What Will People Think of the New Me? (A Post About Courage)

This week, I made a change.

For almost four years, I’ve been sending my weekly blog post to subscribers in the form of a stylish email, replete with my website banner, the featured image, and the full content of the post. However, because such emails are increasingly being filtered by email services as advertisements, this week, I changed my method. I sent a more barebones email, and subscribers had to click a link to read the post right here, where everyone else reads it.

And it made me a little anxious.


Photo Credit: Bigstock (digitalista)

Actually, it made me more than a little anxious—it made me so anxious I almost couldn’t bring myself to make the change. But make the change I did. Instead of running from the anxiety, I decided to pay attention to it. To let it teach me. And this is what I learned:

I feel exactly what my therapy clients feel.

Over the years, I’ve observed that one of the biggest barriers to change isn’t our lack of desire for change or our inability to change; the biggest barrier to change is the potential reaction to our changes. We fear how people will react if we don’t give them what they’ve come to expect from us.

They like who I am, but will they like who I’m becoming?

People seem to be okay with Me 1.0, but how will they react to Me 2.0?

Will my husband be okay with me if I stop putting all of his needs first and start meeting some of my own needs for a change? Will my wife still want to be with me if I quit pretending I’m a rock and become a puddle every once in a while? Will my kids hate me if I start setting boundaries that are good for them? Will my parents still be there for me if I tell them some of the ways I feel like they weren’t there for me? Will my friends still want to hang around with me if I start sharing my opinions, instead of just absorbing theirs?

I’m changing, but will my people change with me?

Or will they change their mind about me?

As I watched my anxiety about changing my email format, and as I wrote this post, I intended to conclude it with a reassurance that your people will stick around, embrace you, even celebrate You 2.0. But I couldn’t write it, because I don’t think it’s always true.

My clients have taught me many things over the years, but perhaps the most painful (and valuable) thing they’ve taught me is this: when you choose to grow, not everyone will choose to grow with you. This is hard. A deep, deep grief. Yet, like all grief, at the bottom of it, something new and unexpected and beautiful awaits us: the people who remain with us through our changes are usually those who have found the courage to change themselves.

People who choose bravery tend to choose each other.

Look in the mirror. Can you see the changes you’ve been needing to make, indeed, longing to make? Can you see You 2.0 just waiting to be born? Be brave, friend. Become. Go through the grief of your dwindling crowd.

And then enjoy the bravery of the small band of brothers and sisters who remain.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

64 thoughts on “What Will People Think of the New Me? (A Post About Courage)

  1. Glad you made the change!! I needed to hear this today. I’ve been doing a lot of changes myself that should’ve been done years ago but all the fears you listed stopped me. My changes unfortunately ended my marriage because of his inability to accept them and change himself, but, I have to admit that I feel more like the me that God made me to be. Those changes brought freedom, but the fear of losing “my people” didn’t keep me from accepting what I needed to do. So, thank you for writing this blog. And for changing!

    • I can so relate to your changes and the outcome as that is exactly where I am at this time too. I hoped that my husband would change along with me so we could grow up and grow old together. Sadly, this has not been the outcome, but as Kelly says, I will continue to keep growing and changing because I too feel closer to the Me God has created me to be and is calling me to become. Thanks for sharing!

      • Hang in there and stay strong!! Its not easy but you will be amazed at the strength God gives you during the hard days! Freedom from those chains is absolutely breathtaking!!

  2. Right on topic for me. As I’ve been dealing with cancer and the effects of my husband of 41 years losing his job, I’ve stopped saying “yes” every time I’m asked to watch a grandchild. I worry that our kids won’t love me, or the grands won’t get to know and love me, but I am realizing I have to take care of me…still worry, but am trying not to.
    Really enjoy your blog!!

    • You are carrying the weight of a great many things right now. I see you acting out of both your courage and your wisdom when you put boundaries on when you can have your grandkids with you and when your body, your heart, and your husband need something different. Today I am wishing you healing and the serenity of knowing you are loved —not for what you do for others, but for who you are.

      • Cheryl, thank you for reading my blog, and Shel speaks me heart here, so I’ll just let her speak for me. Unexpected blessings to you as you walk through this painful season.

