Please do not misinterpret the title; I am not suggesting that you stop trying to succeed or get along with others. What I am suggesting is that you take a moment to consider if you might be sacrificing your well-being to appease someone else or avoid conflict. I learned the hard way that attempting to please others and live up to their expectations—at the expense of my own wishes, hopes, and authenticity—inevitably leads to failure and disappointment for everyone involved. For years I attempted to figure out the “right” answer to each situation, from my career path to what I thought I should say in casual conversations. Later, I realized I had sacrificed myself, which served no one.
It usually feels awful to upset or disappoint someone you care about, whether it be a friend, supervisor, or family member. However, if you are feeling upset, unbalanced, or frustrated in a relationship or circumstance, here are five reasons it might be healthy to initiate change that could disappoint another person:
- You might be living someone else’s life. We all know someone who lives for someone else’s approval. For example, some people become attorneys or doctors because their parents expect it of them, when they would rather be writers or entrepreneurs. Sadly, some people live their entire lives following someone else’s lead, according to someone else’s template. This is tragic. If, as an adult, you are just going through the motions because someone told you to do so, it would be good to consider what you truly want from your life. If you decide that someone else knows you well enough to dictate your path, and your assigned life suits you, that is wonderful. If not, consider who you might disappoint if you decided to make a change.
- You might be locked into an unhealthy relationship. Many of us have experienced relationships (whether with partners or friends) that feel one-sided. One person gives, the other takes. If one of your relationships is draining you and you are feeling used, neglected, or abused, consider what your life would be like if that relationship changed or ended. If you are the one on the short end of the stick, the other person is likely pretty comfortable with the arrangement, as you are probably meeting that person’s needs quite well. When you initiate a conversation about changes to this implicit relational contract, it may lead to some conflict. The other person may be disappointed, but you could release yourself from an unhealthy relationship pattern.
- You might be feeling stuck doing a job you hate or one that does not bring you joy. It is common to start a job with high hopes, thinking you have found a great fit with coworkers, a company, etc., only to find that, over time, it is not what you anticipated. However, perhaps you feel that you made a commitment to these people or this organization and you must see it through, even though you know it is not right for you and it is making you miserable. While it is generally not a great idea to change jobs frequently, if you know you have reached a dead end and there is no turning the situation around, it could be healthy to reevaluate. You might disappoint a supervisor or coworker, but it could be the only way to free yourself from an unfulfilling situation.
- You might not be achieving your potential in your career. Similar to the scenario above, you might have worked at a job for a while and reached the end of the line. Just as when you are on a train, you need to hop off and start a new path. This could also upset others who may have grown dependent upon you. However, consider this question: Is providing stability for them more important than your own growth? Sometimes, progress means letting go of something familiar that no longer serves you.
- You might need a fresh start or an opportunity for new relationships that reflect and honor who you are as a person. Similar to the second reason, if you are stuck in an unhealthy relationship, it is likely the other person is not “seeing” you for all you are and who you have the capacity to become. If you limit or alter relationships that restrict you, you allow room for new relationships. As you gain clarity about who you are, you will attract others into your life who respect and support the “real” you, rather than the version that is convenient for them.
When you initiate these kinds of changes, people will react. They may express their disappointment with you in a variety of ways. Here are a few suggestions to allow them to have their feelings without losing sight of your own needs and giving in to the path of least resistance:
First, it is appropriate to apologize for hurting or disappointing someone. However, be sure you are not apologizing for your decision to honor yourself and lead an authentic life.
Next, get to know your authentic self and be able to stand in the eye of the conflict without becoming defensive and reactive. One of the best ways to do this is to initiate and maintain a meditation practice. If someone has a particularly poor reaction to your changes, you might want to complete a loving-kindness meditation (check out loving-kindness meditations available on the free Insight Timer meditation app). In these meditations, you can visualize sending love to the person with whom you are experiencing conflict, which can be quite powerful.
Finally, sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all. Give the other person time and space to process your feedback. If you let them be for a while, it is quite possible they will come around and forgiveness and repair can begin. Even though you may feel uncomfortable and want to resolve the situation immediately, it is important to manage your discomfort and not push others into acceptance before they are ready.
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