How to Overcome Resistance to Change

How to Overcome Resistance to Change

Last update: 26 February, 2016

Resistance involves barriers or obstacles, whether conscious or unconscious, that keep us from progressing. This includes  beliefs, emotions, and feelings. Many people are resistant to change due to fear, anxiety, or the pain that the change could cause.

“The more we do, the more we can do.”

William Hazlitt

Why do we resist?

Fear of the unknown

Leaving our “comfort zone” for a huge desert that we’ve never seen before induces fear, and even terror and panic.

tree branch

Lack of information

We experience resistance when we don’t know what we’re going to find. One of man’s biggest fears is uncertaintyWhen we feel uncertain about something, we feel insecure. We don’t have anyone to hold our hand, and we have to move forward almost blindly. But we have to do it, we have to conquer the uncertainty.

Fear of failure

What if it doesn’t go well? What if I fail? What about the pain that failure will cause? What will other people say if I do a bad job and what if they laugh at me? Fear of failure is one of the most paralyzing fears that exists. But it only exists in our minds.

Fear of disappointing others

Many of us want to please and accommodate others, and hyper aware of what others say about us. We’re afraid of leaving others wanting more if something goes wrong, that we’ll be rejected if we say what we think or be ourselves, that we’ll let other people down. We should be aware of this fear so we can overcome it.

Fear of what people will say

In our culture, what people will say  is very decisive. People tend to point fingers if you do something differently. But at the same time, society also encourages us to be different and say what we think. This contradiction makes us confused, fearful, and uncertain.

Fear of being incapable

This fear presents itself through negative thoughts that we impose upon ourselves, like “because I’m incapable” or “because I’m dumb” or “because it will never go well for me.”

tightrope walking


Many of us live by the law of minimal effort, so therefore, anything that requires effort exhausts us. We leave things the way they are so we don’t have to put the effort into changing them, because even just thinking about it tires us. After all, why change it if  it’s not so bad…

Better a known evil than an unknown good

This Spanish saying keeps us in our comfort zones. Why would we leave our comfort zone if we were already at ease? Even though change could be positive and could improve our lives, we don’t want to risk it in case the change is actually negative.

Fear is clearly the driving force behind resistance to change, which is a mental barrier that we impose upon ourselves. Ignorance and laziness also work with fear to keep us from taking the first step towards change.

Structural resistance

This refers to external changes. For example, a change in courses or majors, a relationship change, moving to a new house, etc.

One example of external, structural resistance is the subtle mistreatment of women. Our  environment, culture, and society obligate women to be a certain way: to always be beautiful and perfect, to wear high heels, to wear makeup, etc.

It’s fine if women do themselves up if they want to. But it’s not okay for society to continuously bombard women with demands and mistreat them subtly so that if they don’t do what they’re supposed to, it will seem like they don’t fit into society.

These kinds of external resistance cause fear, insecurity, and negative feelings towards those who make them feel obligated to be a certain way.

Personal resistance

Personal resistance refers to the three basic pillars of change: wanting to change, being able to change, and knowing how to change.

We can say no to change, that’s completely within our rights. But we have to be aware that we made that decision.

But we tend to put up mental barriers to getting what we want and what we know will make us happy. There is an easy solution.

On top of using all of our willpower, we should keep the following steps in mind:

  • Define the goal and the result that we want.
  • Go through all the possible decisions we could make and pick one.
  • Develop a list of things to do.
  • Establish the steps that we will take.
  • Figure out how to track our progress.
  • PersevereThis is very important. If we want something, we shouldn’t give up so easily.
  • Anticipate what might happen. Establish a plan if something goes bad.

And now…are you ready for change?

Remember that you have many people around you who are ready to help and support you. You are not alone.

If there’s a problem that you’re ignoring, train yourself, learn, read, and ask questions before throwing yourself into the unknown, and then you’ll be happier. And ultimately, if you want something bad enough, believe in your ability to achieve, and pump yourself up, resistance will be conquered easily!

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.