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.
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.
In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.
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Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.