Q&A: What Did You Start Doing Differently that Quickly Changed Your Life?
I stopped talking to my family.
When I was living in a house next door to some of my family members, it seemed like everything that went wrong was my fault. Through a combination of subtle jabs and outright mockery, their negativity rubbed off on the way I viewed myself.
But something happened after I moved away. Sure, I still heard all the usual complaints from my family, but, suddenly, I wasn’t the object of scorn anymore. They had moved on to another scapegoat, someone else to blame for all their troubles.
I now know what it means when people say that a weight had lifted. I could breathe again without feeling like there was someone looking over my shoulder, waiting to jump on any mistake (real or imagined). I felt like I might finally have a chance to grow and reflect on my life independently of my family’s influence.
That’s when I knew what I had to do.
Instead my usual routine of biting my tongue and waiting for the storm to pass, I gave everyone an ultimatum: “If we can’t talk without all the drama and negativity, we won’t talk at all.”
While my relationships with some people improved dramatically after that point, I also lost contact with a few people who refused to understand my thought process. Although it was disappointing, I can’t say I regret the decision to start putting my own happiness first.
I was no longer getting frantic, dramatic calls in the middle of the day. I was no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop. I could finally focus on living the life I wanted.
Let me be clear: I don’t think everyone should go down this path. Even I wasn’t expecting to completely cut my family out of my life. (I had expected to spark some self-reflection and create a healthier dynamic with all members of my family, but that’s just not what happened.) I do think, however, that if there are negative influences in your life, you should cut down on the time that you interact with them. If, for example, your mom is critical of your parenting style, maybe she shouldn’t be visiting every weekend.
It’s difficult to set boundaries. Trust me, it took me years to finally say, “Enough is enough,” but you need to realize that you can’t change people. You need to do what’s right for yourself.
If you want to move away from your hometown, then get up and move. If you want to change careers, start looking for new opportunities. If you don’t like your friends, get new ones. Don’t let yourself get tied down with things that are just “good enough.”
Focus on your happiness. If you don’t put yourself first, you’ll end up working at a job you hate, spending money on things you don’t need, surrounded by people who make you miserable.