Have you ever ventured back to a high school reunion? You probably encountered some pretty amazing changes with a few people. The shy and unassuming ‘wallflower’ who was barely noticed then has blossomed into a spectacular headturner now. Or, the “Average Joe or Jane” with no particular ambition now radiates success.
They hear the surprised musings of “You’ve really changed!” Well, of course they've changed. That’s life.
But people have an uncanny ability to remember you as you were and not see you for who you’ve become.
A few years ago, I attended my husband’s high school reunion. Before the festivities, we had a downhome bayou Louisiana fish fry with his closest friends from High School. The atmosphere was abuzz with the thought that “Wild Man” was going to be there. They kept talking about this “Wild Man.” Wild man did this… Wild man did that…and Who knows what will happen when Wild Man gets here.
I had envisioned someone that looked like “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski. I imagined that when he rolled up in his sports car that smoke would be billowing out as he opened the car doors. He was probably going to have a six pack under each arm and throw out beer cans as he approached.
And then it happened. The moment we had been waiting for. Wild Man finally came. In his Toyota Corolla. There was no billowy smoke, no beer. Just a demure man who looked more like Mr. Rogers than The Dude. A man in his “mom jeans.” A man who was an elementary school teacher.
I kept wondering when this “Wild Man” was going to appear. It never happened. I’m not sure what he did in high school to help him earn the moniker of “Wild Man” but it was clear that this person was long gone. Yet his high school friends continued to think of him as the person he was and not the person he had become.
The Influence of Our Support System
Your support system is paramount. Achieving success is much easier when you are surrounded by the right people. There’s a decent amount of research that shows having friends is important to our mental well-being, but you also need the right type of friendships.
In no way am I suggesting that you ditch your old friends. Unless your friends make you feel horrible, there’s room for the old and the new. But it’s the new friends who will often see you as you are now and see the value that you bring now.
Friends love to brand us. They put a label on us and it sticks. And, if you don’t like the way that makes you feel, it’s tough because those perceptions can end up defining you. Those labels are based on assumptions, false first impressions, or old information.
That keeps you contained in a tight box. That limits your growth and sometimes those feelings make you feel inadequate.
It can be a stark realization that the friends we have known may not understand our new path or journey. Your environment molds who you are and can also shape who you become. If your friends and networks aren’t on the same path, can you continue your essential growth?
That’s why our friendships and networks should continually expand.
My favorite metaphor that I use is that of the caterpillar and the butterfly. The butterfly begins as a caterpillar hatching from an egg. The caterpillar spins itself a silky cocoon as a form of protection while it undergoes a radical transformation. What emerges is beautiful. It’s the butterfly, born anew to gracefully alight on our plants so we can enjoy their splendor.
Just like with the caterpillar and the butterfly, it’s the same with our personal growth. We start out as one person, but through a series of mini-transformations, we emerge as someone who is a mere shadow of the person we used to be.
Those who are closest to us and who have known us the longest often can't see our transformation. Making new friends and developing new networks will help people understand who you are now and not who you were then.
You can read more about the friendships we should have here: Show me your friends and I'll tell you who you are.
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Johnston Osburn is a Career and Life Coach who helps people turn dreams into realities. After years as a Global Talent Acquisition Professional, she realized how frequently people limit themselves because they lack belief in their abilities. They are afraid to dream, let alone dream big. [...]