This comes up a lot for my clients.
As they begin to know themselves better and want to make some life changes, they worry about what the people in their lives will think and feel about their shift.
There are two parts to this- one is that they are afraid of being judged for being different than they were in the past, and two, they are afraid of somehow hurting or letting down people in their lives by having different reactions or wanting roles to change.
In general, realizing that you cannot control other people's reactions, and you are not responsible for their feelings helps.
That is a tall order. Our relationships with each other have many subtleties and most of them are unspoken. Like every other part of being alive, some of these unspoken communications are pleasant, and some are not.
There is a key here: the more acceptable you feel yourself to be, the easier it is to navigate growth and personal relationships.
This is because when you feel afraid of how other people feel about you, you actually feel that way about yourself.
Taking that in stride for the moment, when we identify some part of ourselves that we want to work with and grow into something new, it is very easy to judge it as bad in its current state.
As an example, I used to get my feelings easily hurt, and then I would get moody and distance myself from those I cared about.
When I first clearly saw this behavior and understood the damage it had caused to myself and my relationships, I was well, abhorred. I thought I was awful for having acted that way and felt guilty and remorseful. Guess what? That reaction did not help me. I had to come to a place of understanding that my moodiness and distance served a purpose at one point (protection), and was now outdated. That allowed me to soften and accept that I was not a bad guy for having acted that way. And then, without judgment marring the path, I could begin to look at how I wanted to be in the future. (Just that part took weeks. I processed that particular pain by laying on my back in the grassy backyard at night and crying while being protected by a patrolling Oscar the German Shepherd.)
That was the self-acceptance part. Now back to other people's feelings.
Once you have softened your heart towards yourself, it becomes much easier to communicate from a place of love and groundedness. When you can sit down with soft eyes and ask to talk with them about what you have been going through and how you have changed, it works out much better than if you try ultimatums, criticism, or being defensive because you are still in judgmental fear.
Most of the time, that approach works. Some of the time, the people you are talking to have too much of their own unresolved feelings clouding their vision, and they can't find their way to understanding the new you. This can be painful for all involved, because, again, you have no control over their reactions or feelings. You do have control over your own reactions, and sometimes that means leaving the situation.
You’re a human being who has struggles just like everyone else and you can make changes that are meaningful to you.
If you have the feeling that you need to shift something in your life, but don't know what, you can start by noticing the difference between how you see yourself, and how you’re acting. You may see yourself as a loving person, but you’re acting in a different way. Are you acting moody and detached from your loved ones? Are you mean to yourself and have poor self-talk? How can you move towards being a more loving person in all areas?
I get it, this is subtle and can come across as a little woo-woo. But truly, our thoughts become our feelings and feelings guide our actions and our actions create our life. It’s easier to start with how you relate to yourself than to wake up one day and realize that you have a job you don’t like, you feel unhealthy, or you’re married to someone who isn’t quite right for you. That’s a lot more work to untangle than looking at self-acceptance, values, and making the right decisions for you in the first place.