  3. Another great post and you’re so right about changes. While I’ve been in therapy, I’ve needed to make many changes along the way and at times I’ve stood alone afterwards. However what I’ve discovered is while I may have lost some friends or family due to my changes; I’ve been blessed with others filling in the spaces. I’m not a fan of change but I’ve discovered that it’s very healthy for me so I continues to work with my therapist to grow in my relationships. Thanks for reminding me of that.

    • Patricia, you name here the faith we must have has we change into the person we really are, that those who appreciate who we really are will “fill in the spaces” left by those who can’t. Thank you for that.

  4. Thank you for writing this word of encouragement. I think I am in the deep grief part of change as, I am changing, have changed, and my husband refuses to acknowledge any need for change on his part. I have determined that whether or not he ever does, I must change and become the person I am meant to be, the best me I can be, the true me. Eventually, some other “close” people (relatives) may find me less tolerable but I think the small crowd that is left will be worth it all. I am looking forward to spending time with those people.

    • So sorry to hear about this. I went through the same and it ended my marriage as I realised I had married someone who fed old patterns and acted in similar ways to my abusive parents. The good news is that since I knew who I was and what I wanted and needed in a healthy relationship, I eventually found someone who celebrates who I truly am. Hugs. I wish you all the best.

  5. This is so very, very true. Thank you for the encouragement. It has been so incredibly hard to get some people to see the real “new” me! But I have realised that those who keep pretending I’m still the same person I was when I was ruled by dysfunctional protective mechanisms, are people who somehow benefitted from me being dysfunctional. It gave them a scapegoat or an excuse for not growing themselves. Sometimes my dysfunction made them feel better about themselves. My change is challenging to them for many reasons, but as I change they are forced to change too. For better or for worse the choice is theirs. But things are being shaken up and I’m never going back to that mess.

    • Thanks for sharing your story. You’re getting at an important concept in family systems theory, which is homeostasis. The idea is that systems don’t like to change and when one part of the system changes, the other parts will compensate to try to neutralize or reverse the change. It takes great courage to persist through this. Keep being brave!

  6. Good post. I’m forwarding it on to some people who can benefit from your words of wisdom. Also, I like that your emails are now basic text and I have to click a link to get to your site. I’ll be less likely to lose your email that way…thanks.

  7. This was a really nice post!
    But I would like to add three things:
    1) It’s not because people don’t support you right away that it means they won’t in the long run… Sometimes people need time to understand our change and be ready to come along with us. Or sometimes they need to yet experience this kind of change or another life experience for them to realize they should have supported us. So, even if they are not ready and it hurts, we shouldn’t take it personally (easier said than done)… rarely our timing coincides with everyone’s we love… I have taken 3 years to understand some of my closest friends changes and the contrary is also true… Sometimes, it takes time…
    2) Sometimes people think that their change is what is blocking others, but sometimes it isn’t. I have a family member that after years of being diplomatic and seeming satisfied with his family life, started telling his truths to everyone and those were unexpected words and actions (since he seemed to be ok and happy). But what made people stay away from him wasn’t what he said (although he thinks so), but it was the outburst of anger (that must have had been growing for ages) and the sense of entitlement to treat everyone really harshly and poorly because he felt hurt. His sister almost had a miscarriage due to this violence. Everyone could admit to their mistakes towards him on some levels, but it was the violence and lack of will to sustain a dialogue that kept people away. Now, he tells himself and his friends that people couldn’t handle his truths and changes… but that wasn’t the case. Sometimes when people change, it is the way they decide to express the change that makes people wonder what kind of relationship it is/ was and if it’s worth it, rather than the change itself. His sister, who was very happy that he said his truths (even if it stung her), stayed away from him because her close call to miscarriage caused lots of hurt to her couple and family – but that doesn’t mean she didn’t support that he spoke out. They are just healing themselves from the aftermath of his violent display.
    3) Kelly, it will be with great pleasure that I will click on your link every week to read you… I’ve been here long enough to know that it’s totally worth the while…

    • I have observed number 2 also. Hopefully, as they grow with their change, they will be able to express themselves in a more acceptable way.

  8. Great Reminder! I have a tendency to listen to the critical voice that says you weren’t brave and now it’s too late! Change it seems is a constant flowing of either trying to go down that river and seeing the messy and beauty of it or letting distractions or the mud of life to stop me. Thanks for getting me on that beautiful river this morning and keep my focus!

