The internal tug-of-war – feeling torn in your decision
Whether you're considering leaving a job, ending a relationship, improving your health, or breaking an old habit, making change often involves a degree of uncertainty and risk, which can make it challenging and sometimes scary.
You may not know where to begin and you may not feel confident in your ability to change.
You also may be concerned about the impacts of the change and unsure that you can deal with the impacts, so you decide it's not worth trying or you keep putting it off.
You may find yourself weighing the pros and cons and you feel absolutely torn between your options.
Perhaps in your case you’ve recognized that you are unhappy in your relationship, that you’re not getting your needs met, and you feel like you’ve tried your best to make it work but nothing has changed. On the one hand, you know deep down that ending the relationship would be good for you in the long-run and you could be happier with someone else, but you know that a break-up will be painful, you’re not sure you’ll be able to find someone else, and you’re afraid of being alone and lonely, so you start thinking that the relationship is not so bad - staying together would be easier and less complicated - but in the meantime you are still struggling and unhappy.
And what if it is simply unrealistic to make a change right now? Perhaps you live with your partner and you can’t just end things without having someplace else to stay.
Or you are in a job that you don’t like and you know you need to leave but you can’t afford to leave without having another job lined up.
These solutions don’t appear out of thin air and often take time to find.
So then you are left feeling really torn and maybe even trapped. You get stuck in a state of ambivalence, going back and forth in your mind trying to figure out what to do, which can leave you feeling stressed, dissatisfied, irritated, anxious, sad, helpless, and hopeless, not to mention that underneath it all you may feel ashamed and angry with yourself for not feeling capable of making a change.
The state of ambivalence can be intense and feel like an internal tug-of-war.
All you want is to feel relief from this experience and so you find ways to avoid it, deny it, blame others, and distract yourself from the issue, which may provide temporary relief, but it doesn’t make it go away and it tends to pop back up again and again.
Taking the back seat on life
The longer you put off taking steps toward making a change the more dissatisfaction, frustration, and resentment builds up, creating tension and stress that can seem unbearable. The discomfort makes it hard to stay focused and you find yourself just getting through your days, taking a back seat on life, rather than pursuing your dreams and taking time to enjoy and appreciate the little things. You keep looking back wondering how you got here and feeling angry with yourself for not taking action and letting life pass you by.
With every change there is uncertainty and a sense of loss which can stir up difficult emotions and lead you to second-guess your decision. However, if you can learn to cope with those difficult emotions, keep things in perspective, and accept the consequences of your decision, you can feel confident in making a change and confident in your ability to deal with whatever impacts come with the change.
When you can see the bigger picture and be kind to yourself through the process, it is entirely possible to feel good about yourself and feel good about your choice without looking back with regret. Keep reading for some tips to help you start feeling more confident in your ability to make a change today.
Move into the driver’s seat
Taking steps toward change - whether it’s a change in your situation or a change in your outlook - will allow you to move back into the driver’s seat and become an active participant in your life and not just the kind of person that lets life happen to you.
You have the opportunity to find new opportunities for growth and enjoyment, to feel good about yourself, feel empowered, more satisfied, and hopeful about what the future holds.
You can better understand your needs and values and start making choices in your life that bring more fulfillment and peace.
So how can you stop the internal tug of war and move into the driver’s seat? Here are a few suggestions to consider:
Ask for help and feedback. Seek out support or use the supports that you already have. Receiving guidance, wisdom, and support from others can be motivating and help with your decision to change, but don’t expect someone to rescue you or make the decision for you.
You need to make the decision for yourself when you are ready, otherwise you will not have the motivation necessary to stick with it and you are more likely to question whether you made the right decision later on. Also, making the choice to change on your own is empowering and you can feel good about yourself for having the courage to try a new path forward.
Look closely at the consequences. Make a list of the pros and cons of making change and make a list of the pros and cons of not making change.
Step back from the situation and gain some perspective. Ask yourself what you might tell a friend or a family member in the same situation. It’s often easier to advise and comfort others rather than ourselves.
Create a long-term vision. Take a look at your values and long-term goals. What do you want for yourself? What do you envision for yourself? Try not to get caught up in what seems realistic right now or not. Just allow yourself to dream to get a sense of what you are looking for in life. What will it take and what will you need in order to reach your goals?
Slow down and start small. Break down the change into smaller steps and make a plan. This can help relieve some of the feelings of overwhelm that come with change and can help you to plan for some of the risk to make sure that you are being as safe and prepared as possible.
Try something new. It doesn’t have to be big or dramatically new, just something, anything, new and different. Start with something simple and see how it feels. Noticing the rewards that come with change can help motivate you to go further.
Be kind and patient with yourself. If you’re having a hard time making a choice or making a change, be kind to yourself. Seek understanding of your difficulties and accept them. The more you resist your difficulties or ignore them, the more they will persist and the more you will beat yourself up for not doing anything. Know that needs change all the time, and so does motivation.
Watch your expectations and don’t strive for perfection. There is no perfect method or perfect time for change. Expect that there may be some challenges ahead and use the challenges as learning opportunities rather than defeats.
Do something to soothe yourself. If overwhelm or strong emotions arise, give yourself a break or take a time out to take care of yourself. Take some deep breaths. Go for a walk. Listen to some music. Talk to someone you trust. Whatever you need to do to safely soothe yourself, be able to think clearly, regain focus, and be present. Strong emotions can be motivating or demotivating, and they can also skew judgment. If possible, make decisions from a neutral feeling state.
Imagine it. Imagine what the change would look like with as much attention to detail as possible, including what it would feel like once you've met your goals. Play through the experience in your mind and really notice how it feels. This can help serve as motivation and also gets you in the mindset for moving towards change.
Remember your strengths. This can help build esteem, confidence, and motivation. If you can't think of any of your strengths, reach out to someone who supports you or seek out professional support and let them help to remind you.
Simply allowing yourself to consider changes that could support your well-being shows an interest in self-improvement and self-care which is a strength in itself and one that deserves recognition.
Now, you might not be able to feel confident in your ability to make a change right away. It will take time to change your situation and your outlook, but it is entirely possible to feel good about yourself and your decision to change without looking back with regret.
Sometimes it can be hard to make a change on your own and it can be helpful to have some support, guidance, and accountability to help you along. Therapy is a great place to find this sort of support. If you are interested in learning more about how therapy can help or you would like to set up an appointment, feel free to contact me. I’m happy to help.
Call Melanie Lopes, MFT at 415-295-2940 or send me an email.