• Dr Phoebe Lau

Why you can't change, even though you know you want to.

You keep promising yourself to stick to that exercise routine, or meditation practice but every time time those promises seem to fall short. Maybe with the best of intentions, you try to stick to eating regular and nutritious meals, but you keep getting tempted by foods that you’re trying to minimise. "There goes my plan!”, you say to yourself, with some frustration and despondency. 

Why is it so hard to change a behaviour?

Often we first blame circumstances, that we’re “too busy” or “too tired” to stick to our plans. We might then blame ourselves, filling our self-talk with we're “just lazy” or “undisciplined”. This self-talk in itself is problematic as we’re creating unhelpful guilt or shame, and these feelings never produce sustained positive outcomes. In psychological therapy, once we’ve addressed external barriers such as being “too busy” or “too tired”, and challenged some beliefs around “laziness”, we usually uncover a deeper reason why it’s so hard to change a desired behaviour. 

Woman of colour standing in front of you are beautiful sign
Photo by hannah grace

The deeper reason often comes down to a sense of worthiness. Am I worthy of this change? We want to change behaviours that we hope or we know will produce positive outcomes. At times, there is a deeper sense that we’re not “worthy” or “ready” to feel content within ourselves. We might even feel fear of letting go of bad habits because they have served a purpose in the past. Letting go or changing a behaviour can seem like shedding a skin, but sometimes we’re afraid of what our “new” selves might be like. We fear the unknown, preferring to hold onto the familiar comfort of unhelpful behaviours and habits. It feels safe and known, even though we know that these behaviours aren’t helping us.

Ask yourself, Do I feel worthy of feeling good? Or, Do I feel worthy of being content. 

Intellectually, you might have thought, “yes!", but was there any part of you that felt uneasy by this question? 

If you noticed this uneasiness, you have a choice of addressing the underlying belief of unworthiness and/or fear of change. It doesn’t need to be constant battle of promises falling short. 

We’re going to share a few tips in a future post on how to address this underlying belief or fear so please subscribe so you don’t miss out. 

If you think you need tailored help, please check out our individual therapy page for more information. 

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