She looked at me, there was a tone and she said, “You’ve changed…”
No denying it, she was right. I have changed, I have grown and learned. I have new experiences – trials and victories – which have shaped my life. I have changed and for me change has been a good thing. I’m stronger, braver, sometimes wiser and sometimes more outspoken. I am less invested in pleasing others at the expense of my own safety, sanity and peace of mind.
There was time, however, when I would become almost physically ill with worry. Worry about what other people thought I should be and how far I would fall short of their mark. Notice I was sick about failure? That’s because only in my most crazy dreams did I ever achieve the much sought after success of pleasing them, any of them, all of them! A single moment that never happened and yet it took a toll on me physically, emotionally and spiritually.
So it was a great sense of satisfaction that I was able to look her in the face, and smile and reply with, “You say it like it is a bad thing!” and I knew to her it was a very bad thing! I was working outside the norms, exisiting and living beyond the set boundaries. The set boundaries of my family, of their friends, of their world.
I did the unthinkable – I changed! I decided to live! I realized that if I didn’t change parts of me would keep dying off until there was nothing left of me but a stiffly smiling compliant husk. I understood that we have to change, everything does.
Even mountains and shorelines change by forces small and large. Trees grow and change from seed to sapling to young tree to towering giant. Butterflies, flowers, spiders every thing that lives must change or it is dead.
Why is it, that when we change away from unhealthy to healthy those who don’t change with us take it personally? They say, “You’ve changed” in such a tone that practically shouts that the change is not only against their wishes, but also almost certainly doomed not only to catastrophic failure but humiliation. Not just humiliation for your either, no there is a whole train of baggage that includes their humiliation, their feelings, their standards not being met.
When I stopped trying to please my family, when I stopped trying to squeeze my mostly ‘round peg’ self into their ‘square peg’ holes, they were so upset. When I wouldn’t stop advocating for something I believed in I lost a job I loved. When I couldn’t not be who I am I was accused of things, I was left behind, I was told I’d be a failure.
Yes I have! I’m not trying to please you by letting you live vicariously through me in my life. I’m not trying to make you happy by doing what you would choose for me. I’m not trying to achieve goals that are not in my framework for personal, social and professional satisfaction. I’m not rolling the credit reel with your names at the top to finish every success I celebrate.
“You’ve changed…” the disappointment is heavy…you can hear it dripping of every letter.
And I will continue to change as I walk through my life and grow in confidence, faith and love. And I will continue to change, every day we can choose to change and grow. Or we can choose to stay behind in the past, in our comfort zones where children stay children, where new ideas are always vetted past the old idea thinkers, where doing something outside of the usual people pleasing, family peace mode is unthinkable.
I am in a place in my life where I value new things, different things. I am in a place in my life where each challenge or choice is not prefaced with, “What would they do? Will they be happy with this? How could this affect their reputation, their feelings for me, their lives…?”
I have changed, and I will fight, shout and cheer for everyone who also chooses to change for the most important person in their lives, themselves! I don’t want a drone for a child, I don’t want mental slaves for friends and I don’t want to watch people being wounded by those who are supposed to love and care for them. I’m not afraid anymore because I have faith, a family of my own and a life that has not been built on meeting the impossible needs of pleasing others.
There is no harder work, there is no greater fear and there is no more wonderful a reward than to look in the mirror and honestly say, “Today, I pleased me, I made my life a wonderful place in small or big ways. Today I choose for me! Today I celebrate me!”
Today when you take your first steps of the day, the first steps towards pleasing you in your life choose the path with less traffic, less baggage and less expectations. Without all that weight you’ll find a way to a day made with you in mind. Walk that dog, take that nap, say, “no thank you” and when they say, “You’ve changed…”, stand tall and reply with a smile. “Yes, yes I have, and it’s GREAT!”
© 2010 Shanyn Silinski