Feeling Self-Doubt? Understand Adaptability and Your Approach to Change

“You’re playing the game according to somebody else’s rules, and you can’t win until you understand the rules and step out of that particular game, which is not, after all, worth playing.” – James Baldwin

Most likely, you’ve learned your approach to change from the environment  you grew up in.  

Below are some words a close friend of mine told me. A friend whose usual funny mood suddenly morphed like I was watching cement hardden. A friend who gradually began to show the appearance of dull, sadness in her eyes. Let’s just say, she wasn’t herself; she was closed off, hidden, and full of doubt.

As concerned as any friend would be, I took the opportunity to start a conversation with her to get her to open up.

After a while of talking she got comfortable enough to share her true feelings, which she came to the conclusion she felt depressed. There was a sadness laying heavy on her, an uncomfortableness she was not use to. An anxiety resting on her shoulders, leaving her stagnate and feeling powerless.

“I feel like all my friends have so much going for them and I just don’t have anything. Now that I’ve finished school, I have nothing. I tell myself I want to do something, but then I don’t do anything to change it. I feel like I just need to hit my rock bottom and maybe I’ll find some sort of motivation.”

This friend—who happens to be a creative, brave and beautiful soul identified herself as inadequate, out-of-place, and a completely lost person.

Yet, this all sounded too familiar. In fact, I hear it so often.

And once again… I thought of the lessons I’ve learned and shared in my ED treatment (which I believe are tools applicable to anyone) for the maintenance of their overall health.

So I looked back on my understanding of approaches to change

Left: Skinny with an ‘all-or-nothing’ mentality and unhealthy with a ‘well-hidden’ eating disorder. Right: Two and a half years later of self-reflection and lots of changes. Six months into my ED treatment and a complete change in my mental health.

“Be stubborn on vision and flexible on journey.” – Noramay Cadena

We all have some sort of vision of what we hope for in the future. Yet, often at some point we become paralyzed by how far out-of-reach that manifestation feels.  We stand idle; in senseless chatter, and place ourselves in situations which counteract with our productivity.

I told my friend soon enough, her narrative would change. Possibilities and opportunities—both feasible and arduous changes would follow.

However, I told my friend to embrace elasticity, to embrace her identity as capable of evolving. Just as life feels unbearably stagnate, the mindful choices we choose day-to-day create those changes.

“And yet most of us find this difficult to believe because, despite what we may know about the psychology of resilience and our hardwired optimism bias, we dread change enormously. Change — be it negative, neutral, or even positive — is hard; more than that, it’s usually unwelcome — in no small part because we’re stitched together by our routines and rituals. But change is also how we stretch ourselves and grow, and in the tension between the resistance and the necessity lies one of the great paradoxes of the human condition.” – Maria Popova

So before we focus on the flexible journey of the stages of change (the life version of the frustrating but beyond rewarding game of ‘snakes-and-ladders’)… 

First, we should identify the different approaches to change. 

“Our power lies in how we participate in and respond to change.”

Distrust and Hopelessness:

“If we grew up in environments where we were not consulted or considered in decision-making, we may have learned to regard change with distrust or a sense of hopelessness.

Feel Change is Chaotic:

“If changes that were changes that were thrust upon us caused stress or damage, we might feel that change is always chaotic and bad.”

“Not good at handling change… we cling to old behaviours and beliefs, even when they hurt us.”

Embracing change without claiming a sense of responsibility is the “reactive way of living”.

Claiming Responsibility:

“If you grew up believing we had a say in changes you may have learned how to participate or manage change in your life. When you make things happen for yourself and try to influence change, you are responding proactively.”


“People sometimes hesitate to take action to change because we are often taught that people should make changes in a decisive “all or nothing” way with no slips back to old behaviours. That is certainly how the diet mentality works and it is a common way that people approach other goals.”

Fear of Failure:

“Sometimes people won’t attempt to change because they are worried they will fail. We need to realize that new attempts at new behaviours, including our food behaviours, carries with it false starts and setbacks.”

Relapses or Slip Ups? Review and Revise:

“Relapses, or slip ups to old behaviours are part of the process of change and need to be viewed as opportunities to review and revise. Relapses alert us to our limitations and can stop us from doing too much too soon.”

The Feeling of Doubt:

“Relapses can make us feel discouraged and cause us to doubt our ability to change. Many of us go through periods when we just don’t feel strong enough to make another change, even if we believe we can benefit from the change.”

Talk It Out:

“Talking with others about that discouragement and frustration in trying to give up behaviours can help put things in perspective.”

We Aren’t Alone in this Feeling After All…

“We can see that others struggle with the same feelings and that even though we are individuals, we share many of the same obstacles to change.”

Support and Encouragement:

“Change in our lives is supported when we come together to share our struggles, learn new coping strategies, offer support and encouragement to each other.”

“Our mental nerves seem to be so adjusted that we feel first and most keenly, the dis-comforts of any new form of life; but, after a bit, we get used to them, and cease to notice them; and then we have time to realize the enjoyable features, which at first we were too much worried to be conscious of.” Lewis Carroll

Next on Flow & Headway: Identifying the Stages of Change 

 “How We Approach Change” from the Provincial Eating Disorder Prevention & Recovery Program


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