When embarking on a journey of self growth either by choice…or when life tosses us a pair of hiking boots and tells us we better get going, it’s easy to get impatient. We tell ourselves stories like “I should be over this by now, what’s wrong with me?” or, “no matter what I try or how much work I do, I will always end up repeating the same dysfunctional patterns”.We feel that any amount of “backsliding”, failing to repress every memory, painful emotion, or preventing a life long pattern from surfacing, means that we aren’t moving forward. But is that really true?
A quote by M.H. Clark sums up what I’ve been telling clients (and myself) for years as both a Life Coach and Victim’s Advocate. “Slow and quiet progress is progress, too. Remember to give yourself credit”. If we fixate solely on our macro lens and ignore the seeming infinitesimal, unglamorous, and less than news worthy progress, we are denying ourselves the celebration we deserve.
Regardless of how small or slow the progress, it is no less important. For those of us who’d prefer to skip doing the work and go straight to being perfectly happy and self actualized, we aren’t doing ourselves any favors. If I’ve learned anything in my life and through my work it’s that slow change is lasting change. I know you’ve heard this before but hear me out. Anytime we are making a shift that involves deep seeded patterns from coping skills to self esteem to unhealthy relationship patterns, we literally need to rewire our brains. And unfortunately for the instant gratification seekers in all of us, this takes time and effort.
By making a conscious choice to begin changing our default thought patterns and habits we have already begun weakening brain connections that no longer serve us, and are simultaneously strengthen the ones that do. This can be a slow process but if we consider how long it took to create our current thought and belief structures, it makes sense that long term change wouldn’t happen overnight.
On a slightly different tangent…I think it’s worth mentioning that at the point when these automatic go-to brain connections were put in place, it was probably for a very good reason or it may be all we had known at the time. Consider if you are clutching to an old belief that you must alway put others before yourself, for example. Did your attachment to this belief begin when a parent or role model repeatedly told or showed you as a child that it made you a selfish person to do otherwise? And you fell into this pattern to gain their love and approval? Or maybe you find yourself too quickly in romantic relationships that you know deep down aren’t for you, but long ago found it to be an effective short term distraction, a way you kept yourself sane, protected, and/or numbed to survive an horrible time in your life? As much as old patterning may be hurting us, our relationships, our happiness, or our ability to create the life we want, now, it may have served a crucial purpose at one time. It can be healing to acknowledge how a particular belief, thought, coping mechanism, etc., served a crucial, protective role at one time in our lives, while also reminding ourselves that we no longer need as we once did. We are each a different person than we were even 6 months ago with more experiences, knowledge and tools.
Chances are, if we have the wherewithal to know what needs to change (not what someone else wants for us), and know the reasons why we want to create these shifts, we’re already off to a meaningful start. The more we support the small efforts and triumphs, no matter how imperfect, the stronger each of the new brain connections will become. This is exactly why celebrating when learn to say “no”, say “yes”, or simply catching ourselves, during or even after we have fallen back into an old pattern but then purposely course corrected, is vitally important. If these successes go unnoticed by ourselves, chances are the old pattern is regaining traction in our lives.
Change, whether we’ve set out to create it or it was catalyzed by a serious life event, invariably never looks the way we want it to but if you’re already got your hiking boots laced up, every microscopic step along the journey counts and I invite you to give each one the credit it deserves.
Have questions or comments? Please don’t hesitate to reach out! If you find yourself wanting to working through old patterns that no longer serve you but aren’t sure how, that’s what I’m here for…I offer one-on-one coaching for people who are ready to make shifts in their lives, even if they don’t know exactly what they want those shifts to look like. My philosophy is all about calling all of the pieces of yourself home to what I call “The Inner Hive”. Meaning, claiming and expressing all aspect of who you are, embracing your complexity, accepting your “flaws” and freeing yourself from other’s ideas of what you life should be like.
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