How To: Respond with Love When You've Changed, but the World Still Expects the Old You

Over the last two and a half months, I have largely sheltered myself away.  I’ve been conscious of doing this, and there are a number of reasons why I have secluded myself, so to speak from the world at large.

I won’t get into all of the reasons, but perhaps the most significant one, or the true backing behind withdrawing from the world has been as a protection of sorts as I’ve felt a bit delicate.  Vulnerable is probably the better choice of words here.

It took a lot of courage for me to up and quit my job back in late June.  While the option of quitting probably started to materialize a good month and a half before I actually did it, I wasn’t certain of my decision until about 3 weeks before I gave my notice.  By the time I became certain of my decision, I set a date on the calendar for when I would give my notice.  The weeks leading up to that date were uncomfortable, to say the least.  My newly acquired anxiety seemed to reach a fever pitch, and my nerves were shot.  I was worried about how my then boss would respond.  I was worried about letting the people down, who I was supporting and working with.  I was also incredibly anxious about how my parents would receive the news.

Since quitting, I’ve had a lot of people, some close to me, others not so much, share their opinions on my decision.  While for the most part there has been a lot of support, there have also been ample warnings of  the dangers of “too much time off” and recklessly “blowing through my savings”.  I think because it took everything in me to decide to leave work and recover, I didn’t see myself equipped with the strength to then stand up for myself when these various warnings have come my way.  I’ve made the choice to surround myself with people who love me but also with people who have supported me.  I haven’t necessarily sought out opportunities to engage in discussions or debates with those who think I should be choosing a different path to recovery.  Mostly because I have been, and am still very much finding my footing in all of this.

Now though, as I am experiencing this upward shift in momentum, I am beginning to re-engage in and with the world around me.

I’ve had suggestions made to me, more recently in light of the part time contract I picked up, that I should maybe also start looking for MORE work.  It’s only a part time job after all.  I’ve been unemployed for 2 months now.  Maybe it’s time I start being serious again, and stop doing whatever it is I’ve been doing now.  Enough is enough.

I know these suggestions ultimately come from a place of love, but I think they also come from a place of control, and a place of dissatisfaction perhaps with the original speaker’s life that is being put on me and my life and decisions.

I struggle with how best to respond to these suggestions and dialogues.  As I am still learning the art of establishing respectful boundaries, I am uncertain as to whether to take a strong stance, or remain in a sort of undefined, wishy-washy middle ground, where I don’t necessarily stick up for myself and my decisions, but I also don’t agree with the other person’s opinions.

Ian has helped me find my way in this, and I have found his guidance to be especially helpful.

Here is some of what he has shared with me:

In instances where it is a close loved one, and where a certain pattern in the dialogue has been established and maintained for a long time, there can be a series of phases that are passed through:

The first involves someone telling you what to do, and you simply resist it for a while before eventually going along with the suggestion or opinion of the other person to please them.  While Old Me may not have gone along with the resistance bit here, the rest is very much her, to a T.

The second involves much the same scenario as the first, except in this instance, you become more adept at the resistance part.  This may involve telling the other person that deep down, they know you are going to do things your own way, in spite of their suggestions which dictate otherwise.

The third phase is when you are able to reach a more solid inner place, filled with love where the suggestions of the other don’t have the same effect on you as they once did.  In this phase, you become more open and articulate to explaining your own opinions and views in a manner where you feel positive and sure of them.  In this phase, both participants are able to respectfully voice their opinions and beliefs and both are able to maintain the ground they stand on without feeling manipulated or ignored or unheard.

It takes time to reach the third phase, and the more that you establish your footing in your beliefs and decisions, the more reactions you will solicit from those around you.

In the instance where someone else’s suggestions or opinions still garners a reaction of defensiveness in you, you have a few choices: you can avoid conversations where the triggering topic arises, or you can respond by reaffirming your position-the latter requiring continued practice, as I am learning.

As Ian has reiterated to me a number of times now over the last several months, the decision to make a positive change in my life-ultimately trying to upgrade it-was mine.  It is unfair and unrealistic for me to expect everyone else around me to understand and move up to the level I have chosen.  While I don’t always see it immediately, I know I have changed and grown.  Some around me engage with me in the manner they are used to, expecting the same reactions that I used to provide.

I’ve outgrown those reactions though.  That’s the kicker.

With Love,

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Olivia Shaw

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Eleanore Brickell
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love it!! you go girl 🙂