There's been a major focus on #livingmybestlife and #youdoyou on social media over the past three years or so. And, of course, it's often paired with a beautiful image of the most photogenic human you’ve ever seen in a perfectly curated setting. What we seldom see, though, is the truth behind the relationships that had to end, the behaviors that had to shift, the identity that had to be detached from to create that level of "perfection."
Cue the tune “Everybody Hurts” in the background.
Because the truth is, while transformation is a beautiful thing, it doesn't come free of aches, pains, bumps and bruises along the way…..no matter what the highlight reel may say.
The Pain of Change
I want to share with you a story about a friend – we’ll call her Julie. There was a point in time where Julie and I talked every day, laughed together, cried together. She even changed my bandages and cleaned my incision after a surgery. If you would have told me three years ago that today Julie and I wouldn't even be friends on social media, I would have laughed in your face. We were that close.
However, over time, I came to discover that we were on our own paths to transformation and those paths were no longer running parallel to one another. Her path has taken her to new heights in a career in a large company. Mine has taken me to a career change, motherhood, and becoming a wife. Neither is better than the other and, yes, we could have preserved our friendship – but those weren't the only dynamics at play. If you were only looking at Facebook, you couldn't have seen what was actually going on beneath the surface.
Because of our different paths and beliefs, I felt a growing fear of judgement for decisions I was making that she deemed reckless. There was hurt caused because I simply couldn’t understand some of the things she was allowing to happen to and for her by others in her life. You never heard how the depth of our conversations shifted from how we wanted to see and change the world to hardly more than comments on the weather. That reality wouldn't get any likes. That wouldn't matter to anyone besides the two of us. So, the shift happened, the friendship ended, the change occurred, and the hurt was real.
Did my friendship need to end for me to grow? Not necessarily. But the friendship did need to end because I was beginning to take on weight that was not mine to carry. Weight of pessimism (however validated by bad life experiences), weight of negative body image with refusal to drop habits that were preventing progress, weight of negativity from a toxic work environment. I was taking on all of her pain. I was internalizing her negativity. I was exhausted. I had major issues going on in my own life. I was hurting.
And so was she.
So, after a few attempts to put the pieces back together, the choice was ultimately made to walk away from a relationship that once was a beautiful thing. The appropriate effort was painful. There was no dressing this up for the internet. There was no image of a lily that was going to make this shitty situation stink any less. The appropriate effort was not easy. The appropriate effort was not full of pleasure. The appropriate effort was not impossible. The appropriate effort was just what it needed to be for the outcome I needed to create – it was appropriate.
Just Because it Isn't Easy Doesn't Mean it Isn't Right
If you find yourself facing a choice to stay in suffering or step forward into appropriate effort – I have no words to make it feel better. But I do encourage you to lean in and not shrink back. Focus on the long-term gain – in this case, for me, it was mental clarity, permission to move forward without feeling shame, freedom. My hope is that the second you release shame, choose change, and embrace what’s possible, the long-term gain (even if it comes with short-term pain) will be freedom, positivity, and the possibility for you to lead the thriving life that you deserve.
It's then that you can really embrace that field of sunflowers with the perfect Instagram filter – because the highlight reel serves a much greater feel-good purpose once the necessary healing has occurred.