What fears prevent you from changing?

I invite you to find out what fears are preventing you from changing! Why? Because identifying them is the first step to defusing them. Want to find out more? Read this article.

Change is often accompanied by fear

You know that a change is necessary in your life as a humanitarian or expatriate, but you feel blocked! You just can’t get started!

You just can’t put in place what you need, whether it’s for a major life transition (professional, personal, family) or for small changes in your daily life (new habits, taking care of yourself),

I often come across people who are convinced that their current situation no longer suits them, and yet are unable to take concrete action to change it!

It’s disconcerting, I grant you, but it’s good to know that when we feel unable to initiate a change, it’s not usually due to a lack of willpower or motivation! On the contrary!

What’s behind the block is probably something quite different: a fear!

A conscious or unconscious fear, rational or irrational, legitimate, or illegitimate, that’s not the question!

The question is rather how to identify it and tame it, so that it doesn’t prevent you from creating the positive changes you want to achieve.

Why is the idea of change so frightening?

As an expatriate, humanitarian, or expat spouse, you’re of course used to dealing with change and having to create it to adapt. And yet, I’m sure that despite everything, changes – at least some of them – also provoke fears in you!

Fear of change is extremely common!

In fact, any change triggers mental, emotional, and physical reactions! Your brain hates the unknown and wants to stay in its comfort zone. It sends out alarm signals, putting your emotions in turmoil and your body on alert!

These fears will lead you to adopt one of three reactions:

  • Flight,
  • Freeze,
  • Fight.

Not a very useful and effective way of bringing about change!

To better understand how to overcome your fears, it’s a good idea to start by identifying them.

What kind of fears are holding back change?

Do you know the most common fears associated with change?

Among the humanitarians, expat spouses and expatriates I work with, these are the fears most often mentioned:

  • Fear of losing one’s current life balance (even if it’s not ideal).
  • Fear of the unknown, of uncertainty.
  • Fear of failure, of failing.
  • Fear of what others will think of you.
  • Fear of your own judgment.

Do any of these fears echo what you’re feeling? Are there other fears that impact your desire for change?

To help you get to grips with these different fears, let’s take a closer look!

The fear of losing one’s life balance, even if it’s not ideal!

I often meet expatriates or humanitarians who are not satisfied with their personal or professional lives. And yet, they fear that a change could jeopardize the reassuring, positive aspects of their current situation. In a way, they’re afraid of losing everything or too much!

Examples:

  • An expatriate spouse who is considering re-entering the job market, even though she has been taking care of her children full-time for a long time. She fears not being available enough for her family and losing the life balance she has managed to establish.
  • A working expatriate who is considering a career change and is anxious about losing financial security or status.
  • A humanitarian worker who wants to return home to a “normal life” but wonders whether he’ll be able to adapt!

These are legitimate fears!

But change doesn’t have to mean throwing everything into question and doing a 360-degree turnaround. Change often means establishing small new habits that will enable you to flourish, while preserving what’s important to you.

And if a drastic change is on the horizon, it’s perfectly feasible! If you don’t expect to implement it in 24 hours! We’re talking about starting a process of change that will take a few months. So, it’s not going to turn your life upside down immediately. On the contrary, this change will take place step by step, little by little, very gently.

With my clients, what most often happens is a combination of both: changing small habits to immediately increase their level of well-being, while moving forward, one step at a time, towards a more significant change.

In both cases, they’ll make sure that these changes enable them to maintain the desired balance and, above all, honor their core values.

“The secret of change is to focus your energy on creating the new, not fighting the old.” Dan Millman

The fear of the unknown when faced with a change in life or career.

To change is to try something new, to enter the unknown, to accept the uncertainties that come with it. And that, with no real guarantee of succeeding, of having made the right choice and of having taken the right decision.

The unknown is notoriously scary!

Behind your fear of the unknown lies the fear of not knowing how to handle what lies ahead!

And yet, I’m sure you’ll be able to handle it!

How do I know?

Well, if you’re here today, it’s because you’ve already managed everything life has thrown at you so far! Life isn’t a smooth ride for anyone, but even less so for you, expatriate and humanitarian, who has already faced a multitude of transitions, uncertainties and changes! So, I’m sure you’ll be able to manage this change, just as you’ve always managed so far!

Faced with the uncertainties of change, above all, you need to clarify what you want in the long term! By clarifying your direction, you’ll be able to move forward despite the unknowns, because you’ll know that even if you must take detours, it’s to reach your goal in the end!

Like a sailboat that knows its destination but doesn’t know what awaits it as it sails. It’ll have to deal with it to reach its harbour!

