I don’t believe I’ve ever conversed with anyone on a beautiful spring day who lamented and bemoaned the coming of warm air, green shoots, and longer, sunnier days.
Most of us celebrate good changes. When the year-long road construction project on the busy road exiting the neighborhood is completed, there is celebratory relief and widespread joy. When the coffee shop renovations make your favorite spot brighter, more spacious and inviting, you can’t wait to bring a friend and enjoy the positive changes. But have you ever experienced a person who will not tolerate good changes? How about the person who will not accept good changes you’ve made inside of you?
Jamie loved her family, imperfect as it was.
She devoted herself to loving them well, and it was just about a full-time job. Her parents were divorced and remarried, her siblings were all married with young children, and her extended family on both sides lived fairly close-by. She was there for them all. She worked to develop a relationship with each parent’s spouse and their families. She was sister, friend, daughter, aunt, grand-daughter, and often put their needs before her own. She loved to help her family and be there for them all.
She had her own husband and children, and they were active in church, the community, school, and sports. After Jamie’s third child was born, she came to find herself on the edge of a crisis. She was overwhelmed, overrun with commitments, and riddled with the guilt of not keeping all the plates spinning gracefully. Her sister was upset that she couldn’t attend her daughter’s recital. Her brother was frustrated she couldn’t babysit his kids over the weekend. Her mother wanted her to drop everything and help her shop for a dress for her cousin’s wedding – the cousin who had a drinking problem and called Jamie all hours of the night for support. After a sudden, scary panic attack, Jamie came to terms that she needed to change herself and her relationship with saying no. The need to please her family was slowly killing her.
As Jamie’s ability to lovingly say no to people, projects or priorities strengthened, her husband noticed the positive changes in her.
Jamie had more peace of mind, patience, and sparks of joy were beginning to return. Her children saw their mom in a new way – she was funny, relaxed, and more playful. At home, she felt supported and encouraged to take care of herself. However, not everyone was happy about the changes. Her family preferred Old Jamie the Yes Woman. They weren’t sure why Jamie was being so selfish now. Jamie heard their opinions through direct confrontations, indirect, passive comments, and felt it when left out of invitations or plans. While Jamie still loved her imperfect family and her devotion, while different, remained constant, she began to wonder if they ever loved her at all. And it stung and pierced her deeply. She didn't see this coming at all.
Are you making positive changes in your life?
Expect people to resist. Your over-involvement in helping, fixing, solving or engaging in other’s lives was harmful to you, but they experienced it as helpful for them. You may now see that you weren’t actually helping, but perhaps allowing a person to mistreat you or neglect their own responsibilities. But in their thinking, you’ve stopped doing something that they have come to expect, need, or even demand. Expect people to react negatively to the new, healthier you.
Are you feeling more guilty or uncertain than before?
Expect to feel uncomfortable feelings as you learn to separate yourself from over-commitment and pleasing others. Often we are even more sensitive to the feelings and opinions of others when establishing boundaries, self-care or new priorities because we are used to tuning into their needs at an unhealthily set high-sensitivity frequency. We may feel unsure of our decisions, looking for affirmation from others that our new choices and behaviors are ok, not selfish, and not harming others. Expect your thoughts and feelings to draw you back into your old ways. It takes time to trust yourself, but it will happen if you stay the course.
So, are these people who resist the good changes in you toxic?
Possibly yes, and possibly no. However, in all cases and with all people, you have permission to make decisions for yourself and live your life. You are an adult. When you encounter resistance or negative reactions to your new behaviors, choices, or boundaries, you always have permission to:
1. Give a short answer and don't engage. "A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare." Proverbs 15:1. You don’t need to attend every discussion or argument. You can walk away or respond with, "I'll think about that" or "That is possible". You aren't obligated to engage.
2. Allow others to disagree with you. “We are each responsible for our own conduct” Galatians 6:5. We show others that we take responsibility for our own life decision by allowing them to disagree with ours. We don’t need to convince people to agree with us.
3. Take a break. It’s ok to pull back and create some space from a person who is struggling to respect your choices. When a controlling person senses they are no longer in control of you, they may say some crazy things to guilt you or manipulate you back into line. Space provides the other person room to grow themselves and change themselves.
4. Recognize lies. False guilt wants to keep you living the status quo. Insecurity wants to keep you ineffective. Don’t let the lies that come from others or the lies that come from within disable you from making progress in your new way of living.
5. Forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse others or their behavior. Whether the person is showing short-term irrational, unexpected resistance to your boundaries or your new choices are revealing a toxic relationship, forgiveness allows us to release the offense and let go of resentment.
It is painful when people we love and trust resist or even come against the good, healthy and necessary changes we are developing in our lives.
When we face attacks, guilt-trips, or feel undermined when we are making positive changes, it can feel unfair and confusing. Sometimes we are encountering loving friends and family reacting to the discomforts of change, and possibly resisting their own internal stuff. As we continue our own path of growth and consistently stand grounded on our decisions, They adapt to the new you. The relationship finds a new normal. Sadly, there are some people who don't understand, respect or accept the newer you and push you to return to the way things were. When this happens, you will have a choice to make.
Finding support from others who will embrace you, encourage you, and propel your growth is important. Trusting yourself, expecting some resistance, and giving yourself permission to respond in self-honoring, wise ways will keep you moving forward into your beautiful season of spring.
What's next for you? Are you looking for more encouragement or strategies on how to strengthen your ability to build positive boundaries? I have a free resource for you that will increase your confidence in saying "No" in just seven days. Find it HERE. Want to talk more about how coaching can support your personal or professional growth? Connect with me HERE.