Do you ever feel like no one notices that you’ve changed? We work really hard to overcome a bad habit, fear, impatience, anger, an addiction or whatever and we look around and expect people to notice that we are doing new things only no one does. They are still acting and reacting as if you are the old you. Do you ever get frustrated by that? I do. I know I shouldn’t. But I do.
I have a confession to make: I’m not always happy with my changes – no matter how wonderfully great and hard-earned they are – if no one notices. To be honest, I have a broken mirror. Whenever I look at someone and I notice they are seeing “me” from 20 years ago and not the me I am today, all my hard work crumbles and I begin to doubt that I’ve really changed at all.
When I get like that I need to remember three things. 1. I need to get over myself and 2. I have changed even if people don’t notice. 3. God notices and that is really all that matters.
20 years ago I was a fearful, sitting on my hands so that no one could see them shake, quiet (unless I was mad then I was eruptive), passive/aggressive, boy crazy, insecure, verge of tears mess most of the time. 20 years ago, I read tarot cards, believed in reincarnation, could drink 16 shots of tequila in one sitting and live to tell about it, smoked more than cigarettes, thought sitting in the pews at church was all I’d ever be allowed to do and didn’t trust a living soul if my life depended on it. 20 years ago I spent more time apologizing for being alive than I spent actually living.
Through God’s amazing and grace, His work in me and in part my commitment to that work, I am nowhere near that woman today and while I’m thankful, I still sometimes want people to really notice.
If you’ve been there then you know what I’m talking about. It stinks, doesn’t it? It’s not like we want a ticker tape parade or something, well sometimes I do but that’s another story. Mostly though we do want people to at least acknowledge that we’ve changed in a positive light, right? Change is hard. It takes work and commitment. Of course we want people to notice. What is the point of changing if no one notices?
I believe it is human nature to desire positive feedback and encouragement for all of our hard work. Having said that though, it isn’t always reality and that is okay.
We aren’t changing for them anyway, right?
I could write a book on all the things I’ve learned – and relearned – about change over the past 20 years. I’ll just leave you with four.
1. Change has to be for me. If the only reason I am changing is to please someone else, the change won’t last. If my only reward is approval rather than growth I’m striving for then I am left at the mercy of the whims and desires of others. I’m always off-balance and never whole. Real change starts from within and requires a trust in something outside of ourselves. A higher power. God. When I choose to change for another person than I’ve made them my God and that’s never good.
2. Some people don’t want me to change and they will resist the changes we make to ourselves. — There will be people who, for whatever reason, do not want you or me to change. They have a vested interest in our staying the same. We meet a need, whether it’s a healthy need or not doesn’t matter. It could be as simple as they like to be in control and don’t like no longer being able to control us. OR more than likely when I change, I upset the status quo. My changing does sometimes require a change in them and they don’t want to change so they resist and try to pull us back into our old selves. Staying true to our path takes commitment.
3. People continue to see what they expect to see. – This is the most difficult one for me to accept. I’ve had to wrestle this one recently because I catch myself playing “Don’t you see? Look at me! Look at what I’m doing.” I catch myself feeling defeated when I hear someone talk about me as if I were still the old me. As long as I’m striving for the uncontrollable – another person’s thought process – I’ll always be striving and I’ll never have peace. Until they realize they need to update their view of me, they will always see what they want.
“If people refuse to look at you in a new light and they can only see you for what you were, only see you for the mistakes you’ve made, if they don’t realize that you are not your mistakes, then they have to go.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
Now here’s the trick. We don’t need to be whiny or self-righteous about it. I’ve read stories and blogs by people who kind of react with a “I’ll just take my dolly and play with someone else then.” or “if you won’t stand by me through my failures then you can’t be with me during my success.” kind of attitude and that isn’t what I’m striving for here. And yes I’ve read those. This isn’t about natural consequences for bad choices. This is more about letting go of people who hold us back to our old selves. Which brings me to my last point –
4. Sometimes we have to find a new tribe. — This is especially true for those of us with addictions. Whether it is food, alcohol, drugs, co-dependency or whatever, we need to surround ourselves with like-minded people who are committed to change and growth. The only way to make room for the new is to let go of the old – in love –
If your past reputation is really holding you back, you may just have to change your environment – Sometimes no matter what you do, you can’t shake your old reputation, and that prevents you from accessing the things you want (friends, respect, etc.). No matter how much you try to convince people you’re different, it falls on deaf ears and you keep getting the same poor results you always have. At times the right decision is to cut your losses and move on to a new environment, where the people you meet will be able to see you objectively. – CHRIS
This does not require some grand announcement loaded with self pity either. Keep changing, keep growing no matter what other people do or don’t do and find your tribe. It’s worth it. You are worth it.