"But, that's what you have always done."
"But, you always use to like to do that."
"But, you have always liked that kind of music."
"But, you always eat those kind of cookies."
"But, you have always done [ FILL IN THE BLANK ] "
Have you ever had someone say something along those lines to you? Or, have you ever said them to someone else?
I would be shocked if you said no to either of those questions.
We preach that we need to grow and change yet... when it comes down to it, most people are uncomfortable when someone around them grows and changes. Particularly those that are closest to them such a spouse, parent, best friend or sibling.
Despite the intense (and often obsessive) desire we have to change our ways, get out of our element, out of comfort zone, and live our lives just a little bit... different.. maybe a little bit... better, we are change adverse creatures. And not only that, we are often 'change blockers.'
I am not a psychologist so bare with me as I run through my thoughts.
We become accustom to knowing someone in one way that we have a difficult time accepting when they mature, grow, and change. When they take steps to 'better themselves,' or when they simply start to like new things, take up a different hobbies, drop other hobbies or habits, and explore other ways of living life, we (the other person) has a difficult time accepting that change.
Some, straight up refuse to accept the change... have you ever gone back to a place where you grew up or spent time as an adolescent and inevitably the people there still believe that you love the things that you loved and participate in the same activities as you did when you were... oh say... about 12 years-old?
Though perhaps more dispiriting and often more damaging than those moments are the day-to-day moments when someone feels unable or not allowed, or unsafe to change because of the response they receive from the people around them. And not just acquaintances - these are typically the people who are closest to them. That is where the real dagger strikes - this is where the open-space of love and acceptance from a place of truth and respect turns into a closed-space of suffocation and dismissal usually from a place of denial, misunderstanding, or even jealousy. The person trying or seeking change will likely feel boxed in and unworthy, and often, unfortunately, begin to second guess and doubt themselves.
"Well, I guess I'll just do what I have always done...Stick to status quo," they may think..."this is how I am loved and accepted right now. What would it be like if I were different?" What they (we) are not usually thinking is that when they change ourselves for the better they are embraced even more fully than we were before - yet there is that period of time that is messy... scary... disorienting... and disheartening. Sometimes, we are forced to let go of those that don't fit our new lifestyle or who won't accept our changed ways.
I'll take diet as a relatively easy and common example of change.
"So hun, I think I'm going to switch to low-carb diet. I really think I'm going to cut out refined sugar for a while too. And, I don't think I'll drink alcohol for some time either. I just feel I need to clean up my diet a bit. Eat more lean protein, less sugary snacks, and more veggies."
One would think that the other would be delighted. And surely not for 'Keeping up with Joneses,' but rather because their partner is choosing to honor their body and are making an effort to give themselves a bit of self-love and feel better. They are respecting themselves.
Yet, this is not always the response that occurs. They think to themselves... "well I do eat cookies. I do eat carbs. I frickin' love white potatoes. And beer. And thick juicy steak!"
They mistakenly think... "given their change, what will I have to change?" What is not recognized (usually) is that the other person doesn't have to change a damn thing! The other person was simply voicing their proposed change most likely because voicing change/action makes it feel more real. That, and perhaps most importantly, they are seeking support.
Mind you, these are not always strikingly positive or negative changes... they are simply.. change.
"I don't really feel I want to crochet any more ... I really think that I may then take up photography. I've been thinking about taking a coarse in it." This coming from someone who has crocheted for over half of their life may come as a shock to the people that are closest to them.
Instead of support, the other person may think, 'how will this effect me? how will our schedule change... how will I change? How will we change?' Or, 'where is this stemming from? What has happened for them to want suddenly change their ways?' And often, 'is something wrong with them?'
On that note...
We (people) become so deeply tied to the things we do that we identify ourselves with that 'thing' rather than being who we are separate from things that we do - who we are becomes the things that we do.
I am a yogi.
I am a hiker.
I am a runner.
I am a cook.
I am a writer.
What happens to a yogi when they for some reason cannot or decide to not do yoga? They decide to start kick-boxing or they injure their back. Who are they without yoga? Or a runner who has ran consistently their entire adult life has to slow their role and switch to walking because their knees cannot handle the force of the runners stride. Who are they if they are not a runner? A writer who cannot write due to a stroke... who are they now?
Suddenly, there is an identity crisis.
This happens many times throughout our lives. A scholar of History whose entire career thus far has been studies, enters the workforce as a sales associate at a software company. An owner of a Bed & Breakfast of 30 years, sells their property. A dentist of 40 years, retires. A horse rider of 20 years, decides to stop riding to travel and explore their growing interest in cultural studies.
The reasons are not always clear. Sometimes, we don't even know the reason(s) for a significant life change. Sometimes, it is simply a want or desire to feed another passion. Or, the former passion no longer 'feeds our soul.' Other times, the reason(s) are more concise. Retirement. Physical conditions. Environmental surroundings such as a skier moving to Florida.
At times, we may even devalue ourselves when we don't do the things that we use to do - because of the high value we once placed on them.
My point, is that when we tie ourselves to what we do with such conviction that it becomes who we are, we risk an identity crisis.
I am not a yogi.
Currently, I do yoga.
Embracing who we are without the things that we do and knowing who we are without the things that we do has the ability to bring grounding despite the changes in and around us.
As tree (yes, I am anthropomorphizing) who weathers a storm, and has core that stands unwavering when it's branches are shaking, bending, and even breaking. And endure seasons of change, even changing of colors, and sometimes, stranding bare with no leaves and awaiting the sun of the next season where they will begin to bud and blossom once again.