why can't i make the change?
Unpopular opinion alert:
You don’t really want the change.
I know. It really feels like you do. And you’re maybe cursing me, or you're done with this post, or maybe at least defending yourself with all the reasons you really do want to change.
But you and I both know the truth: if you really want something, all the excuses run out and you make it happen.
Instead of jumping into why you can’t change, let’s consider for a moment the idea that you might not want to.
We mislead ourselves all the time. We make up stories about what we want and how we’re going to get there, and we get so attached to our ideas that we forget what got us there in the first place.
This is what I like to call, the “conveyor belt mentality.”
It works like this: you grow up with an idea in mind of what your life will be like as an adult. It probably looked either a lot like your parents’, or as different from theirs as you could imagine.
Let’s say, for a totally unrelatable, far-fetched example, that you grew up with the American Dream: this idea that you, too, would have a spouse and two kids, own a suburban house and two cars, and be able to afford good educations for your kids, family vacations, and maintain comfortable, busy lives in a routine of clubs, church, and extracurriculars (so that one day your kids can live the dream, too).
So how do you make this dream a reality?
Well of course there are many paths. But let’s say you decide to start at the bottom and climb the corporate ladder. After college, you get a job at a company with growth potential, you go to an office 5 days a week to work for the company’s success, you pour yourself out and put in late hours until you get promoted, and then you work even harder for longer hours. You’ve got the dream—you made it.
And yet, there so many people who work so much they don’t have time for the life outside of work anymore—in fact, they hardly spend any time with their spouses, and vacation seems like a luxury for people with far less work looming over their heads. Sacrificing the things they dreamed of for the sake of the dream itself.
Everything you used to want now feels like an obligation you can’t possibly fulfill.
And your dream is something you don’t even get to experience.
And then one day, you get the call. The thing you’ve always known was coming, but never really could prepare for: the unthinkable accident.
the loss of a parent.
someone wants a divorce.
Maybe sudden and unexpected, or maybe it was a long time coming, it doesn’t really matter. Because something has stopped you in your tracks, and you finally took the moment to reevaluate.
Whose life is this?
How did I get here?
Is this really what I want?
Congratulations, you’re waking up.
You look around and see the conveyor belt, and maybe finally realize you never chose this path or this destination.
So for the person in this situation, did she ever want to give her whole life to her job? Was that ever her goal?
Of course not. But she hopped on board under the belief that it was what she needed to do to get what she really wanted.
So let’s talk about you.
What is it you want?
What do you think of in your life that—if this one thing changed for you, your whole life would be better?
Is it losing weight? Less time on social media? An addiction or some other destructive habit?
Here it is again:
You don’t want to change.
I didn't want to believe it either. Actually, I didn't believe it. Until I accidentally stumbled into change that flowed from freedom in spirit, body, and mind—the only way change is ever genuine and lasting.
I used to desperately want to lose weight—just like 10 or 15 pounds….but I always wanted to lose 10 or 15 pounds. I never had a number in mind, I just knew I wanted to feel better about how I looked.
(Regina George, anyone?)
And I have a degree in dietetics, I understand how weight loss works. That actually made it an even more frustrating experience for me, because now I had ammunition against myself about how no one would ever take me seriously giving nutritional advice if I couldn’t even control my own weight.
Up until about a year ago, the only seasons in my life where I was pleased with my body image were the ones where I was so distracted by something else (usually heartbreak—I called it “the breakup diet**”) (**this is not recommended) where I wasn’t thinking about food or what I looked like at all. I’d feel freedom from food and my body image struggles for a few months until I slipped right back into my “normal.”
But then I realized something that made a huge difference, inches dropped without even trying, and food was finally a fun, stress-free experience (best shared with others!) where I didn’t beat myself up after every meal or calculate calories compulsively throughout the day.
Want to know what changed?
I realized I didn’t want it.
I didn't really want to lose those 15 pounds.
MAN it felt like I did. I would agonize over it and ride the spiral down into self-disgust and shame.
Being thinner wasn’t what I was really after, I just told myself that it was how I would get what I really wanted:
Respect and admiration.
If I were thinner, I would fit into what society told me I was supposed to look like. So I was stuck on this mental treadmill, dreaming of having a different body, knowing I was unhealthy, knowing I wanted a different life, believing that this was the thing that would get me there.
But I didn’t really want to lose the weight—I wanted the things I told myself it would bring.
I cannot express to you enough the importance of being honest with yourself.
Once I admitted these things, I was free to ask myself what I might like about carrying those extra pounds.
I got to enjoy more food. I got surprise people by defying norms for what's "conventionally attractive." (AKA most of my life I was the chubby one with a cute face.)
I also got to feel like I was protecting myself in a lot of ways: from lack, from expectations, and especially from men.
And in some deep sense, I hid under enough self-hatred that I truly believed I didn’t deserve to be thin. Truthfully, it gave me something to hold onto about myself to make me feel like my own self-hatred was rightly placed.
But the thing about living in fear is that you’re never really protecting yourself in any of the ways you think you are—you’re simply giving more of your power and energy away to things that don’t bring life to you or to the world around you.
After clearing the air with myself, surrendering all the lies and stories I’d clung to (and didn’t even know it), a literal weight lifted. Seriously. In less time than I thought possible, I felt at home in my body, looking in the mirror without the layers of self-protection, self-doubt, condemnation and fear, that had always held me back, and instead with self-love, affection, and gratitude.
Honesty, acceptance, and self-compassion can go a long way.
If there’s a change you think you want, I invite you to dig a little deeper and ask:
What is it you’re really looking for?
What comes up might be scary or painful, but it might just be time to step out of those stories, off the conveyor belt, and into a life where you make your own path.