I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve changed. Personally, I think for the better, but I’m aware some people think for the worse. Most of us have been there – a partner, family member or friend, uttering the words… Usually intended as an insult. A slant on your character, implying you’re somehow less of a person than you once were. That they like you a whole lot less than they used to.
Being told this used to bother me. A lot. It would typically evoke an angry response. Something along the lines of ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about’ or ‘I’m still me, who are you to pass judgement?’ or (if feeling particularly hurt) ‘I see you haven’t, you’re still irrelevant…’
But I’m trying to look at it from a different perspective.
I know how far I’ve come
Like most teenagers, I thought the world was judging my every move. The only confidence I had, was the confidence that I was bad at everything. The pressure of trying to conform to everyone’s expectations was intense and I can never remember a time I felt good enough. I knew what I believed, but never had enough conviction in those beliefs to stand up and tell the world. Always letting the louder voices drown out any chance I had of being heard, believing the louder someone was, the more right they must be.
It took me a long time and a lot of hard work to bury the teenage me. My 20’s were spent forcing myself to push boundaries, doing things that completely petrified me, drilling myself to believe that I could do things if I just set my mind to them. The more I did them, the easier they became. A lot of the things that used to terrify me are now second nature. I genuinely used to refuse to order a takeaway because I was too scared to even pick up the phone… Yes, really.
Carrie-esque, she still bursts from the grave from time to time, usually ahead of doing any kind of public speaking (I plan the sleepless night well in advance now). But in the main she rests pretty much in peace.
I’ve spent years learning about myself. What I like, what I don’t like. How I’m wired to react in situations, how to control those reactions if I need to. What and who matters to me. What and who really doesn’t… I’m the only one who’s experienced what it’s like to be me. All of the opinions I’ve formed, regardless of what anyone says, are valid to me. It’s taken me a long time to realise that authenticity is one of the most powerful ways of getting your voice heard.
Just because I’ve always thought one way, it doesn’t mean I always will
I once loved chicken, then I became vegan. I used to hate exercise, then I ran a marathon. I thought Father Christmas was real, then I grew up.
There’s a reason we don’t wear the same clothes or always have the same interests as when we were 15. We move on, we evolve. Our tastes refine, our bodies change. We develop and hone our own personal sense of self. Some people simply won’t understand why, but that doesn’t make it wrong. This is your journey, not theirs.
We change constantly, learning new information that steers us in directions we might not have been expecting. We form views based on our experiences, some of which we may choose to share with people who don’t feel the same way. We may even start to feel passionately about things we were once passive about. That’s ok. It doesn’t make us hypocrites. It just means the knowledge we’ve gained has given us the power to put it into practice.
Learning the art of being myself
I don’t believe a persons underlying personality will ever change dramatically. If you’re a kind and caring person, chances are you’ll always be that way. But, I do believe that as we grow, we evolve from being a 250 piece puzzle to a more complex 1000+ piece one. Some people don’t want to take on the challenge of figuring out how the more intricate version fits together. They would rather we discard the extra pieces and go back to the simple version, despite it meaning we would never be complete.
Should we live our lives hoping to please others? The simple answer is no. We should live our lives hoping to please ourselves – then, and only when we’re truly happy, do we really have the ability to make others happy.
It’s ok to spend time figuring out whether you are who, where and what you want to be. And if you’re not, challenging yourself to find a way of becoming that person. We should all be striving to become the best version of ourselves.
So next time someone says ‘You’ve changed’, I won’t apologise, or react with anger. I’ll accept the compliment. Thank you, it’s taken a lot of hard work to get here. I’m actually pleased you noticed.
I’m hoping the road ahead is long. But, I know one thing for certain – the only person I’m guaranteed to travel it with from beginning to end is myself. Taking the time to understand and embrace who I am has the ability to make that journey so much more enjoyable!