Personal growth and development is a noble pursuit. Whether you’re challenging yourself intellectually and spiritually, building a business or pursuing career aspirations or trying to lose weight, exercise more and improve your health you are on a new and exciting path. You’re chasing your dreams and making change happen! You are proving to yourself that you deserve the very best and that you CAN do anything you set your mind to! You likely feel proud and inspired an maybe a little at a loss. Why at a loss? Well, because not everyone in your life is going to be happy for you! Some genuinely will be, some will pretend to be or straddle and some will resent your new path and might even be outwardly sabotaging or hostile. Thing is, you might be surprised by how personal growth affects your relationships. And you might be overwhelmed and even start to feel guilty about your progress. Don’t let that stop you!
Your Biggest Cheerleaders
Genuinely appreciate those who cheer you on and support you! Lean into them and express gratitude! Just like you might be surprised to see who turns up on the hater list you are likely to be surprised who shows up with the pom-poms!
There may be people you haven’t seen in years who will notice your social media posts or other indications of your change and show up consistently to cheer you on! Sometimes this is because they share your passion for your new pursuit and sometimes it’s because they have grown in other ways and love to watch others do the same.
For example, I love strength training so anytime I see someone starting a work out routine I reach out to encourage them. I am probably annoying about it sometimes. Because, I will literally text or comment every time they go to the gym even if I haven’t had contact with them in years! I’m just so excited to see them pursuing fitness. I know how difficult it can be to take this on and I know how meaningful encouragement can be!
On the other hand, one of my friends is a huge cheerleader for anything and everything her friends take on! It doesn’t matter if she has ever even heard of it. She just loves to watch her friends shine! I always joke that I could tell her I’m building a rocket to the mood out of popsicle sticks and rubber bands and she would sell tickets on my ship to half of the world. She believes your dreams in BIG ways! She’s also a personal growth junkie. She has a book to loan you about every area of personal development. So, no matter what you’re doing to grow she’s 110% behind you! She knows the key to a happy authentic life is growth and she wants that for EVERYONE!
Lean on Them
Whatever category your supporters fall in, bring them in close! I mean really, REALLY close! Include them in a BIG way and become more vulnerable with them. Do they stay the course? Are they totally supportive? When it gets bumpy do they hold your hand and tell you to buckle up? If they answer is yes, lean in harder! These are the people who will hold you up when it get’s tough. They will remind you of how worthwhile your pursuits are when you most want to quit! And, they’ll fuel you when you’re running low! They will also likely be a great source of advice for you as you are creating your dreams. And, very importantly they will help you to deal with the next category of people and keep your perspective and composure.
So, here’s the thing, some people are going to be haters. You will likely be surprised by who shows up in this category too! Some of these people might even be strangers! They could be people you don’t even know spewing nasty vitriol in your direction. We’ve all heard of internet trolls and seen them in actions. But, some of the people you have always seen as loving and supportive might suddenly appear to turn on you as well! They might be outwardly negative and demanding! They may be openly undermining or even hostile.
Firstly, you should obviously disregard strangers! I don’t know when we started caring so much what strangers think but really we need to stop. If you have time to be nasty to someone you don’t even know then you have a sad life and need to worry about fixing that! I’ll be praying for you and that’s about it! Moving on!
Toxic, Unhealthy Relationships
It can be very hard for people in our circle when we start to change and sometimes they lash out. It is very important to shut this down! Yes, you are changing and, yes that might make others uncomfortable but that doesn’t give them permission to behave in an abusive manner. Demeaning, undermining and sabotaging you are all abusive, unhealthy behaviors.
You may need to take a closer look at that relationship. Has it been healthy or has it been toxic? Nothing will shine a spotlight on toxic relationships like personal growth! If it’s toxic then you need to cut it out. It might be difficult to do but you can’t fix another person’s unhealthy behavior patterns and you can’t be a doormat or a punching bag! Depending on the relationship you might have to end it completely or you may have to distance yourself and build up your boundaries. DO NOT spend time daily or even weekly, in personal contact with people like this! You might not be able to fully escape, now or ever. Perhaps this is a member of your family. But you can send their calls to voice mail and you can slow the texts. Also, you aren’t obligated to attend EVERY family event. Whatever you do don’t get sucked into a guilt cycle about this! You deserve to have people love and support you. If they don’t have anything nice to say but they keep talking you have every right to stop listening!!!
Sure, there are people who are just outwardly nasty. They might even openly resent your progress. But, don’t get this confused with people who are pessimists or realists and genuinely want the best for you. It is important to make a careful evaluation of the situation and when in doubt seek advice from a known cheerleader!
