Why a new start can feel good and scary at the same time


We can start again countless times in our lives: a new job, a new relationship, a new day. Why does a fresh beginning feel so good, yet at the same time, just a bit scary? We share three insights. 

  • You always bring the past with you
    Burning your bridges behind you, going out for a pack of cigarettes and never coming back: few people really want to begin with a clean slate, argues philosopher Marli Huijer. “We’re held back by our longing for continuity, for repetition,” she says. “Besides, it’s just an illusion that we can wipe out our past. After all, we look at the world through the lens of our experience.” According to Huijer, you’ll get further if you start something new in what already exists. “Someone who takes the initiative to do things differently in their work or relationship will bring about more change than someone who clumsily leaves to start something new somewhere else.”

  • Fear of the unknown
    Tackling something new means letting something else go. But we’d rather not do that, according to clinical psychologist Barry Lubetkin. It doesn’t feel good to end something familiar. The ultimate end is, of course, death, but even the end of a great party or a bad relationship can arouse uncomfortable feelings. It’s exciting (often nerve-racking) to set off on a new path, because you don’t know what to expect. It’s a complicated dilemma: the familiar way feels safer than the unknown terrain, but the unknown can possibly lead to a better life. Lubetkin’s advise: “Try to accept those uncomfortable feelings when a new start makes you feel nervous. You’ll see that those feelings will fade away by themselves. Emotions come and go like waves. They begin small, build up to breaking point and when they’re totally done, they disappear again.”
  • Opportunity for improvement
    “Running into problems in life can also be beneficial,” says philosopher and professor of psychiatry Damiaan Denys. “It’s the perfect opportunity to rearrange our life, which is something that is not really in our nature to do. It’s natural for us to avoid change. But if the opportunity crosses your path, I say, try to embrace it. Imagine: You’ve had a certain job for ten years and you get fired. Yes, that’s dreadful. But because of that, you’re forced to go find something else to do, and after three years or so, you might even think that it was a good thing. Shortcomings can help us to lead richer and better lives.”

*These tips can be found in our Flow Journals.

Text Otje van der Lelij Photography Shutterstock