With a clear goal in mind, you can then take action. The best way to get out of the “freeze response” created by uncertainty is to start with a very first small step! A first small action that will take you in the right direction! Then take one step after another to keep moving towards the desired change!

“If you never try, you’ll never succeed, but if you do try, you may surprise yourself.” Albert Einstein

The fear of failure when faced with a career or life transition.

You’re afraid to take the plunge for fear of failing! And it’s this fear that gives rise to another fear: the fear of trying!

I often hear it: “I’m not sure I can do it! I’m afraid of making mistakes! I’ve already failed in the past, and I don’t want to go wrong again!”

Change implies to take risks: to fail, to make mistakes. These are risks that shouldn’t hold you back.

Failure is part of the change process! It’s not a problem; it’s even a good source of learning!

It’s also important to understand that when you fail, the problem isn’t you! The only real culprit is your strategy! So, it’s by working on your strategy that you can tackle the obstacles!

Failures allow you to correct course, plan differently and start again in a smarter way.

It’s also very important not to have unreasonable expectations about change! Many people expect to go straight from point A to point B, whereas change is never linear: you’ll inevitably take a few detours, and that’s normal!

And to conclude on the fear of failure, it’s also interesting to realize that sometimes behind this fear lies the fear of… succeeding! That’s right, because success implies change, and change is often very scary indeed!

“To fail is to have the opportunity to start again in a smarter way.” Henri Ford

The fear of other people’s judgements on the changes you could make.

The fear of other people’s opinions is a fear we rarely talk about when it comes to change! And yet, it’s a very common fear!

Perhaps, like many people, you’ve locked yourself into a role filled with injunctions such as “I must…”, “I have to…” “I should…”. These injunctions are generally inherited from your childhood, or the society in which you live.

Of course, there are obligations you can’t escape. However, there are also those that you impose on yourself unconsciously, simply because you think that’s what’s expected of you.

  • If you work in the humanitarian field, you may be thinking, “As a humanitarian, I have to accept the jobs I’m offered, even if they don’t always suit me.” “Working in this sector, I have to put the needs of others first, even if it’s to the detriment of my personal life!” “My parents, colleagues, friends only know me as a humanitarian, what will they think of me if I plan to leave this sector?”
  • If you’re an expatriate spouse, these may include beliefs such as, “I have to earn money to be valuable.” “As a spouse at home, I have to think of my children first.” “I have a privileged life; I have no right to complain.”
  • If you’re a working expat, these may be injunctions such as “I have a good professional situation that brings me financial security and status, even if I’m not fully fulfilled, why would I want to turn everything upside down?” “Working for myself would be madness – I’d never be able to provide for my family!” “I have diplomas and experience, so why should I want to do anything else? “I’ve imposed my choice of expatriation on my family, so I’ll just have to be satisfied with my current job.”

Behind these injunctions may lie your fear of other people’s judgement. In fact, one of the fundamental needs of human beings is the need to belong (to be part of a group, a community). Therefore, behind it, it’s your fear of rejection that drives you to attach so much importance to the judgments of others.

Because of these fears, you prefer to favour behaviours that facilitate inclusion, rather than risk a change that could undermine your need to belong!

This is particularly true in the humanitarian field, where leaving the job also means leaving your tribe. It’s also true as an expatriate, where you evolve in an international and multicultural community that you may be particularly fond of. As an expat spouse, it’s a little different: it’s often because of this status of accompanying spouse, misunderstood, that the fear of rejection or of being looked down upon by others has grown stronger!

These fears are very often linked to your need to belong, but we mustn’t forget that among the five fundamental needs, there’s also the need for self-fulfillment.

To achieve this last need, it’s essential to learn to detach yourself from the gaze of others, even if your choice to change may provoke negative reactions or misunderstandings.

Having said that, a first important point: very often our fear of other people’s judgment is not confirmed at all! Reactions to our changed situation are, more often than we believe, positive and encouraging! That’s what I see with the people I work with! Their fears of being judged are rarely confirmed!

When the reaction is negative, the important thing to remember is that your changes scare other people! As such, their reactions echo their own fears. Yes, they too have a brain that resists change: they’d rather see you stay with what they already know about you, either because they’re worried about you, or because they’re afraid it might alter your relationship! Sometimes, because it mirrors their own difficulties in initiating change!

“To be free is also not to act according to the gaze of others.” FrĂ©dĂ©ric Lenoir

The fear of disappointing yourself in the face of difficult changes.

Another fear that is often overlooked and yet crippling: the fear of disappointing yourself!

