Facing the Fear of Change: Big Risks Can Bring Big Rewards

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” ~Barack Obama

If someone said to you, “Hey, you know how you are feeling the need for change and you’re not sure what to do? Well, I can’t tell you what to do, but I can guarantee that if you follow where your heart leads you, you’ll create the possibility of more joy than you’ve ever felt before. All you have to do is walk through the doors that will keep opening up for you and trust, completely, that you are on the right track. You may question it at times, but keep going. You’ll be fine no matter what.”

What would you do? Would you follow the guarantee or would you keep doing what you’re doing?

What if the caveat was added, “Oh, you should probably know that if you do this, you run the risk of losing much of what you’ve known and who you think you are now will look completely different the next time you look in the mirror.”

Ummmm… hold up. Let me think about that.

That’s basically what happens when you know it’s time to change up your life and you’re innately scared to do so.

So, what do you do?

I spend a lot of time in deep reflection and introspection. And it’s not because I want to; it’s because I am constantly trying to understand myself, to figure out where I’m headed and what’s potentially holding me back from getting there.

Most of the time, I feel completely in the dark. And while my grandmother always told me that there is nothing in the dark that can hurt you, I’m human; I question this theory. And yet I continue to trust that she’s right. She lived over eighty years and was the most inspirational woman I’ve known; she must’ve learned something pretty valuable to be expressing these bold opinions.

So I had the nudge to change myself and I went with it. No, that’s not accurate—I had the internal and external shove and I went for it.

In the matter of a few short years, I got divorced, bought a house, lived alone with my kids, completely supported myself financially and then left my job, started a business, and changed the majority of my friends. I chose to start completely over in many ways.

On paper, I looked a bit off balanced.

Yet, I felt in my heart, in my soul, that I was supposed to make these changes. They were leading me somewhere I knew deep down I wanted to be.

During that time of immense change, I took some huge hits. I lost my marriage, most of my friends, my sense of belonging, my financial stability, an understanding of who I thought I was, any semblance of security, consistent support from loved ones, and a ton of sleep.

That was never part of my plan. I didn’t expect to lose so much, but it happened. I had to learn how to let go, regroup, and re-evaluate what I was doing. I had to learn to trust my decisions and that the discomfort was temporary and going to be worth its price.

It was challenging. No, it was painful. And scary. And dark. Very, very dark.

These changes, that proposed I’d grow into a better version of myself, came with a hidden tax. In order to get to where I was headed, I would need to dig deep and re-discover my strength, my passion, and my drive to keep moving forward no matter what.

I would have to look at my fears dead on and question their weight. I would have to re-assess my standards and feel the guilt of changing not just for myself, but also for my kids.

I questioned myself over and over again, interrogating my need to keep going—why I couldn’t quit. And what would I do if I just gave up? I had to evaluate my worth and see if I really had what it took to be this person, whoever she was.

I met an amazing friend who seemed to be on the same path as me. She vocalized the same fears, as well as the same need to hope. We spent the first year of our leap of faith supporting each other through the ups and downs. She was my sense of relief. And then, with no warning, she died in her sleep. What I relied on was gone. My questioning began all over again.

I cried often. I regularly found myself in the fetal position protecting myself from letting anyone in. More times than not, I felt completely alone.

And yet, with every dark day came one full of light. Every tear I shed was followed up by a laugh with a new friend. Every moment of doubt was rewarded with some notion of peace and promise that the pain would dissipate and the joy would return.

And it did. For every three friends lost, I found one that reminded me I was cherished, trusted, and not alone. For every time I questioned if I did right by my children, they showered me with love and gratitude to remind me that I was exactly what they needed. For the financial security I lost, came the abundant flow that surpassed what I had previously known, doing exactly what I loved.

With the guilt came the opportunity to forgive myself. With the fear came the opportunity to trust myself. With the self-deprecation came the opportunity to love myself.

This person I was becoming—who I am—was far braver than I ever knew. The fears continued to flood me, but I didn’t let them change my course. The more I let myself be vulnerable, the more I was able to see the next steps. I also saw myself in a light I had never seen—radiant, confident, full of flaws, but the kind I could work with.

I was no longer a good mom; I was a great mom. I was no longer poor; I was rich with experience. As I let my heart open, I experienced more moments awe and gratitude than I had ever before in my life.

I still cried a lot when I was alone. I prayed often and looked for signs of hope every single day. I still do. I will never stop. I need them.

But this promise of change to be in a place my heart has longed for, where I am comfortable in my own skin—I have arrived.

The fear doesn’t just go away. It asks to be seen and acknowledged. Yet the more I’ve learned to work with it, the less it has worked against me.

I ask it questions. I examine the root of its discomfort. I look for alternatives to the boundaries it won’t budge on. I compromise decisions and reframe all the answers it gives me back. I hear the negatives and I search for the positives. I find the hope and spoon feed it to the fears who just want reassurance.

My fears and I, we talk a lot. Like a child who just wants to feel safe, I speak to them in a way that doesn’t diminish their value, but reminds them they are not always right.

Would I have taken this road if I knew what to expect? I don’t honestly know. But I do know I have no regrets, and this person I am, I like her. And I’m happy to have her as a friend. She inspires me.

Maybe that’s what the change was all about.

Truly living and growing requires risk. And not all risks pan out the way we hope or imagine. Sometimes those risks temporarily take us to places that are darker than the life we were living before. They may even require us to let go of what we think we need or what once brought us joy in order for us to grow.

Yet with each risk comes the opportunity to discover something about ourselves—a hidden talent, a new passion, personal insight, or simply deep courage and internal strength that’s been waiting to be felt so we know it exists.

There may not be a guarantee that we will experience more joy than before, but the only way to discover what’s possible is to take a chance, make a change, and find out.

About Lynn Reilly

Lynn Reilly is a licensed professional counselor, master energy therapist, and author of the self-care book 30 Days to Me and the children's book The Secret to Beating the Dragon. You can subscribe to her insights and benefit from her 15-minute trust practices to live more fully on livingwithserendipity.com as well as follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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