Some People Are Invested In The Status Quo
Sometimes your peers don’t want the group dynamic to change and will actively trying to force you back into the old roles. This isn’t necessarily malicious, or even a conscious decision on their part. Change can be scary, especially when the change to a group dynamic that may well have been in place for years or even decades is being overturned. They may feel off balance, as though their world has suddenly been turned upside down right when they weren’t used to it.
Sometimes the people we call our friends rely on our staying in specific roles; they’re invested in keeping things the same because they get something out of the old relationship. It’s harder to manipulate somebody who has suddenly discovered newfound confidence, for example. They may be used to having somebody to look down on in the group pecking order. What does it mean when the loser of the group, the one who looked up to everybody else or saw them as his or her social superiors, suddenly has a life of their own? When people start pushing their way up the social ladder, the people above you might worry about their own position within the group and feel the need to try to keep you in your place.
Other people may feel threatened by your changing. There will be folks who have bought into the binary thinking of relationships: either you’re good at dating or you aren’t and there is no getting around that. They may feel as though you’re a comrade-in-arms, another person screwed over by the fickle vagaries of fate, united in solidarity against the cruel and uncaring world that has wronged them. By making these changes – by improving your dating life and becoming more adept socially – you are betraying them and leaving them behind. By improving your life, you’re showing others that they can no longer rely on the convenient excuses that absolve them of the responsibility for their dissatisfaction. Your ability to change your life brings their own shortcomings into sharp contrast – and that may be very uncomfortable for them. Pulling you back into your old role proves them “right” and reassures them that it’s the world’s fault that their life hasn’t been everything they hoped it would be.
Again: this may not necessarily be a conscious decision on their part. When people feel as though that they have no agency or control over their fate, they tend to give up. They have accepted the futility of this situation. This learned helplessness can be hard to overcome and some people will drag others down with them in order to justify the way they feel.
Some Changes Take Longer To Be Noticed
It’s one thing to lose a lot of weight and wear better fitting clothing; these tend to be very noticeable changes. People may not be able to quite put their finger on it – the old “You look different… did you cut your hair?” routine – but they will feel on some level that there has been a change. Behavioral changes, especially when breaking the habits and behaviors of a lifetime, can be harder to pick up on right away. As I said before, confirmation bias can blind us to what is really happening; we’re so used to seeing things happen in a particular way that we unconsciously dismiss changes that we don’t expect.
Similarly, if the change is especially large – a formerly socially awkward person is more adept and comfortable in associating with other people – we may view the change with a certain level of caution. Just because somebody has changed seemingly overnight doesn’t mean that the new behavior or attitude is going to stick… we’ve all seen people who will sometimes have a burst of improvement only to sink back into old habits. If it’s someone we associate with bad behavior -somebody who may have been a creeper before or otherwise burned us – we’re going to have reason to be wary; just because they seem to have gotten better doesn’t mean that they really have.
In the end, time and cumulative experience will help change people’s perceptions of you. If your change is genuine, then people will begin to notice it over time. You just need to be patient.
How Much Have You Really Changed?
This one can be tough.
One thing that I encourage everybody to cultivate, especially when trying to improve your life, is self-awareness. We all have natural blindspots, especially when it comes things that we are heavily invested in emotionally. When it comes to self-improvement, whether it’s weight loss, breaking bad habits or improving our dating lives, we want things to get better as quickly as possible. As a result, we tend to unconsciously exaggerate the level of improvement we’re experiencing. The emotional rush that comes when we feel as though we’ve made a massive breakthrough is intoxicating… and it’s usually completely out of proportion to the actual level of progress that we’ve made.
Small wonder, then, that our friends and family aren’t falling all over themselves to tell us how much better we’ve gotten… we may like to feel as though that there’s been a night-and-day difference between our old selves and new selves, but to the outside observer, very little has changed at all.
This is where self-awareness comes in. As much as we may want to feel that it only took a few months of effort – and in some cases, a not insignificant financial investment – to fix everything that was wrong in our lives, the reality is that true progress can take years of effort. We need to be willing to take a long, hard and critical look at ourslves – as objectively as possible – and be willing to question what we want to be true. This is one more reason why I recommend keeping a detailed journal. It’s one thing to think that you’ve gotten better; it’s another when you can document how people are responding to you. You may think that you’re the king of the dating scene, but the raw data shows that while you may be getting numbers, you’re getting damn few dates.
My own lack of self-awareness was part of my problem with getting others to see how much I’ve changed; I started to brag about how much better I was doing long before I had made any real progress. Small wonder my friends wouldn’t seemingly acknowledge my improvement: I was talking the talk, but I wasn’t walking the walk. I was more invested in getting them to agree that I’d shed my old identity than I had been in taking the slow, measured steps to ensure that I really had. It was only after I realized this that things started to change. I shut up about how incredible things were now and focused on the effort instead.
It took actions, not words, to show how much things had changed… and that was when people started to take notice.
And let me tell you: that genuine acknowledgement of how I’d gotten better was one of the greatest feelings in the world.