  9. I thought I was well aware about the implications of changing (pretended growth), and this post is a good review of important aspects to have in mind during the process of changing – or not changing -. Thank you, Dr Kelly.

  10. Hi there! In the past three years I have been recreating myself, yet again, after a second painful separation then divorce- the first was a marriage of 18 years (and a beautiful daughter) to my hometown alcoholic love of my life- the second was a five year rebound impulsive roller coaster ride marriage that has given me PLENTY of experiences to use in my book I am writing (metaphorically) but nothing that made me “grow” so… I turned to a daily bible reading for encouragement- and somehow your posts came to me also- I chose to read yours twice and sometimes three times to glean any words of encouragement or affirmation of my new walk- so here I am saying -Thank You! Your posts are always “spot on!” For what I need right at the time and I can understand where you come from! With my second husband we counseled five times in our short 4 year 11 month marriage- respect and trust were broken with us- he has already remarried( #4 ) and I have not even had a steady man- but I finally have respect for myself and I am able to be alone and not think it is the end of the world- —Your words help me to continue on in a Godly Fashion! Thank you once again and I am a follower and will click to go to the second screen! Those that don’t are not meant to be your followers- they are at the loss! Keep on keeping on… God has given your words to me as a sign of Hope! ❤️😍❤️
    Julie Mast

    • Julie, thanks for sharing your story here. “I am able to be alone and not think it is the end of the world” are some of the bravest, most hard-won words a person can utter. I’m so glad you find yourself in that place where aloneness is solitude and not loneliness. And thanks too for the affirmation about the email change!

  11. I LOVE THE NEW EMAIL FORMAT! All the distractions of images can make me crazy… hehe seriously, bravo on the change!

  12. Score! Goal!!!!!!! Thank you once again! And for the record, you’ve never been spam in Apple mail.

  13. You know we could come looking for you here, even if you didn’t email us every Wednesday morning. I’m happy to be able to find my reminder that fresh insights and ponderings await me in my inbox, and grateful that you are—changes and all— just a click away.

    Thank you for not reassuring us that our 2.0 versions will be universally adored and embraced. It is a gift more precious, humbling, and awesome when we realize it could be withheld and some still choose to walk our wild and winding path with us.

  14. Your email changes didn’t impact people like me who enjoy reading your blog through RSS. Instead of getting extra emails for blogs, I can easily read your postings along with others using RSS.

  15. Leaping isn’t easy, but once we do it, courage comes more quickly the next time. I think if we grow up believing we can’t _______(fill in the blank), then we never try and haven’t the tools to even attempt it. I’ve realized with age and time that some are unwilling to change or accept our changing because they are afraid of losing themselves in the process. As we allow ourselves to be transformed, sometimes the only reason another is stuck or seems unwilling to join us, is because we’ve forgotten to invite them, or include them in the process. It’s easier to be brave when we are encouraged to come along. You’re good at that Kelly! 🙂

  16. Thank you for this truth. I am working on some changes, and you were spot on to me as far as my fears of others reactions to taking better care of myself. So far, I have been pleasantly surprised at the love and support even from those most affected by my changes. Your writing was an encouragement to continue on my path.

  17. Oh Kelly, I completely understand the need to respond to the increasing email filters yet there is a sadness. A little bit of beauty has been pulled from my inbox and yes, the change is hard. It is hard because this is just another small loss that added with all the other small losses makes beauty and goodness just a little less accessible. I will click through because I look forward to your posts, even the 2.0 posts, and I know that it is not “you” that has changed but rather an adaptation to the external circumstances. Just like our clients and our culture, we adapt to survive. It is, however, sad that something is deemed untrustworthy simply because it beautiful. Yea, let that one sit for a while. I feel a sermon coming on…

    • “Something is deemed untrustworthy because it is beautiful.” Yeah, that is a tough one to let sit. Especially when beauty is the best marker for truth, right? Okay, I’ll stop my sermon, too. 🙂

  18. Perfect for me, in many ways. Thank you, Kelly. By the way, I dig the minimalist format. 😉

  19. Love this!! It’s a great reminder for some of us that it’s okay to change and it’s okay if some don’t agree with it. But we should stay true to ourselves and those who don’t stay with us—well, we’re likely better off without them anyway. Thanks for the reminder!

