Why is Personal Growth Frightening?

When we are attempting to change something about ourselves, it often carries with it anxious feelings. There are times when the uncertainty that accompanies change will threaten our efforts, sending us back to our comfortable and familiar ways – even if those habits are unhealthy.

Seems disheartening doesn’t it? Here we are, wanting to change something, and we end up feeling anxious, jittery, uncertain. Why is personal growth so frightening?

Dr. Jonice Webb has this to say about the anxiety of personal growth:

“This is one of the most powerful, yet least talked about, forms of anxiety. It’s the anxiety that’s naturally built into virtually every step of emotional or psychological growth that you take in your lifetime. It’s especially intense when you’re trying to give up a coping mechanism that you needed in childhood. This anxiety arises when you’re about to make a healthy change in yourself, and tries to pull you backward.”

Our body and mind love associations. They get formed along the way and through reinforcement, will become hard-wired and automatic.

“I turn to food to comfort me.”

“I hate confrontation and will even avoid stating my opinion about something.”

“I let people walk all over me and I know it.”

Even though our associations seem hard wired, we also know that with the plasticity of our brain and through our own efforts, we can change the pathways to create healthier habits. The trick becomes in pushing past the initial anxiety of trying something new, of tempering that fear with curiosity and faith.

When we understand that the initial fear is simply our body’s way of signalling potential danger, we can use our rational brain to slow down the fear response, opening up a doorway to the meaningful and enriching experience of personal growth.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@scw1217

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