I just wrapped up my first academic year as a faculty member and it still seems unreal! So may experiences seem like it happened just yesterday – I remember making the move to begin my doctoral program, all the study groups, comprehensive exam, job interviews, and the move to my current location. I guess time does fly when you are having fun! There were so many changes that seemed to happen in a short space of time and at times I felt very overwhelmed. Sometimes change is a challenge for me (because who likes stepping out of their comfort zone?), but it’s an additional challenge when several changes happen at one time.
So how do you embrace change? How do you practice acceptance of what is and not try to change things to be as you prefer it? I think the answer lies in the ability to practice radical acceptance, self-compassion, and to have genuine people who you can trust to share your struggles.
Radical acceptance: It’s so much easier to want to control how things “should” be instead of accepting what is actually happening. Radical acceptance (which can be difficult at times. I mean..come on) is accepting what is happening in your life as it is. For example, one thing I had to radically accept was that I was at a phase in my life where certain changes were inevitable and there was nothing I could do to change it. I actually wrote “it is what it is and not what I think it should be” on a post-it and placed it where I can see it often. This served as a reminder for me to let go of the need to control everything (let’s face it, that’s exhausting!)
Self-compassion: Saying negative things to myself during the process of change will not make things any better, although, it does seem like the easiest option, right? I mean it’s easier (at least for me) to think “there’s no way you can compete with these people” than to believe “you have skills and knowledge that someone will benefit from.” I had to practice a lot of self-compassion during my transition, especially because I felt (and still feel) that strong imposter syndrome and it was taking over my brain! I confided in a dear friend and was able to share my struggle of comparing myself and having the inadequate button pushed!
Having genuine people to talk with: I just mentioned that I had a friend I confided in and I cannot say enough how helpful it was. What was most helpful was that she validated how I felt and at the same time provided support and encouragement. I also have another friend who happened to be going through the same transition, so it was a relief to go through this with someone. I think the key is to be intentional and careful about who you seek support from – not everyone can give us what we need when we need it (and that’s okay).
Despite the challenges, I’ve learned to embrace these changes with compassion and I am still learning to trust the process. It’s an exciting and anxiety provoking time, and I am grateful for all the experiences!
How do you deal with change? What helps you when you have to make major transitions?
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu