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Change Happens Over Many Nights
December 12, 2015
It may be a cliché, but I find myself saying to my clients over and over, “change doesn’t happen overnight.” We live in a time that offers immediate gratification everywhere. If you want a Skinny Mocha Frappuccino, there is probably one on the next corner. If you need a ride, Uber will pull up in minutes. If you don’t want to be alone with your thoughts there is the TV, You Tube, Instagram or (insert your distraction of preference here). You get it.
When going to therapy (or embarking on any journey of growth) this expectation of instant gratification can make us question: Am I changing? Why aren’t I changing fast enough? Why doesn’t my life/body/relationship look different yet? Aren’t I doing everything I am supposed to do? And, usually the answer is yes; you are doing everything “right.” But doing everything “right” doesn’t mean you wake up tomorrow having the life, or being the person, you are working towards.
Ask yourself this: How many years have I spent being this person? How long have I had these habits, experiences, losses, relationships, thought patterns, insecurities? And you expect to be able to immediately change what has taken years, even decades to form?
Real change is the accumulation of many, small, incremental changes and choices over time, some of which may never get noticed. So much of the work I do is helping my clients to not only manifest the changes they desire, but also to become aware of their progress, their tiny victories. These victories can be overshadowed by the desired vision of the future and a propensity to dismiss them as not being good enough or worth acknowledging. But it is these very bits of progress that lead to the change you are seeking.
It is common to have difficulty with owning your progress. It may seem pointless to celebrate only eating five cookies instead of 10, no matter how hard it is, because, “I still ate the cookies.” However, I am quick to acknowledge progress because it helps clients stay motivated and trust the process, and because it is another way we can be kinder to ourselves.
Being able to give yourself credit will help silence the voice telling you to “just give up” (see Inner Critic blog). No one thrives from being criticized and demeaned, so why do we do it to ourselves? Why do we think that praising ourselves for a small achievement will somehow derail us from our larger goal? It is quite the opposite.
So whether you have a specific goal you are working towards, or a more general desire for growth, please give yourself credit every step along the way. Even returning to past behavior patterns can still be perceived as progress. No step is too small, and no step is a step backwards, as long as you are aware of it, learning from it and gaining insight.
Are there ways you deny yourself seeing your own progress?
If you would like help with making changes, with your ability to notice your progress, or with being kinder to yourself through the process, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.