You Are Allowed To Change


 “Saint John,” by Mati Klarwein

The impulse to change is natural and a part of every human’s evolutionary process. And yet to some people, Change is terrifying—not just the idea of change happening to themselves, but happening to people they know (and even to total strangers).

As you set out on the path of Evolution, you may find that others—even those closest to you, ones who might have even initially encouraged the Change—will throw obstacles in your way.

I once had a co-worker who went on a diet and exercise regimen. When she was a little girl, her older sister had been attacked and murdered. My co-worker had started to get significantly heavier after that tragic incident—possibly as a way to cope, and perhaps even to feel more “protected”—and now, in her mid-twenties, she wanted to make a change.

The first few weeks, she made a lot of progress. She had more energy and felt really happy with what she was doing.

But she also lived with her parents—all of her adult siblings did—and soon her mother began to encourage her to break her diet. This woman would walk into our place of work and bring a bag—an entire supermarket brown bag folded-over—of extra food to her daughter.

And at home, more food was being offered to my co-worker, under the pretense that she might get “sick.” While her parents were initially supportive, they now complained that their daughter was putting her health at risk, and needed to stop the diet. I had seen the healthy lunches she had prepared herself, and there was nothing wrong with them. Her mom was literally trying to push food on her—in public, in her place of work, almost to humiliate her.

Within less than a month, my co-worker’s weight loss ambitions faded away. She dropped it without comment & it was never mentioned again.

Almost twenty years later, I spotted my former co-worker in a crowded subway train. She had never lost the weight. Outside of a few gray hairs and some darkness around the eyes, she looked exactly the same. Given that she got off at the stop she used to take when we worked together at the store, there was a good chance she was also still living in her family’s house.

Her parents were afraid of Change—their daughter’s change. Perhaps they were afraid of losing her. Perhaps they were afraid of literally losing her, as they so tragically lost her sister.

But in not supporting their daughter’s impulse to change, they kept her like a time capsule. They kept her “safe,” yes…maybe. At what cost, however?

Perhaps, left to her own devices, my coworker might not have lost a tremendous amount of weight. Maybe she would have made a few healthier food choices, got in a little more exercise, and simply felt like she had a big more control over her life. And that also, is evolution. Sometimes, that’s all you really need. Being so controlled by her family well into adulthood, to have kept up with a new discipline she chose to do for herself would have been this really empowering thing.

But that choice was not supported by her loved ones. And we can say: well, she should have been stronger. We can say that—and certainly, she might have had her own reservations about Change—but it’s not quite so easy. Especially if you don’t recognize the situation for what it is, only seeing the surface condition of family and friends who are “concerned” about you.

If I had a chance to go back and give her advice—I was still a teenager when I worked with her—I’d tell her:

You are allowed to change. It’s healthy. Perhaps some people—even those closest to you—might be uncomfortable with it. Maybe they will make you feel guilt over it, or fear. Or maybe they will sabotage you under the guise of good intentions. Maybe they won’t even realize they are sabotaging you. But it’s not about them. It’s about you.

You are allowed to change.

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