Conquering the Lion of Making a HARD CHANGE

One of the first things they asked us in counselors school was : “Do you think people can change?”…to be honest, I hadn’t thought about it much (really!??), I just wanted to help people when they were in sad times. I wanted to be part of a support system. I wanted to make an impact in lives… but PEOPLE CHANGE?

I said “yes”, but only because I knew that was the “right” answer. Of course, I know now that that is the key belief of a counselor. People can make change and can CHANGE.

There’s a ton of science that supports change and how change happens in your brain, but I won’t get into all of that. The point is, people can change if they want to, and that’s what I hang my hat on as a counselor. They WANT TO.

But I didn’t go to counselor school to BE CHANGED. I went to help OTHERS CHANGE. And of course, through counselor school….and being a counselor… I’ve changed.

“Shara you’ve changed”

It’s a phrase I’ve heard more than once in the past year or two. Some people uttering this phrase mean it in a positive way, others do not.

I titled today “Change and life altering moments” because I know there have been times in my life when something has been said or I’ve experienced something that has made me stop in my tracks, ponder, and it has urged a change.

One of these experiences was many years ago when my friend, Eric Faulk died. At his funeral, people spoke about how utterly silly and goofy he was. They loved and cherished this about Erick. I did too. It hit me that that’s one of the things Erick and I did well together. We PLAYED. We were silly and goofy. I would miss that terribly now that he was gone. Then I thought about my own silliness, my own goofiness. All my life (until that moment), I’d tried to conceal this aspect of my personality…SOMEWHAT…. I didn’t really like this part of who I was. I mean, I WAS SILLY and GOOFY, but I only shared that side with people I knew and trusted. I thought that side of me was unrefined and didn’t seem intelligent. I only wanted to come across as refined, classy and intelligent. I altered an aspect of who I was because I wanted to be PERCIEVED a certain way. After Erick’s funeral, and thinking about who he was in all of our lives, I made a decision and a CHANGE happened. I decided to EMBRACE my silly, goofy side. It wouldn’t matter who saw this side of me, if it was the natural thing to do or be, I wouldn’t hold back. I would BE ALL of me.

That was many years ago and I’m happy to say that that change HAS STUCK. I’m completely happy with all of my “sides”, especially my silly side.  I don’t care that I may not appear refined when I’m showing that side of myself…I LIKE that side of myself. This change…WAS EASY.

The change that’s happened more recently is a more challenging one, and I’ve spoken about it often in bits and pieces because it’s a more encompassing change.

I changed the way I EAT.

Now, you may think, this is not THAT big of a deal, but as you know, this EATING HABIT change affected my weight and how I LOOK, and this, in turn has changed the way I FEEL which has, in turn, changed some of my behaviors.

I’m not going to get into ALL OF THAT…

HOWEVER, what I DO WANT to share (for hopefully the good of others!) is that this CHANGING the way I EAT first started with an EXTERNAL MOTIVATOR telling me what to do. I had a “Coach” of sorts basically saying, “If you want to lose weight, you’ll do what I say.” (Basically, don’t ask any questions). So, I followed blindly.

And I learned some new behaviors. Not only did I CHANGE WHAT I ATE, I changed HOW and WHEN I ate.

Let me explain. I went for an all-out OVERHAUL of my eating behaviors. Now, this is not what everyone NEEDS to do, but it is what I NEEDED to do.

I was told to pack my lunch and dinner if I needed before I went to work. I was told to pack my lunch and dinner, if needed if I was going on a boat. I was told to research my meal prior to eating out. Could I get the food I needed there? If not, I couldn’t eat there. If I were going to a friend’s house for dinner, I had to see if they had what I could eat in advance. If I were going to a party, I had to ask about what would be served. I was instructed that I should ALWAYS PACK my lunch or dinner, just in case there wasn’t something I could eat that was on my program.

Pretty drastic, huh??

Well, it was, and I HATED IT. BUT I DID IT. And man, did my people RISE TO THE OCCASION to support and encourage me. THIS WAS probably the HARDEST THING I HAD TO do while learning to eat differently….to BE DIFFERENT. TO ASK FOR WHAT I NEEDED, to ASK PEOPLE do something FOR ME that seemed inconvenient.  I talked with my coach. I complained. I groaned, I stomped and snorted, and fought it every step of the way. Eventually it got easier because I saw that people that supported me weren’t bothered by what I needed at all, they were actually HAPPY TO HELP. I learned that asking for what I needed was GOOD FOR ME. And of course, feeling better on the inside helped a lot! BUT even though it got easier, there have always been moments when I feel like I don’t want to stand out or do something different. I want to be just like everyone else.

SO… now I’m doing this “eating thing” on my own. There’s no more coach. No more guidelines, no more “just do what I say”. I’ve made the changes and I ‘ve lost the weight, so…I should be DONE now, right?

Not really.

Now that I’m doing this “change thing” on my own, I hold myself accountable…I tell MYSELF what to do….and sometimes that’s HARDER.

Here’s my moment. TODAY, I had to attend a work training. One in which lunch would be provided. THE OLD ME would have been super excited about having a lunch that was from someplace catered. I’d be excited to eat something new and different. BUT today I knew if I didn’t have food that was good for me, I’d be tempted to eat something that wouldn’t make me feel good. So, I packed my lunch (like I ALWAYS DO) and I headed out. This is my first year at this job. The people I work with are new to me. Of course, there was that nagging feeling that at lunch I’d be the “different one” eating my lunch while everyone noshed on the catered meal. I worried that I’d feel weird. I wondered about who would say what….I figured, “Oh well, I’ve been through it before, so I can do it again.”

The moment came when I sat down and someone else had brought her own lunch. Then another co-worker had a special meal/food request because of her allergies. A third co-worker sitting beside me hadn’t asked for the special meal but was pulling apart her sandwich to get to the parts she wanted to eat. She was giving away her chips and cookie. I pulled out my lunch and NO ONE SAID A WORD. NO ONE GAVE ME A STRANGE LOOK. NO ONE MADE ANY snide comments. No one made any “jokes” (which aren’t helpful when you’re trying to make good changes). I wanted to find a microwave to heat something up that I brought and I went looking for one and bumped into someone else looking for a microwave. I WASN’T ALONE. I WASN’T the only one! On my microwave journey, the people with the “special lunches” (salads) were asking if we wanted a salad. I took a salad box and brought it back to the table for my co-worker that clearly needed and wanted a salad but hadn’t requested it. She was so grateful.

The moral of the tale: CHANGE is HARD. BUT CHANGE can be very good. In that moment, I learned that it’s really OK for me to ask for and DO what I need when it comes to food and my health. I don’t have to explain myself or have any medical reasons for eating what I eat. I like what I like. I want what I want…. it’s OK. And that moment was a wonderful reminder of what I feel it SHOULD BE LIKE to be accepted, no questions asked.

I also realize that these people don’t know “the different, new” Shara. They only know me as I am now…and they LIKE and ACCEPT me as I am now. It’s a nice thought to know that from this point on, the people I get to know won’t question or wonder or ask or look. It’s nice to know that my change has become my “New Normal”.

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