How to Heal, Grow, and Stay Connected
6 Tips for Maintaining Healthy Relationships While Going Through Personal Change
In relationships we grow together, we grow apart, and sometimes we grow together again. Imagine vines climbing the tree of life, each on its own journey, weaving, rising, and joining up again when the time is right.
Of course just because something is natural, doesn't mean it's easy.
Experiencing shifts in perspective can be unsettling, and reveal new concerns. Such is the case with personal work that asks us to show up differently for ourselves–because eventually, we'll also be different with everyone else.
It's important to keep in mind that familiar isn't the same thing as comfortable. We can get used to who and how we are in our relationships, even when we aren't necessarily proud of our words and behaviors.
Sometimes it's a "devil you know" scenario, where we choose to keep company with the same people in the same old ways, because we're afraid whatever comes next will be worse.
But sometimes our fears–What if I'm selfish? What if I'm mean? What if they don't like me...?–are already manifesting in the present interactions we're having.
Despite our reluctance to pursue change, we owe it to ourselves and loved ones to keep at it. In part because as soon as so-called blissful ignorance is left behind, it becomes nearly impossible to "un-see that." And because if we keep doing the same things and expecting different results, well... we know what that defines.
Here are a few suggestions to ease the process of staying connected while cultivating health, growth, and new relationships with yourself and the people you love.
1. Find an alternative to "selfish" thats not "selfless"
Merriam-Webster defines selfish primarily as:
1 : concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others. 2 : arising from concern with one's own welfare or advantage in disregard of others
In short, being selfish is being overly concerned with oneself, while disregarding others. This does not strike me as you, dear one, though I may not know you well. The mere fact that you're here, reading this post, and making inquiries like the one in its title, leaves little chance that you're "selfish" in my mind, by definition.
Your healing isn't selfish, either. And your desire to stay connected to family and friends while doing so is the opposite. Perhaps we can view what you're up to as, "self-promoting," as my therapist likes to say. Self-less doesn't cut it, because you are implicit in your own healing.
Remember also that if you don't care for yourself, you may find it difficult to care for others. It's an oxygen mask moment, my friend. Put yours on 🌬️
2. Remind yourself of your WHY – and who else will benefit from your growth
If you're on the path to health, growth, and a better connection to yourself and your purpose on earth, chances are you're not just having some Life of Pi fantasy, aiming for the trippy island near the end and planning to stay there all alone. No, you're making this effort to be healed and happy, not BY yourself but AS yourself. To be bigger, brighter, kinder, and wiser for and with the people in your life.
Imagine for a moment that you're at the end of this particular phase of your healing journey, instead of somewhere near the beginning. Conjure up a sense of how you will look, sound, feel, and use your time. See yourself waking in the morning, spending a few quiet moments alone, then surrounded by loved ones, family and friends. Notice the expressions on your face, the way you hold your body, and how others feel when they're near you. This is your why. This is what makes it all worth it.
3. Check in with yourself before reaching out
Think of this as taking your emotional temperature. If you're hot, it might be be best to wait until things cool down a bit. When feeling chilly, consider curling up with a cozy blanket and cuppa tea rather than try and force an interaction you don't feel up for.
On the other hand, if whomever you're considering reaching out to is great at applying a cool, gentle touch to your forehead and holding space 'til you simmer down, call them up! Or if you're in touch with a warm soul who knows how to just BE and ask no more of you than your company, then invite them in by all means.
4. Consider whether "they" are likely to understand where you're coming from. If yes, do share! If not, please take care...
As you're undertaking these self-promoting steps, know that some people will be fully supportive and on your side. Identify your cheerleaders (I used to affectionately call mine, "the committee") and hold them near and dear. Remind yourself of them whenever you notice yourself waivering in your pursuits.
You might post their pictures near your desk or altar, visualize sitting with them in a circle, as they willingly lend wise and loving support when you need it. Ask them IRL, "Hey, I'm doing this work and I have some concerns. Can I share and call on you if I need support?"
If you don't have this community *yet*, imagine who these people might be, how you'll recognize them when you meet, and what it will feel like to have these kind folks on your team.
As for those individuals you doubt will get where you're coming from... I imagine you're right, and I'm sorry. I know it hurts. You'll want to approach these relationships a bit differently, without trying to explain yourself or having an expectation they'll understand. ❤️🩹
5. Call upon the parts of you that are steadfast and connect from there
When we're addressing an old well-worn pattern or childhood wound, the internal shift can seem so significant, it's as though everything else changes with it. And in a way, that's true.
Yet there are parts of who and how we are that––while they'll no doubt be impacted by the changes occurring––we can still steadily rely on. Kind of like those supportive friends we focused on before. If there's a relationship you care about but the connection is difficult to make at this time, perhaps with someone who doesn't quite realize the value of inner work, try relating to them by way of an old standby. It could be your shared love of the outdoors, fondness of animals, or enjoyment of some old TV show. If and when the conversation shifts to more foreign frontiers, gently guide it back to what's familiar and safe, or kindly shut it down. The fewer unknowns in these instances the better, for now.
6. Treat yourself the way you'd like to treat others
We've all heard the saying, "Treat others the way you'd like to be treated." Sometimes this is easier said than done, and during deep personal work may be one of those times.
Part of what's tricky about living up to the golden rule anytime, frankly, is many of us don't have very high standards for how we relate to ourselves, or enough practice envisioning how we'd like to be treated better.
I heard a twist on this concept recently which helps illuminate what gets missed: "Say the things you say to yourself out loud, as though you were saying them to someone else." In doing so, you may hear how harsh you can be–to YOU. We can be incredibly mean to ourselves and not even catch it, because it's usually internal or unconscious.
In contrast, the emphasis on treating others well, especially for people pleasers, is typically more conscious and resolute. As I used to say to a friend of mine who was a staunch humanitarian and somewhat of a martyr (a remarkably common combination), "You're a human, too."
And you, dear one, have an important relationship to maintain with yourself, too. In fact your only guaranteed lifelong relationship is with YOU. So give this a try–especially when you're going through transition and feeling exposed: Treat yourself the way you like to treat other people. You might just be surprised at how much better you end up treating everyone else in return. 💝