Let me tell you a story about something that happens in my life. I’ll be talking with a friend and as they’re sharing their problems or life challenges with me, I immediately feel like I have to solve their issues. There’s this weight that I immediately take on as I think through their particular situation and it’s as if I feel I HAVE to come up with a solution or I’m not good at what I do. I attach too much of my worth to solving problems that aren’t meant for me to solve and often times, my friends just need someone to talk to.
Something funny happens when we begin to live the kind of life we’ve dreamed of. When we act on decisions, even small ones, that are good for us, people notice. The smallest changes stick out: the kind of language we use and the way we spend our time. Most of our family, friends, and significant others will be an incredible support. Unfortunately, there are many other people in our lives who will not support the changes that we make. They will complain that we have "changed." They'll say things like, "we’ll see how long this lasts," or "it feels like you don’t care about me anymore." If you’re anything like me, you will react to comments like these by changing your actions to keep the peace. There is nothing worse for those of us who are chronic "people pleasers" than upsetting someone we care about.
The reality is that their unhappiness has nothing to do with you–it’s about them. Deep down they want to make changes too, and your action reminds them of their inaction. Instead of using that as inspiration or support to make their own changes, they react the only way they know how: by attacking or sabotaging you. They don’t want anything to change, and are comfortable where they are. Some people would rather stay in their current state than risk the unknown in an attempt to move forward.
How can you handle the criticism? How can you deal with the tension of having someone you care about upset with you? First, you’ll have to come to the agreement that living a greater life is a better story than pleasing other people. Part of this new story is that the better person you are the better friend you can be.
Next, you can respond to the complaints with a simple and direct statement, “I care about you, but I can’t go back to some of the thoughts and behaviors that didn’t get me where I wanted to go in life.” Offer them a question, “Are you trying to make me feel bad about these positive changes in my life?” No one would admit to actually doing that and they will certainly back off a little bit. However, they will eventually tell you that they feel like you don’t care about them anymore, or at least expresses something to that effect in a veiled manner. Let it go. It’s not your job to convince them that nothing will change… because it will. You want things to change, that’s why you’ve made the decisions and taken the action up this point that you have. “I’m sorry you feel this way” is a perfectly fine statement and is all you need to say.
Don’t rob these people from the opportunity to deal with their own"stuff" and possibly make some life altering decisions for themselves. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. Maybe you’ll be the inspiration they need. Or, maybe they’ll get venomous and acrimonious. That’s their choice, and it’s on them, not you. You haven’t chosen to leave anyone behind or let anyone down. Your job is to be the best you that you can be and let the chips fall where they may. I can guarantee you that you will see a pattern emerge: those that have a difficult time with the changes you make in your life will all have something in common: You pour more time and energy into them than they do into you.
You'll know if the people around you are pouring back into you. There is nothing like having people in your life that genuinely want to see you succeed. My friend and cohort, Mike McHargue says, “If you can find someone who believes in your work, and you believe in their work, a virtuous cycle of improvement emerges.” This is so true. It’s an incredible feeling to have friends walk along the same extraordinary path you're on because they've chosen to answer their life's calling.
That’s where we're going in part 2. _______________________________________________________________________________________ "Courage is the power to let go of the familiar." – Raymond Lindquist
“Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.” – Deborah Reber
"Social media has given us this idea that we should all have a posse of friends when in reality, if we have one or two really good friends, we are lucky." - Brene Brown