“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” — A. A. Milne (Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh)
She moved more than a thousand miles away and left me in Tennessee to continue living and making my way.
To some, it seemed silly that I was so sad at her absence, but the loss is a real everyday loss for me, and I knew life would never be quite the same. When she left, she commented that I should get out from under her shadow, and Christopher Robin’s words immediately played in my head.
When we lose someone or some position or something, we might think the loss diminishes us. Instead, we are stronger than we seem and braver than we believe, and oh so much smarter than we think.
I was in sixth grade the first time a friend moved away. Terri Turner moved to Georgia because of her father’s job. Not I. We were in the same house my entire childhood, and I liked it that way. But when my daddy died, I watched my mother do what I still find difficult to imagine for myself — she moved, first to a smaller home and then to an apartment in the town where I live.
Some people move away, some people move forward, and I have enjoyed staying where I am, which leaves me to question my thinking on some issues.
Regardless of which side of the story you find yourself, change can be difficult and frightening. What is even harder than the change itself, I believe, is our Fear of Change. Of course, I also believe that if I wrote every day about life, I also could write every day about fear.
Fear, on some level, seems to drive almost everything in life, if we allow it. When I think of “fear of change” I think about Milne’s words in Winnie the Pooh — we forget that we are brave, strong, and smart, and we allow fear to keep us where we are.
What kinds of change do we tend to fear? We fear the change of relationships through death, breakup or moving. We fear the change of technology that might leave us feeling behind other people in the workforce. We fear the change in our bodies as we age. We fear the change in our lifestyle if our income is affected. We fear the change of our towns as they explode with more people than our infrastructures can handle. We fear the change of leadership in our jobs, our churches, our towns and our countries. I know this is true because these are the things I’ve heard people talk about in panicked voices and sometimes have expressed myself.
“We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.” — Max De Pree
In our fearful thinking, we often sabotage ourselves from a change that would benefit us. Good things can come with change. In our home, we’ve had things we were afraid to change, but when we finally did, the change was good and we wondered why we had held off so long.
I’ve heard friends talk of jobs they hated but were afraid to leave, and when they were forced to leave, they discovered wonderful adventures they had been hesitant to even imagine. Domestic violence victims often stay in dangerous situations for the same reason — it seems easier to stay in a bad place than risk the unknown in a new situation. The truth is, change can be so good for all of us if we open the door to it.
Staying with certain pain is proven to be a preferred choice over the uncertainty of what might be waiting for us if we change. A study in 2016 (de Berker, A., Rutledge, R., Mathys, C. et al.) revealed that uncertainty produced more fear in subjects than a known outcome that would produce certain pain. What does this mean? You and I are going to have to change our thinking if we want to reap the benefits that could come with changing our situations because it seems many of us are wired to resist and accept the pain.
How can we break out of this fear of change? I was setting my lineup for my fantasy football team and knew where to find the answer. Professional athletes are traded — on my roster and on real-life team rosters, and I bet the fear of changing teams is a little scary. Molly Fletcher was a sports agent who has shared some of her tips, and I’ll share a shortened version with you.
1. Trade complacency for ingenuity.
2. Trade inertia for repetition
3. Trade critics for cheerleaders
4. Embrace vulnerability
5. Be clear on your purpose
What I hear her saying, and have been trying to say to you, is this:
It might seem easier to stay where we are, but we can allow ourselves to imagine better possibilities. If the people around you are discouraging you from doing what you enjoy or bettering yourself, look for people to add to your life who will encourage you to be your best person (and possibly remove some of the critical voices). Allow for the possibility that you might mess up and even fail if you make changes.
As I think about the changes my husband and I might make to our house or to our calendar, I have to step back from the urge to just stay settled as we are and remember the words of Charles Darwin: It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most adaptable to change.
I want to be adaptable to change, not afraid of it. I want to risk what scares me about the unknown to enjoy what might be better than we’ve imagined. I have new hiking boots. I wonder if he’ll be ready for our adventures. I hope you’ll have adventures of your own!
Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others.