How to cope when others resist you changing

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Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Most people resist change. Even if they’re unhappy, they avoid taking action to make life better. But what if you want to change, while others round you don’t? They may even oppose you moving towards a more fulfilling life. If you’re discouraged, or even angry at the reactions of others, deal with these thoughts and emotions immediately. Don’t let the resistance of others stop you carrying out your goals.

People who cling to the status quo are often stuck. They’re held back by fear: fear of the unknown, fear of disruption, fear of losing control over their lives.

And these fears are understandable. Change is hard. It’s messy and confusing.

But if you have a clear vision of how you want to change, you’re probably keen to begin working towards your goals. However, something funny often happens once you take the first steps.

Those close to you may react to make it clear they don’t want you to change.

When others resist you changing

Others may criticise what you’re doing, or complain you’ve upset their routine. They may be annoyed you’re spending less time with them. They may even put subtle obstacles in your way to stop you doing things differently.

Now, there may be many reasons that cause others to resist you changing.

They may worry you’ll want them to change as well, which could expose their weaknesses. Maybe they worry you’ll change so much that you’ll leave them behind. Or they’re jealous at how easily you can change.

Whatever the reason, they’d prefer you to stay the same. That way, they can stay in their comfort zone.

Keeping relationships intact

However, this lack of support can be frustrating when you yourself are ready to change.

So how can you forge ahead with your personal development, while keeping your relationships intact?

The trick is to prepare well. Lay the groundwork with others first, before you embark on any change. 

Even so, you may still feel hurt, sad, or angry at how others resist you changing. And you need to know how to deal with these feelings.

Coping with your feelings

Although negative emotions are normal, most of us don’t like them. We do our best to get rid of them as fast as possible. But this usually backfires.

Burying negative emotions only makes them stronger in the long run. They keep simmering away, building in strength. And then they erupt when it’s least appropriate.

Far better to deal with difficult emotions now. Then you’ll avoid emotional outbursts that may affect your relationships.

Here are a few pointers to help.

1 Sit with your feelings

Firstly, sit with your feelings. This can be difficult if you’re in the habit of pushing unpleasant emotions away.

But if you persist, you’ll gradually learn to tolerate them, without being overwhelmed by them. Emotions are just emotions, and you can choose not to be ruled by them.

So spend a few minutes in a quiet place, away from others.

Instead of stamping down your hurt and disappointment, acknowledge what you’re feeling. Name each emotion you notice: anger, frustration, disappointment, sadness, fear…

Rate how intense each one is on a scale from 1 – 10. Some will be stronger than others.

Allow these feelings to wash over you, without fighting them. Let them ebb and flow, and don’t try to change them in any way.

2 Emotions are just emotions

Even if you would normally think these emotions are unpleasant, try to remain neutral. You don’t have to see them as either good or bad.

They just are. They’re a part of life.

Sit quietly, and breathe slowly. Be aware of any urge to stew over how unfair the situation is.

Write down any difficult thoughts that keep popping up. You can deal with them later.

For now, continue to sit quietly, breathing slowly and steadily.

Emotions are just emotions, and you can learn to withstand them. 

3 Accept how you’re feeling

If your attention has strayed, bring it back to your emotions. Notice how they don’t stay the same. Instead, they rise and fall.

Every now and again, rate the intensity of each feeling.

Remind yourself to accept your emotions without fighting or pushing them away. Sometimes being with loved pets can help you cope with tough emotions. 

Over time, your feelings will become less intense – unless you fuel them with sad or angry thoughts. You can learn to tolerate your emotions, even if you don’t like them. And because they’re not as scary as you once thought, you don’t have to get rid of them.

If you let them be there as you go about your daily life, they’ll gradually pass. 

Rather than allowing yourself to be overwhelmed, see yourself as a person who has emotions and who can still do what you need to do.

With practice and the willingness to let your emotions go, you can distance yourself from them. They don’t have to take up your whole being. 

Once your emotions reduce a little, pay more attention to what you’re thinking.

Dealing with your thoughts

Some of your thoughts may be unpleasant: resentful, full of bitterness and blame. Some of your thoughts may question whether others care about you. Or you may be thinking it’s hopeless to try to change if others resist your efforts. 