A close and trusted friend telling you that losing 50 lbs in 3 months is not really doable and since you only weigh 150 extremely unsafe, isn’t a hater. They love you and are trying to help you gain perspective! I’ll never forget when my husband was starting his business, one of the first things his father told him was that most businesses fail the 1st year because of tax and book keeping issues. This is kind of funny since my husband has a finance degree. His father is an accountant though and he’s a realist. He was looking out for his son’s best interests. What appeared to be negativity was actually wise counsel and ended with an offer to help with book keeping. Often times that’s how you can tell the difference. Does what appears to be a negative comment end with helpful advice or an offer of assistance or is it just negative. People with your best interests at heart will usually make sure that there’s positive encouragement in these conversations.
Now, this category is likely the hardest and potentially the most subversive! We might not be able to predict who will fall in the cheerleader category or who will become haters. But we often don’t even realize this category exists let alone have any ability to predict who will land here. And let me tell you, a shocking number of people in your life will!
Here’s the thing… you can’t grow as a person without changing the dynamic of all of your relationships! And, the one universal truth is that we all HATE change! We especially hate change that we have no control over and we couldn’t predict! Having a friend or family member start striving for something new and different can bring up all kinds of scary feelings! Feelings of conviction, resentment and let’s not forget abandonment are all likely to show up. When people are experiencing these types of feelings they can behave very irrationally. It will be part of your growth journey to cope with this and to manage it in some way. So, let’s talk about what is happening here and what you can do!
Judgement & Conviction
It is very common that when a person in a family or friend circle starts to grow the people around them feel called out. They start to feel like they are being judged for not growing (or not growing fast enough). They might even start to accuse the other person of judging them. Here’s the question, are you? Are you judging them? Are you acting like you’re judging them?
Stop Saying “You Should”
So, I had to learn this one the hard way! When I started my health journey I was pretty sick. This meant that I had to do a major overhaul. I did an elimination diet and low and behold I had a casein allergy and non-celiac gluten sensitivity! Finding this out was life changing!!! I was so happy that after years of no relief I had found a way to rebound! Obviously, I wanted to shout this from the roof tops to help others! EVERYONE was genuinely happy for me. No one wants to see someone they love in poor health. However, they weren’t happy that I was recommending that they go on elimination diets too. And they weren’t happy that it was all I talked about!
No Judgement Intended… But it Sure Sounds That Way
In my defense, I had no judgmental intentions! I actually wasn’t judging them! It had never occurred to me that they were doing anything wrong. My intention was to share my amazing results and I was hoping they would discover the same. It felt like judgement! In all honesty, I was pretty insufferable about the whole thing! If someone casually mentioned they had a headache and attributed it to the weather. I would immediately say “You should try an elimination diet! My headaches completely went away when I did it!” YEAH… as I type that, I see how that sounds like judgement!
It’s totally cool that you’re excited about your thing and you can definitely tell your people about it! But you can’t impose it on other people’s lives and you still need to connect with them about other things too!
Once you’ve checked yourself the appearance of judgement should resolve. If it’s not it’s likely because the other person feels convicted. This means they feel judged even when there is no reason!
There were people who were clearly struggling with conviction regarding my new found health. Because they KNEW they needed to pursue it too! Being around me and seeing that I’d lost weight and drastically improved my health made them feel badly. It made them feel like they should be doing something even though I hadn’t uttered a word. Just seeing me made them feel like it was being thrown in their faces. It made them aware that their excuses didn’t hold water. Often times when people feel convicted they will either avoid you or try to undermine you.
A Familiar Example
Here’s how it works… you and your friends are all overweight. You all have kids and jobs and busy lives. You talk about losing weight and bemoan how difficult it is to eat healthy because your kids / husband are picky eaters. Not only that but you can’t even imagine when you would have time to work out since you barely have time to brush your teeth. (Come on, moms! We’ve all had conversations like this!)
One day you get fed up so you start walking with the kids every night and eating healthy! Now you’re losing weight and you don’t want to share the nachos during happy hour anymore. This changes the whole dynamic! Your friends realize that they could be doing it too and even if they feel like they couldn’t how can they bemoan that to you. After all, you overcame the excuses and are actually doing it. Now they feel badly and being around you makes them feel even worse!
Conviction is Not Jealousy
Now this isn’t jealousy guys so don’t get it twisted! This is conviction! It’s the same thing that happens when you’re in church and the pastor says something you KNOW applies to you and you get all offended or indignant! Being around a person who has changed in ways others know they need to makes them feel called out and they don’t like it and can’t shake it! To avoid this they often either avoid you or offer you a piece of cake… like a lot of cake! Sometimes with a side of guilt trip if you try to refuse it!
