Changing for the Right Reasons
Sometimes it starts in small ways: a new haircut, new wardrobe, maybe even a cute little tattoo. Perhaps you like your new look, and you stop there. But sometimes the little changes lead to bigger changes, snowballing and accelerating until the new you hardly resembles the old you. Perhaps that was the goal of your subconscious mind, but how can you know for sure whether the changes you are making reflect healthy decisions or desperate escapism?
It all starts with awareness — be aware of the changes you are making, and be aware of the circumstances that lead to those changes. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we’re doing that we don’t see the cause-and-effect relationships between events in our lives. Sure, sometimes a haircut is just a haircut, but sometimes it’s a symptom of not wanting to be the same woman who got dumped unceremoniously a couple of weeks ago.
Of course, it is not necessarily a bad thing to want to separate yourself both emotionally and physically from an unpleasant situation. A fresh start can be good, and it can help you draw a line under a time in your life that you want to put behind you. So what is the difference between change that is based in strong self-esteem and a desire for self-improvement, versus change that is a symptom of mental anguish or less healthy motives?
There are many ways to distinguish good change from bad change, but generally it all boils down to one thing: fear. If you are truly making increasingly drastic changes to your life because you’ve done a serious amount of self-assessment and have formulated a plan of action to better your life, great. Real change is often instigated via grandiose gestures that disrupt old, unhealthy habits and set the pattern for new ones. But it’s important to ask yourself some very tricky questions, especially if the timing of your changes coincides or immediately follows a drastic upheaval (such as divorce or death in the family), or a period of emotional distress (such as a bout with depression). Are you focusing on changing your life because you’re afraid of having to deal with the situation at hand?
Often when something happens to disrupt the harmony in our lives, we want to deny that there’s any problem, and patch things up in the hope that no one, including ourselves, will notice the difference. Sometimes, when it is impossible to mend the situation, we use change as a defense mechanism to draw attention away from the more negative things that are going on. If you’re having a hard time working through a significantly difficult situation, keep an eye on your decision-making process. Choosing to stir things up a little can often be healthy, especially in terms of giving yourself a break from the more unpleasant things going on in your life. But if you learn that your partner has been cheating on you, and then suddenly you find yourself quitting your job at the law firm to become a full-time mountain climber, you have to slow down and step back. It may seem at the time that your decisions are sound, and who knows, perhaps you’ll love your new life as a mountain climber. It’s more probable, however, that after you are finished mourning your relationship, you’ll wish you hadn’t thrown everything away just to escape the bitter memory of a unfortunate partnership.
Change can often be the catalyst for further change, and most adjustments you make to your life are probably for the best, in all likelihood. Just monitor your patterns carefully, especially following a trauma, about make sure that you are using both your heart and your head when deciding how to proceed with your future. Knowing why you make certain decisions is just as important as the choices themselves, and can keep you from heading down the road to disaster.