When we're growing and changing on purpose there's a lot of emotional labor involved. Noticing what you're doing that's contributing to pain and dysfunction in your life, trying to change established patterns of thinking and behaving, and navigating relationships around you. That's exhausting! You're always thinking!
In some of the relationships you're trying to change you are trying to be kinder, less defensive, less offensive, what-have-you. In other relationships you may be trying to have healthier and stronger boundaries. Learning to say no - or standing up for yourself in situations you might have otherwise stood back and felt bad. In these latter examples those relationships are likely going to feel worse before they feel better.
Tell yourself, "this is my new normal."
- "This is my new normal, when I say I don't want to do something I follow through at not doing it, no matter how much my friend or relative tries to convince me otherwise. They'll figure out it's my new normal eventually."
- "This is my new normal, if someone is rude to me then I leave the situation. I don't have to attend a party where the host or a guest is disrespectful."
- "This is my new normal, if I hear gossip in my presence I either shut it down by confronting it, changing the subject, or leaving. People will learn that when I'm around they need to censor the negativity about other people."
- "This is my new normal, my spouse doesn't get to invite people over for dinner without giving me a day's notice and think I'll drop everything to be a hostess for his last minute party. When his guests arrive and he is the one who had to figure out the menu he'll realize that I'm serious about being willing to host as long as I have adequate prep time."
Another way to use "this is my new normal" is for your temporary baby steps toward your bigger shift.
For example, you eventually want to be able to host parties on weekends spontaneously. You've always wanted to be that social type of person who can just invite folks over and throw together a quick barbecue, put on some music, and enjoy friends. But... the house is always messier than you'd like it to be, you don't usually have quick and easy foods to host with, and getting dressed up is more work than you want to do for a last minute party.
The new normal could be that you accept the messy house and your friends love you anyway. You offer whatever random stuff or everyone stops and picks up an ingredient on the way to your house. You host a party in your comfy-cozies.
Self disclosure: I've actually done all of the above. I'm constantly in some state of transition (having a baby, grad school, husband in grad school, etc.) so trying to have everything just right is impossible. It's actually really enjoyable after the first few disheveled barbecues because you no longer need to get everything just right anymore! The mask has come off!
But I digress:
The new normal of baby steps toward your big goal here is to take a portion of the big picture and start making that small piece a new normal. Once that small piece feels normal and you feel ready for the next step, you build upon it. This could be that you start buying "just in case" bbq fixings and you always have something on hand (Tri Tip in the freezer, baked beans and rice in the cupboard). Then you start BBQ-ing more often with just your little family, so BBQ feels casual and relaxed. Once that feels normal you find what your next shift can be: you invite your very dearest friends over who don't expect the house spotless. Then you invite them again and this time you're in your comfy-cozies instead of all dressed up. Once hosting is a little less foreign and feels more "normal" you invite them again and it's last minute (to them). Then you invite them again and it's last minute to you. Then you repeat.
So that each small change you just maintain that one change until it feels like it's a normal part of you until you reach your end goal. In this example, spontaneous hosting without having all the stressful parts impeding your invitations.
Some will be fun changes (more barbecues - yeay!) and some will be difficult (strengthening boundaries with unhealthy people - ugh). But as long as you're making these changes in order to have a happy and healthy life for you, you'll be able to make each change your "new normal."
Jessica Wilkerson, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #104464
Jessica Wilkerson lives and works in Chico California. She has an adult son in college and two little ones, in some ways her life is like the movie Groundhog's Day in that she's on round two of raising children, but in her version of the movie it's just as comedic but she enjoys each and every nuance - the joy and the sleepless nights alike! She often wonders, though, how did Bill Murray wake so well rested every day?