The Closer You Are, The Less They See

The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.
Nathaniel Branden
Some time ago, I wrote about the importance of understanding that you can’t change anyone. People need to change for themselves. What you can do is inspire them to change. And it’s that inspiration that leads most men to change, to want to be more, to be better. Many times this change is a realization of how they need to be a better friend, a better son, a better brother, a better husband, or a better father. With that understanding, the man sets off to grow into a better person, inspired by how they can be more for someone they love; they are confronted with an unexpected result.

The person doesn’t see it.

I know that you should change for yourself, to become a better person because, well, you don’t change to impress others. You do change to be a better man, and as a result, become more for those around you. But if we are able to get off the moralistic high horse and be completely honest, having those who inspired your change to recognize it gives us a sense of validation, further inspiration to move forward. Yet, let me warn you right now. Those who are the closest to you are probably the last to notice your change.

Think of it this way. You realize that you need to lose weight, so you go on a diet and start working out. You adjust your eating habits and your lifestyle to achieve the goal. Before anyone notices, you start to see the changes. By the 4th week, your clothing starts to fit better or even loose. Nobody has said anything yet, as these minor changes aren’t that evident. By week 8, maybe a coworker or a friend you haven’t seen in a while compliments you on your weight loss. Ironically, those that see you every day constantly haven’t said a word about it. Maybe, if you’re lucky, after a couple of months, those around you will notice the change.

The reason for this is simple, they see you every day. Gradual change isn’t that easy to see. Your change is like a rock being slowly eroded by the weather into a new shape. To those who see the rock every day, they don’t see any change, but to those who see it every once in a while, this change isn’t as gradual. But unlike weight loss or an eroding rock, you can’t really track personal change. There isn’t a scale that can weigh neither integrity nor character.

The reality is, like the rock being weathered and eroded; you are trying to chip away at the image those close to you have created for years and years. It’s ironic how your past actions and attitude, the same ones you want to change as you realize how they affect those around you, are the same ones that make it difficult to those around you to see your change. You have to understand and become aware that you can’t change an opinion that you forged for several years in just a few months of change.

The good news is that they probably have included your change to their image of you; they just haven’t become aware of it. Our image of someone is created by our subconscious, so these opinions change and adjust without our realization. You just need to give the person time to make the realization of just how much you have changed.

But, there are a couple of ways to help the person realize how you have changed…

I have to bring this up before we move on. Some people don’t want to see you change. Their image of you justifies their attitude towards you or the fact that you changed into someone better exposes their insecurities. Be observant as these people will try to hinder any change you try to do to make yourself into more.

As I said, there are two ways to help make someone aware of your change.

The first is to become aware of how much the other person has changed and become more. We tend to focus on ourselves, and quite often fall into the same behavior we criticize on others. Look at the other person and become aware of how they have changed in a positive way. Compliment them on this. Awareness and positivity is just as contagious as criticism and negativity. Affect their attitude and perception by adjusting your own. As they realize how you are aware of their growth, they will become aware of your own.

The second is to make a change that isn’t so gradual. Change the way they see you by doing a change they will see every day. It forces the person to reset how they see you. Have you had a mustache or a beard all your life? Shave it.  You’ve always been a clean shaven man? Grow a beard. Shave your head, or color out your greys, or get contacts to get rid of your glasses. The idea is to basically dynamite the previous image they had of you, shatter that shell to show off the new you. As they see you every day in a way that doesn’t quite fit your previous image, they will start to reshape their image of you.

With all that’s said, keep in mind that as much as you might appreciate having your efforts recognized, receiving recognition isn’t why you decided to change. Take the time to see how your change is helping those around you. Recognize your own efforts and the effects your change has on those around you. Also consider how those around you might be well aware of your change. They just understand that helping you in your change is more important than applauding your change. 

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