What it Means When Somebody Tells You "You've Changed"

I would hedge my bets that whoever you are, whatever you do, and wherever you’ve been, somebody in your life has told you “you’ve changed” at some point in your life. Just take a second to cast your mind back… it may not have been in those exact words, but it’s probably been insinuated by friends, family or even partners in some way before.

People have told me I’ve changed and on most of those occasions I would admit that I became defensive, I took it as a negative and I felt hurt by that comment. The person who said it may have meant it positively, but in most instances I can remember, it was meant as a dig; an underhanded way of telling me that I had become someone they no longer could relate to.

It’s the type of phrase that is often used as a means to put you ‘back in your box’, to ensure you stay in your lane, do what’s expected of you, and tow the line. At some point during the process, you experience something new, you learn a lesson, meet new people or realign your goals, and as a result, your behaviour changes.

A good example is drinking alcohol. Anyone who has ever gone from being a regular drinker to outwardly saying “no'' and turning down the opportunity to get drunk with the people they used to get drunk with, has experienced the ‘sober jolt’. The sober jolt is that moment that two sets of realisations happen: 1) you realise that the people and places you used to spend time around are no longer enjoyable and you’d much rather be somewhere else and 2) the people you used to drink with realise that you have set your boundaries and want to channel your energy elsewhere.

This can lead to two potential outcomes; either the friends decide to accept and support your sobriety and happily adapt the types of things you do together, OR, they react badly, internalise your decision as a judgement on their choices and conclude that “you’ve changed” and there is no reconciling those differences. If the latter happens, it’s easy for you to feel sad, rejected and possibly even give in to social pressure.

But this turning point is crucial and it’s the fundamental message of this post.

For whatever reason, you have grown. You’ve experienced going out, playing drinking games, hangovers, the social guilt and even the monumental regrets (lord knows I have). You’ve lived it and you’ve got what you can from it.

There is no further learning or growth that you can take from these activities and you’ve realised that you no longer get anything positive from it; you have changed. You now appreciate your hangover free weekends and you use the time to work on your hobby, get fit, read another book, do a course.

Plus, you’re no longer spending money on booze so you actually start saving more. Your hobby starts taking off and you suddenly have your own business. You start running a lot and decide to join a running club. You meet new people who encourage you to do better, run faster, smash your goals and feel great afterwards. You put a deposit down on your dream home and now you set your own hours. And so on and so forth. That one decision set off a chain reaction. Then someone tells you “you’ve changed”.

Ah. There it is.

Trouble is, the people you used to get drunk with haven’t. They’re still doing the same things and getting the same results. They’re not interested in leaving their comfort zone or learning from their mistakes, right? Because if they were, they would have changed, too. They see you thriving and they wish they had their own business. They want to get fit but “don’t have the time”. They want to save money but blow £100 on a night out they can’t remember.

And they tell you that you’ve changed.

Of course you have changed. All that knowledge you’ve soaked up, all those life experiences that you've chased and people you’ve met; it’s all led to growth. Your response should be “thank you, I’m glad you’ve noticed”.

Life will happen like that. You’ll notice that there will be a lane you’re expected to stay in. ‘Slay In Your Lane by Yomi Adegoke, Elizabeth Uviebinene’, talks about the lane that black women are expected to stay in.

There are numerous examples of people thriving, changing, growing, challenging, adapting, where they’ve either passively aggressively or outright told to keep in line. When somebody says “you’ve changed” it’s often a resentful admission that they see this growth and they feel left behind. It’s a tool used to try to reign you in, to bring you back to where you were before and to undermine who you have become.

Now, what you do from there is your choice. You can either reach into that person, explain that yes, you have changed, and you feel better for it. Or you can decide that you’re ready to move on from that relationship or hold it at arm's length. You realise that this person doesn’t support your growth in the way that you’d like, and the relationship may not be worth saving.

But one thing that I urge you not to do; don’t apologise for who you have become if that person has come from meaningful growth. Don’t try to mold yourself into who anybody else wants or needs you to be. Own your growth. Own your lessons. Realise that life is constantly changing, and so are you.

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