Resistance

 

My word of the year is “RECEIVE.” And this year, rather than just focus on the word in a general way, I’ve committed to some actions I can take throughout the year to live it more fully. (You can read about it here.)

So far the daily practice of examining where I’m experiencing resistance – and then reflecting on the gifts from the universe that I’m rejecting – has been the most challenging and enlightening.

That started me down this path to explore further.

 

What is resistance?

The dictionary definition of resistance is “the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.” In the electrician’s world, the meaning of resistance is more like friction. And at the gym, resistance is an intentional way to train your body to become stronger.

In the context I’m thinking of, resistance plays out as an internal barrier to growth. It can manifest as self-doubt, fear, reluctance, or a sense of opposition toward taking action or making desired changes.

We generally think of resistance negatively. It can hinder progress and prevent you from taking necessary steps toward achieving your goals. It can chip away at your confidence and belief in your abilities. It can definitely lead to missed chances for growth, learning and success.

But it can be a good thing, just as when you use physical resistance to strengthen your body.

Recognizing your internal resistance to growth can serve as a sign that you’re pushing beyond your comfort zone and challenging yourself to grow. It can help you become aware of your limiting beliefs, fears, or areas where you need to develop new skills. And it can test your commitment and passion toward your goals.

 

Signs of resistance

How do you know when you’re resisting something? Here’s a list of symptoms you might check against:
Woman multi-tasking

  • Procrastination – Have you been putting off important tasks and projects? That’s a classic sign of resistance, often based on underlying fears about the task at hand.
  • Negative self-talk – What does the dialogue in your head sound like? If you catch yourself talking negatively to yourself or doubting your abilities, you may be holding yourself back from a significant breakthrough.
  • Lack of motivation – Are you feeling drained and uninspired? Resistance can sap your energy and make tasks seem burdensome or uninspiring.
  • Seeking distractions – How much time are you spending scrolling, binge-watching, or doing other unproductive activities? Escape can feel like a great option compared to confronting something uncomfortable.
  • Physical symptoms – Are you experiencing tension, headaches, or other signs of discomfort or stress? For me resistance can sometimes show up as a feeling of literally pushing against something. Listen to your body – it might be noticing resistance long before your mind catches up!

By becoming aware of the symptoms, you can start to recognize when resistance is holding you back and take proactive steps to release it.

 

Women and resistance

Woman trying to work in spite of several children in the room Some of the forces behind resistance can apply to women in ways men don’t experience.

  • Imposter Syndrome is the belief that you are not as competent or capable as others perceive you to be. You doubt your own abilities and feel like a fraud. Anyone can experience imposter syndrome, but women are especially vulnerable to it, often despite impressive achievements and capabilities.
  • Gender Bias plays out in inequality, discrimination, and unequal opportunities. It can lead to self-doubt and a lack of confidence, as women may feel they have to work harder to prove themselves in male-dominated industries or leadership positions.
  • Societal Expectations around roles and responsibilities, such as balancing career and family life, can create internal resistance to pursuing ambitious goals or navigating work-life integration.
  • Lack of Representation in certain industries and leadership positions means women sometimes struggle to find role models and mentors they can relate to and learn from. The resistance comes from the implication that “people like me don’t/can’t do this thing I’m considering.”
  • Self-Limiting Beliefs about one’s worth and capabilities can be caused by internalizing societal messages and create resistance to taking risks, pursuing opportunities, or speaking up.

These challenges are very real. Men face plenty of resistance-related trials as well. But humans (especially women!) are incredibly resilient and capable of prevailing against great odds.

 

Overcoming resistance

If you’ve become aware that you’re resisting something that would be good for you, what can you do to vanquish it?Woman dancing in kitchen

  • Make Friends with Discomfort – Instead of avoiding it, lean into it. You can gradually desensitize yourself to fear of discomfort or failure by intentionally seeking out situations that make you uncomfortable. Volunteer for a stretch project, speak up in a meeting, or initiate a conversation with someone new. You’ll build resilience and confidence as you kick resistance to the curb.
  • Practice Radical Acceptance – Fighting against what’s beyond your control creates stress and tension. Instead, experiment with acknowledging reality as it is without judgment or resistance. I’m not talking about being resigned or passive, but choosing how to respond constructively. Accepting what you can’t control will free up mental and emotional energy to focus on what you can control.
  • Dance it out – Movement can be a powerful tool to release resistance. Turn up your favorite feel-good song and let loose on the dance floor (or kitchen floor). Not only does dancing release endorphins, it also helps release tension and shifts energy. It doesn’t matter if you have two left feet, the goal is to let go and have fun!
  • Nature therapy – Spending time in nature has an amazing ability to calm our minds and release resistance. Take a break from your usual routine and head outdoors. A walk in the park, a hike in the mountains, or just sitting by a body of water – immersing yourself in nature can release stress and open up space for new ideas and solutions.
  • Write a letter to resistance – Resistance can stem from unexpressed emotions or unresolved issues. Write a letter to resistance and express everything you feel and want to let go of. Allow yourself to acknowledge and release the negative emotions and limiting beliefs that may be holding you back.
  • Laughter therapy – Laughter is truly the best medicine when it comes to releasing resistance. Find something that makes you laugh – watch a funny movie, read a humorous book, or spend time with loved ones who bring joy and laughter into your life. Laughter can shift your energy and help you find a new perspective.

