
Now it’s your turn.
You ARE worth. You deserve happiness, fulfilment and a life free from limitations. Fear of change is merely an obstacle.
And you can choose to ignore it.
Dr Berni Sewell, PhD is a health scientist, energy healer and self-worth blogger. She is on a mission to make you feel good about yourself, no matter what. Download her free guide Instant self-worth: an easy 4-step solution to heal your self-worth in under 5 minutes a day” and start to boost your confidence today.