You fear your own judgment! You fear that they will lead you into a negative spiral of self-criticism and guilt.

I often hear people say things like: “I’ve already tried so many times without ever going all the way! I couldn’t bear to disappoint myself again!” I’ve even had several people tell me that they were reluctant to commit to a coaching support, for fear of finding themselves, once again, faced with their inability to create the desired changes. Fortunately, this fear has not come true, because coaching enables them to accompany this process of change and thus bounce back in the right way.

It’s a real fear to disappoint oneself.

You might think that to stay motivated and keep moving forward, you need to be constantly self-critical, self-judgmental, ruthless with yourself? But it’s just the opposite! What you need when the going gets tough is kindness and compassion!

What is your reaction when your best friend or your child are facing a difficulty? Are you going to add to it by telling them they’re no good? No, on the contrary, you’re going to highlight what works well and encourage them to try again!

This is exactly what you need when faced with a life change or transition: to offer yourself kindness and compassion.

Become your own best ally, your own best friend!

And to do that, you can start by getting to know better yourself. This is what will help you accept yourself as you are, with your imperfections, doubts, mistakes, strengths, and weaknesses.

Only when you accept yourself as you are, can you really change.

Why?

Because you’ll know that, whatever happens, you’ll be kind to yourself! Even when it’s difficult and complicated, you’ll be able to be your own best friend.

It’s an incredible strength to become your own ally: you won’t be afraid to move forward, because you won’t be afraid of your own reaction to your own failures!

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change”. Carl Roger

How can you overcome your fears in the face of change?

By detailing the different fears you may face, I’ve already given you a few pointers on how to tame them. Here’s a summary of what I think is important, with a few additional ideas as a bonus.

Whatever happens, you’ll be able to manage these changes.

Adopt this precious mantra: “Whatever happens, you’ll be able to handle it”. That’s what I always say to the people I accompany.

No matter what happens, you will handle it!

When you feel fear rising up, don’t hesitate to repeat this phrase to yourself!

By reconnecting with who you are, you’re bound to realize that you’re equipped to create change, because as an expat, accompanying spouse or humanitarian, you’ve already proved it time and time again!

Clarify who you are today.

Become fully aware of who you are today: your values, your strengths, your needs, your passions, your qualities, your experience, your skills.

Of course, also identify your fears, limiting beliefs and injunctions, so that you can defuse them!

It’s this self-awareness that will enable you to accept yourself as you are.

This greater self-awareness will enable you to become your own best ally when it comes to making the changes you want!

It’s the key to creating positive changes in your life as an expatriate or humanitarian.

Identify the “for what” and the “Why” of this change!

Identify your “for what”? What is your goal? Your destination? The concrete change you want to create.

Identify also your “Why”? Why do you want to make this change? What are your deepest motivations and needs?

These “why’s” and “what’s” will enable you to overcome your fears, because you’ll be able to reconnect with them as soon as things get a little more difficult. You’ll be able to relate to them when you have doubts, when you face failure.

They also help you appreciate the process of change, which is never totally linear!

Evaluate the cost of inaction if you don’t initiate change.

Two questions you can ask yourself to help you overcome your fears are:

  • “What’s it costing me not to change?”

and

  • “What does it cost me to change?

It’s also a way of reinforcing your “Why?”, your reason for moving forward and not letting fear take hold.

In general, inaction costs much more than action! And if it isn’t, it’s probably because the change you’re considering isn’t the right one!

Value every small step forward.

What scares your brain the most are big, drastic changes! When all you need to do is focus on every little action you take.

To calm your fears, break down your goal into small chunks.

A friend of mine illustrated this by saying: “Rather than eating the whole sausage at once, let’s cut it into small slices. It’s much easier to digest!

The key here is to value every little action towards your goal: that’s what keeps you enjoying the process and staying in the action.

“A journey of a thousand miles always begins with a first step.” Lao-Tseu

What do you need to overcome your fears of change?

Have you been able to identify those fears that prevent you from creating change in your life as an expatriate or humanitarian?

If so, congratulations! You’ve got a few keys to taming them so that they don’t get in the way of your desire for change! Awareness is a crucial first step!

But it’s sometimes not enough! If you feel that, despite everything, these fears are holding you back, what you need to do is to tame them so that they can lessen their power over you, so that they don’t rule your life and your choices! You can start by using the tips in this article.

And if not, you should know that as part of my coaching program, I help you to overcome these blocks and create the changes you need. If you think this is the kind of support you could use, contact me for a discovery session, so we can assess together whether my program is right for you. To book an appointment directly, click here.

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