These are just a few surprising and powerful ways to release resistance once you’ve identified it and become determined to let it go.

 

Reframing

Person holding empty frame in front of beautiful landscapeReframing is a powerful cognitive tool that can help shift your perspective and overcome resistance. The strategies I’ve listed above work because they can help you see challenges or obstacles from a different angle and discover new opportunities for growth and learning.

Here are a few reframing techniques that can help you overcome obstacles with more ease and resilience.

  • Shift from Problem to Opportunity – Instead of viewing resistance as a problem to be avoided or overcome, reframe it as an opportunity for growth and self-discovery, then approach it with curiosity and openness rather than fear or avoidance.
  • Focus on Learning and Development – Try reframing resistance as an invitation to learn and develop new skills or perspectives, rather than seeing it as a roadblock. This mindset shift can help you approach it with optimism and resilience.
  • Find Meaning and Purpose – Reframing resistance in terms of the gifts or opportunities it presents can help you find deeper meaning and purpose. For renewed clarity and motivation, consider how an obstacle or challenge may actually align with your values and aspirations, then focus on the bigger picture and the positive impact you can make.
  • Cultivate Gratitude – An attitude of gratitude can also help reframe resistance in a more positive light. By acknowledging the gifts that come with facing resistance, you can nurture a sense of appreciation for the journey and the lessons it brings.

Reframing resistance is a personal endeavor and it may look different for everyone. The key is to find a perspective that empowers you and allows you to navigate through resistance with grace and resilience.

 

I don’t have this figured out…Child refusing to eat vegetables

I’m great at helping others reframe how they’re perceiving challenges. It’s harder to do it for myself. Turns out kicking this resistance thing is a complex, convoluted process, and just being aware doesn’t offer a quick route to the other side.

For starters, nothing I found in my research (and have written about up to now) seems to address my particular experience accurately.

Remember, what started my descent down this “resistance” rabbit hole is that I often find myself resisting things that are good for me – usually things that involve a discipline of some kind, and perhaps some restraint or even self-censure. (So…basically anything that smacks of adulting.)

As I pay attention to my self-talk when I’m resisting, I’ve started to recognize a persistent voice – a “good girl” voice. And I’ve noticed that every time she speaks, I react rebelliously. Instantly. Automatically. IRRATIONALLY.

“Set your alarm extra early. You’ll have such a great day when you’ve exercised, meditated, journaled, and showered, all before 8:00 am!”

“F*** off! I’m going to pamper myself by snuggling back down in these warm blankets. I deserve it! Thfffpppt!!!”

I realized that first voice sounds an awful lot like a particular woman in the neighborhood where I grew up – that mom who may have been living out her own regrets and failures through her daughter. She put constant pressure on that daughter to look good, be cheerful, get top grades, make the elite cheerleading squad, and on and on. She was relentless and uncompromising. (And in my young mind, I interpreted clear messages that I was not good enough to hang out with her daughter.)

Taking a page from my coaching training, I have renamed my good-girl voice in honor of that well-meaning mother who always made me – and her daughter, I’m guessing – feel less than.

The second voice is a recalcitrant teenage version of myself, that “F*** off!” voice.

There’s a third voice, the voice I’ve decided I want to listen to instead. I’ve discovered that one’s actually a bad-ass future version of myself.

The Recalcitrant Teenager wants Future Bad-Ass Lorri to tell Overbearing Mom to shut up and get in the back seat. But a wise friend suggested that when I encounter resistance, I should consider just sitting with it for a while.

I’m looking at everything I’ve learned as I researched resistance and realize there are some interesting alternatives I could explore:

  • Just sitting with it for a while feels like “practicing radical acceptance.” (I admit this concept makes me feel slightly psychotic, since it means sitting with these 3 extreme versions of myself.)
  • Then there’s the laughter option. I suspect the conversations playing out between this comic threesome may provide some rich opportunity for laughter.
  • What about a dance party? That might be a raucous good time.
  • I really like the idea of writing a letter to resistance. But which one of these do I write to? Or should each of them write a letter to the other two? (That’s six letters. Yikes!)

Obviously I can’t resist making fun of myself when I get stuck like this. Maybe that’s another symptom of resistance? Pretty sure if I take time to research that now, I’ll be guilty of seeking distractions…

With any luck, a year will be long enough for this adventure with my word, “Receive.” Maybe I’ll even make some headway on this resistance thing!

Lorri Anderson

Lorri Anderson

Lorri Anderson is an expert consultant to businesses and a powerful coach to individuals. After a long and rich career as a strategic HR executive, she is driven to give back by changing the Human Experience in today’s workplaces, one business or human at a time.

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