How to Resolve It
It is easy to look at this regarding weight loss and health but this same reaction can occur related to any personal development or growth! Here’s the thing though… this is their hang up, not yours! You might not be able to do anything about it and it might cause distance in the relationship. You did your part in making sure you weren’t giving the impression of judgement. They have to do their part as well and not undermine or avoid you. If you are really struggling at the thought of losing this relationship have a conversation with your loved one. Remind them that you are the same person and you still want to see them (just without cake).
The truth is that there is only so much time and energy that a person has. The other truth is that when you aren’t doing anything to grow, when you are stagnant, that pool of time and energy feels smaller. Seriously, when you are pursuing something you are passionate about and growing you have more energy and manage your time better. If you’re in growth mode you know this but if your loved ones aren’t… they don’t!
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are going to be changes in the ways that things get done. There have to be. That adjustment or stress isn’t what we are talking about here.
Since I started really digging into my personal development and started this blog my husband has had to step up in some big ways. We’ve always had a more traditional family. My side hustle was very successful but only required about 5 hours a month. He also owns a company and his career has been very demanding and at times even required travel. So, for our entire marriage I have managed everything in the house and related to our 5 children. Now, this doesn’t mean that he didn’t do anything. He has always been an involved and engaged parent and supportive partner. But, he has rarely made a meal, grocery shopped, cleaned etc. For many reasons (family size & composition, inability to eat out, etc) the family maintenance is a full time job. I can’t do both. There simply isn’t enough time in the day! Since I’ve started this journey he has been cooking several days a week, grocery shopping and helping with cleaning.
Obviously this had to be discussed. His career has become less demanding so we are able to make a shift. If I had just dropped all of these changes on him without discussion that would be wrong and he would have every right to resent it. If he resented it despite the discussions and consideration that would be human but also something that needed to be worked out.
Resenting Change is OK But This Should Pass
You can’t expect other people to be stagnant so you don’t have to experience change. Some people resent the changes you are making and the changes they have to make. I’ve even experienced people being resentful of changes they haven’t even been asked to make but are predicting.
Be thoughtful and communicative with the people around you about what you might need and any changes you might be expecting. Be aware that change is difficult and that your loved ones might need time and patience. Keep in mind that they might not resent your new path. They might resent the change they are struggling with. You will know the difference with time. As things settle down into a routine most people will feel more comfortable. Those that continue in resentment might not be able to move forward in the relationship.
Fear & Abandonment
When you’re growing and changing there is a significant amount of fear that you will out grow the people in your life! The truth is you might! It is more likely that you will outgrow them if they are unable to be happy for you and supportive. Unfortunately many people see your growth as pulling away from them. It creates new dynamics in the relationship. The fear that you will move on and no longer need or care about them can actually be the catalyst to that happening. When people are afraid they can become clingy and demanding or confrontational and difficult. This is untenable for people in growth mode. They simply don’t have the time or energy to accommodate guilt trips or to fight. This can be misconstrued as a lack of concern or validation that the relationship was going to be sacrificed.
How to Handle It
The best way to address this is to talk about it. It is very important to reassure the other person that even though they aren’t on the path with you, or pursuing or doing the same thing, you still value them in your life. It can be helpful to have regular check ins with them or to give them a way to participate in your new path. You should be diligent in reaching out to your loved ones. Set an alarm or meeting reminder on your phone if you need to. Make sure that you don’t get so engrossed in your new pursuits that you neglect your relationships! Do your part to stay connected and avoid them feeling left behind!
Your Relationships WILL Be Changed!
Despite all of these efforts you are still likely to lose people! Some people will refuse to move into your new life. Some will be uncomfortable with the new you or grieve the old you. There will be people you do simply outgrow. This is ok. There will also be people who are inspired by your growth and who join you! Maybe you jumped on board to join someone else. Those relationships will be enriched by your shared goals! You will also meet new people on your journey who are on a similar path and you will find new friendships and companionship.
It is both a blessing and a curse that some relationships are truly only meant for a reason or a season. Sometimes the reason is actually to catapult us down a different path. It is always sad when relationships end but every ending has a new beginning. And, the opposite is true as well, every new beginning comes with endings!
So continue on your path and trust yourself and your intuition to let go when you need to and embrace the new gifts life has in store!
Share this post with those you love who might be struggling with the impact of their own or someone else’s personal development journey! Have you experience this in your own life? Tell me about it! And, let me know if you have any questions about this topic or need advice regarding how to handle a more specific situation.
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