Change is hard, even when we can see clearly why we need to do it. So, how much more uncomfortable must it be to the people around us who don't always understand why we're making these choices? Personal changes don't just affect us. They can affect the dynamics of relationships with romantic partners, friends, family, and co-workers.
If you’re excited about a new phase in your life, not being met with support and enthusiasm by the people closest to you can be disheartening, and make you question yourself. Here's the thing, though: It almost never has anything to do with you.
If you’re going through a significant change, and you receive negative feedback from someone close to you, it almost always stems from fear. Back-handed compliments, passive aggressive behavior, comments that try to scare you: These indicate that you may have awoken an insecurity in someone else.
What's going on behind the scenes:
It’s easy to get caught in the trap of who we think someone should be. When they stop being that person, or we realize they never were, it can be difficult to handle. We feel swindled, somehow, and get defensive.
Here are a few of the fears that might be holding your loved ones back from embracing the new phase in your life.
1. If you're changing in a drastic way, it will likely force some kind of change on those in relationship with you. They don’t have the same reasons to change as you do. Therefore, it’s going to seem, initially, like an unnecessary burden.
“Great, you’re quitting drinking. Now who am I going to go out with on the weekend?”
2. You’ve achieved something, or are attempting something that they themselves want. You're acting as a mirror for changes they want/need to make in their own life, and haven’t. You’re forcing them to confront the fact that their desires are possible, achievable, and yet they have not grasped them.
“Wow, I had no idea you were going for that promotion. I wanted that job a long time ago, but they never promote anyone on this team.”
3. They’re pessimistic, or lack the confidence to make something like that seem achievable, so they don’t see how you can do it either. This stems from a lack of belief in themselves, not in you.
“I could never do what you’re doing. I don’t know how you’ll make that work.”
How to handle it:
You might feel attacked, and want to respond to these assertions with aggression. But you can’t fight fire with fire. Compassion takes the sting out of resentment.
Try to see the other person’s perspective. Be open to their feelings, listen with respect, but keep in mind the conviction of why you have to make this change. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, and speak openly about why this is important to you, without diminishing or discounting the other person’s feelings.
Whether or not this leads to a breakthrough and reconciliation, you know that you’ve spoken your truth calmly and gracefully.
Stay true to who you are and what is important to you. The people you need in your life will stick around, and you’ll meet new ones along the way. The best relationships are the ones where your friends help you in the journey towards becoming the person that you’re meant to be.