As with your emotions, don’t push these thoughts away. Let them be there. They’re a part of you at this moment.

Put these ideas into words that clearly express what you’re thinking. Write them down, no matter how embarrassing or painful they are.

Everyone has these thoughts at some time in their lives. They don’t make you a bad person.

Thoughts are just thoughts

Acknowledge and accept that these thoughts are what you’re thinking. They’re neither good nor bad; they’re just thoughts.

And you don’t have to see yourself as being at the mercy of your thoughts. You can have these thoughts, and still function perfectly well. 

Now you can do one of two things to manage these thoughts. You can choose which strategy you use, or you can use a combination of the two.

1 Let your thoughts go

Firstly, you can decide to let your thoughts go.

You can allow the upsetting thoughts to fade into the background, while you continue your daily life. Let them drift away, or write them down again if they keep coming back.

Tell yourself these thoughts aren’t what you want to focus on right now. This isn’t the time to hash over old hurts.

Then focus your attention on taking action that will help move you towards one of your goals.

Each time one of these thoughts returns, tell it that you’re not interested in it right now. Then turn your attention back to what you’re working on.

You may need to do this many, many times. Don’t allow yourself to be annoyed; it’s just the way it is. 

2 Challenge unhelpful thoughts

Another more proactive strategy involves testing the reality of unhelpful thoughts. Although your thoughts are normal, having them run rampant in your head isn’t always healthy.

For one thing, they may be distorted. They may not reflect the reality of your situation. So it’s useful to examine them and if needed, change them be more realistic.

Example 1

For example, you may be thinking, “Others don’t want the best for me.”

At first glance, this may seem plausible. After all, others appear to be resisting your efforts to improve your life.

But is it really true they don’t want the best for you? That they want you to fail and be miserable?

Maybe there’s something else behind their behaviour. They may be worrying about what will happen to them if you change. Or they don’t want you to be disappointed if you fail to reach your goals.

Do you really know what’s behind their seeming lack of support? Perhaps you need to find out.

Modify the unhelpful belief

So keep an open mind before you leap to unhelpful conclusions. Rather than blaming others, find out how they view the situation. Imagine a range of reasons that could explain why they resist you changing.

If they’re receptive, have a quiet chat with them. Ask what worries or annoys them about your attempts to change. Let them talk, without butting in to contradict them. Once you know what’s bothering them, you can take action to remove their doubts.

You may realise that they do want you to succeed. However, they may also want you to take their views into account.

So their worries may prevent them showing how much they care.

Example 2

You may also find yourself thinking, “Others should support me 100%.”

If you do believe this, it may be worth investigating if this is a reasonable belief. If it isn’t, you’re setting yourself up for eternal disappointment. No-one would ever meet your expectations, no matter how hard they tried.

So ask yourself honestly: what could make it hard for others to provide 100% support when you want it?

In reality, everyone has to cope with their own problems related to health, work or study, or relationships. Even with the best will in the world, others have limited time, skills, or resources to help you.

Most people would therefore find it impossible to give 100% emotional or practical support, especially over a long time.

And what about you?

Do you give 100% support to everyone you’re close to whenever they need it? Why or why not? Do you even want to?

Imagine how this level of continual sacrifice could affect your life. How could you expect this from others?

Modify the unhelpful belief

So perhaps this belief that others should always help you 100% isn’t realistic. It’s sad, but that’s the way it is. 

In reality, others probably do want to support you. But you can’t control how much they do for you. Accept and be grateful that they’re doing the best they can in the circumstances.

However, if you’re still unhappy, brush up your assertiveness skills.

Let them know politely but clearly what you’d like them to do. Listen to their side of the story as well. And remember, there’s no guarantee that they’ll respond the way you want. But you may find they’re willing to change what they’re doing in some way.

Compassion if others resist you changing

Choose to feel compassion, instead of anger or hurt, when others resist you changing. Their insecurities or past disappointments may cause them to fear change.

Be grateful that you’re able to develop a mindset that fosters growth and self-mastery. You’re prepared to face setbacks with grit and determination.

So don’t allow yourself to be held back by the reactions of others. Keep forging ahead on your chosen path, and be ready to take on life’s challenges.

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