Are you moving toward growth or moving away from pain? At first glance these might look they’re two different ways of doing the same thing—moving away from what we don’t want towards what we do want—but there’s more to it than that.
Being against something or choosing to stop doing something is only part of the equation. It still doesn’t answer the question of what we will do instead. Often the most effective way to change something we don’t want is to pour our energy into what we want to create in its place.
Let’s look at an example. While it can show up in all kinds of ways, a common thread in the work I do with my clients is that they want to stop people-pleasing and start trusting themselves.
People-pleasing is the thing they want to move away from. It’s the thing that’s not working in their lives. It’s causing them pain.
Of course, there are things we can do to shift out of people-pleasing. That might look like saying no more often, rebelling against expectations , limiting our giving in unbalanced relationships, trying not to care what any one else thinks, etc.
While these things might help us stop some of the people-pleasing behaviors, they don’t necessarily get us to what we really want and they may or may not actually help us feel better. Just trying to stop people-pleasing without moving toward what we want instead can actually be lonely, frustrating, and another way of trying to measure up to who we think we’re supposed to be.
It doesn’t address why we tend towards those people-pleasing behaviors to begin with—trying to earn a place in people’s lives, doubt in our worth , distrust in our capabilities …just to name a few.
People-pleasing is one of the ways we try to move away from the pain of potential loneliness and rejection. Then, when people-pleasing doesn’t really work for us, we try to move away from that too. As we go, the list of things we don’t want gets longer and longer with little stepping in to fill the void.
In this example, moving towards growth means cultivating self-trust. As a reminder, trusting ourselves does not mean we’ll be perfect or always know what to do. Rather, trusting ourselves looks more like valuing who we are, supporting ourselves with kindness, and being there for ourselves to figure things out no matter what.
The thing is, the more we grow in our self-trust, the easier it becomes to move away from people-pleasing behaviors. When we trust ourselves, we’re more able to be in the discomfort of asking for what we need without knowing whether the other person will be willing to give, make decisions without needing others to agree, connect in relationships without needing constant approval, and so on.
Now, of course, it is not all one or the other. Recognizing where something isn’t working or is causing us pain and doing what we can to move away from that can absolutely help you grow. While trying to avoid discomfort altogether isn’t a helpful goal, we may be better able to choose and take our next steps from a foundation of safety and comfort.
Are you moving toward growth or moving away from pain? What’s something that’s not working for you? What are your first impulses for how to move away from it?
Trying to make a change means changing to something else. When we focus on moving toward growth, we become the person we need to be to create what we really want in life instead of doing whatever avoids the most discomfort. What do you want instead? How can you move toward that? Who will you become in the process?