Health & Wellness Living in Recovery

Unpacking The 5 Barriers Preventing You From Making Positive Change

People have different priorities, but most of us desire to be healthy and well-adjusted. Most of us want happy and meaningful relationships, and most of us want to live a life with purpose and dignity. Read More

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“The difference between who you are and who you want to be, is what you do.” – Bill Phillips

People have different priorities, but most of us desire to be healthy and well-adjusted. Most of us want happy and meaningful relationships, and most of us want to live a life with purpose and dignity.

And yet, so many of us struggle to live congruently with our goals and values. Why does the disparity exist? What’s really getting in our way? Let’s break it down.


Perfectionism often makes any necessary risk-taking feel terrifying and overwhelming. Why? Because perfectionists want the change to be perfect! They don’t want to have any struggles or setbacks. They want a guaranteed outcome of success.

That said, life throws so many variables in our paths. No matter how hard you try to control a situation, you cannot truly guarantee any outcome. And at their core, most perfectionists know this reality, and the lack of control often stunts them from moving forward at all.

The philosophy of a perfectionist is simple but detrimental: If I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t want to do it all. 

People-Pleasing Tendencies

self esteem and recoverySometimes, a positive change for you may result in negative changes for someone else. This phenomenon is especially true if your change directly entails the way someone else lives his or her life.

Maybe you know you need to end a particular relationship, but you’re scared of hurting about your partner. Perhaps you’ve been thinking of setting boundaries with your boss, but you worry about him firing you.

If you’re a people-pleaser, you sacrifice your preferences and emotions for other people. Afraid of making waves, you concede to what they know others want. Unfortunately, this pattern often results in stagnation, resentment, and burnout. You end up living for the happiness of others- usually at the expense of your own needs, goals, and dreams.

Lack of Support

Making a positive change is easy when everyone is encouraging you and cheering you on. This momentum often makes even the hardest obstacles manageable. But what happens when nobody wants you to make that change?

For example, let’s say you want to relocate to another state because you feel unhappy in your current home. Your friends and family all respond to your decision with confusion, and some of them even react with intense sadness or anger. Undoubtedly, this lack of support can feel lonely and scary. Furthermore, it can make you second-guess your desire to make the change.

Lack of Resources

Maybe you’ve identified that you want to make a specific change in your life. Let’s say that you feel stuck in your current career, and you’ve decided that you want to enroll in graduate school. Unfortunately, you’re in a dire financial situation, and there just isn’t a way to justify the cost of tuition at the moment.

A lack of physical, emotional, or financial resources can make any change challenging. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make the change. It just means that you may need to be more creative in how you allocate and locate your resources. It also means you may need to be more willing to compromise or sacrifice to get what you want.

Low Self-Esteem

When you feel poorly about yourself, you typically don’t believe you’re even worthy of positive change. You don’t think you’re allowed to chase after good things. Or, you assume that, even if those good things happen, something catastrophic is waiting at the end.

When you have low self-esteem, you often accept your current reality, no matter how bleak, because you assume it’s all we’re good for. In this light, low self-esteem is insidious. That’s because it convinces you that you’re inferior or incapable of doing certain things. And when you avoid doing them, this cycle maintains a self-fulfilling prophecy that confirms our inadequacies.

Final Thoughts

Change is the only constant we have in this life. As humans, we’re meant to grow, evolve, and refine ourselves. The next time you find yourself balking at change, remember this: you’re the one who’s likely in your own way. How can you move out of your way to move forward?