  20. Kelly, it seems your topic was very on topic for so many people as there are so many more comments with this change than with many other posts. I love the topic and it was a great reminder and confirmation to keep changing as I have been, even if others can’t or won’t keep coming with me. I so can relate to the grief stage as that is what I am going through right now as my changes have cost me my marriage too, as some others have mentioned in the comments, but I will continue to change as I believe in my heart that this is what God is calling me to do – despite the pain. I do believe that we can find great gems and treasures in the pain so there will be something of great worth on the other side. Sometimes, I just wish the change didn’t take so long! But I do get it… Thanks again for another great post and will continue to click on the link too!

    • I totally hear you, Jenny, I wish change worked on a schedule, too. I admire you for persisting the way you are. And thanks for clicking on the link! I notice the greater volume of comments, too. I’m guessing that’s in part because everyone is reading right here, which feels like a good affirmation of the change. It’s nice to have everyone here together!

  21. Dear Kelly, thank for this post! In my country, we have a “compliment” that says “no cambies nunca!” (do never change!), indeed when someone tells you that, they are telling you a compliment, you are being celebrated for who you are “now”… which is quite brutal… over the past 8 years I have changed, lots… and this change brought many difficult things within, lots of painful moments, lots of people who walked away, lots of people from whom I walked away too, lots of awareness that continue to be a source of emotional pain each time they are “acted”, but funny enough, yesterday someone asked me if instead of “dealing with my 40ies” I would rather choose a younger age… And while I would love to be younger to recover some biological freedom, I would not go back to the time of unawareness of who I am -unawareness to the point I was before-, and after I said these words, I realized how all these change that I had to undertake, it was not something that I signed up for, had brought me to this Cris X.0 version.

    I love John O´donohue and a piece of his book Anam Cara: “If someone else could fulfil your destiny, then they would be in your place, and you would not be here.”… So I do welcome change -as much as I resist it- and whenever I find myself in that place, I take a deep breath and trust they are allowing me to become who I am expected to be…

    Thank you again! or Gracias!

    • Cris, you are insightful as always, and what a peaceful encouragement to all of us that a day might come when the new awareness and wisdom we have gained will make us actually thankful for our age. Anam Cara is one of my favorite books and quoted several times in my upcoming book. Love this quote you’ve shared!

      • I am soooooo looking forward to read it!!! This blog has become a source of inspiration… Gracias! 😉

  22. This is a terrific article, and I thank you very much for sharing it. I suffer from anxiety disorder and panic attacks. Especially when there is any change in my life. Thanks again!

  23. Thru the years I’ve made many changes – philosophically, career-wise and romantically, to name just the 3 biggies. All of these were growth/improvement in my evaluation, or I would not have made them. “..when you choose to grow, not everyone will choose to grow with you.” This I found about midway to be quite true, with some individuals’ choices to not grow in the same direction as a disappointment. But those were their choices and in a few cases that meant very reduced – and in 2 cases even, no – relationships. Mutually voluntary, that’s what any relationship needs to be else it’s “forced” in any one of many ways, often because one or the other hasn’t realized “People who choose bravery tend to choose each other.” Instead there’s a clinging vine which smothers instead of nourishes.
    Thanks, Kelly, for making some very good points that are always useful to review for the boost I get!

    • Kitty, thank you for this contribution! I especially like the additional idea that it’s not a black or white thing, some relationships may just be modified as we change. It’s very helpful to remember that!

  24. You are as awesome as ever. Will always search for your blogs and read the pouring out of your heart and mind. It’s always helpful and quite uplifting. Change is hard but sometimes needed. Thank you!

  25. I have never enjoyed a blog so much as I do yours. I ALWAYS read it, (sometimes late), and often forward it to friends and family. I noticed the change in format. I’m disappointed by it, because I like the graphics and the fact that it is so accessable… But, I will continue to read, and thank you for explaining the reasoning… but you are not getting rid of me that easy. Good post too about acceptance of others. In my own relationship I have grown over the last couple of years, and I will be me, and not worry about him….. He’ll still be there for me, because he does truely love ME!

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