Reflections on personal growth, healthy relationships, and the power of a new haircut.
I’m not one to take selfies or update my Facebook photos very often, so when I do take selfies or update my Facebook profile, I usually put in a lot more effort than I’d like to admit. After doing so last week in the wake of a drastic haircut (at least, drastic by my standards — I used to treasure growing out my hair as if it was gold, and I used to swear against getting layers) and the arrival of a pair of glasses I’d been coveting for forever (I only ever wore contacts because I’d never found glasses I felt good in), a friend reached out with this wonderful message:
Hey btw just wanted to say that I love your new profile picture! You just look so happy and mature and idk why but you look like you’ve grown a lot and it just makes me very proud and happy for you!?
The day after that, another friend mentioned she noticed how happy I look in the picture, too. I was beyond touched. I remember where I was in terms of my self-awareness and emotional intelligence when I first met each of these friends. I’m not in that place anymore — not by a long shot. To have friends recognize this is meaningful beyond words. To know that my happiness and personal growth could be seen even in something as two-dimensional as a profile picture felt incredibly satisfying and validating.
I have grown a lot indeed. That growth hasn’t come without some cost, though. (Does anything ever?) Don’t get me wrong, my happiness has ultimately been worth it, but sometimes I get stuck pondering that I’ve come by this new quality of life in a less than tidy way. I just remind myself that it’s been messy both because of my own messy tendencies and my circumstances. Over the last year, I’ve had to address sources of toxicity in my life, recognizing and addressing my own unhealthy habits while also distancing myself from the no-less problematic conditions that enabled those habits to continue. It wasn’t easy, but it was absolutely necessary. I’m learning to not be apologetic for getting things done for myself.
I’m trying really hard not to waste time worrying about the bridges I’ve had to burn in order to light my way to achieving this new level of happiness. Being overly apologetic and overly accommodating of what people ask of me or put on me is exactly what got me into this mess in the first place. I keep reminding myself that it’s okay to cut out sources of toxicity from my life. It’s okay to not look back. In fact, I shouldn’t look back. Not if I hope to continue growing healthily.
I can imagine that that might sound pretty harsh, like a flip of a light switch, especially in comparison to how I was so overly accommodating in the past. But that’s where I keep saying I’m not going to worry so much about that. That’s where I tell myself to stop taking responsibility for other people, because as good as it once sounded to me on paper, prioritizing the well-being of others over my own is actually not good. As well-intentioned as it is, it’s not friendship. It’s not love. Obviously, taking people’s feelings into consideration is still a must. But I’ve previously taken that too far into feeling responsible for others’ feelings and letting people take advantage of that or take it for granted. I regret what that’s done to myself and to the people it’s affected, but now that I’ve recognized all of this, I’m so excited to move forward with my healthy relationships.
So… what am I trying to get at?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that this new level of happiness I’ve reached is a direct product of the lessons I’ve learned this year about healthy relationships, and that it means so much that people have noticed how much happier and healthier I am. I wish I had known these lessons naturally, but that’s where I remind myself that learning lessons is exactly the beauty of life. Lessons like these are so worth the hard ways they were learned. I would never consider myself to have been a victim of toxic relationships, but rather only an enabler of them. (I’m not sure which is worse.) But now I know to stop enabling them. I’ve also learned that this responsibility I’m taking for myself is not related to the responsibility others should take for themselves (something to keep in mind so I can break my habit of feeling responsible for others). I really couldn’t be happier about all of that.
My “new look” — a new haircut and new glasses (and a new profile picture) — is so much more to me than just a fashion statement or a show-and-tell. It wasn’t a search or request for validation or attention. Rather, it was a public self-affirmation for all the significant personal growth I’ve recently experienced. Changing up my look felt so incredibly well-timed, as if the mistakes I’ve made fell away with each lock of hair and my brand new glasses provided a new lens with which to look at everything. I look as new and different on the outside as I feel on the inside. With fresh insights on life and relationships and a new school year of studying abroad for a semester around the corner, it truly feels like I’m starting a new chapter, and I just can’t wait.
PuckerMob: “I’m Not the Girl I Was Last Year and That’s Okay”
LifeHack: “Why You Should Stop Taking On Other People’s Feelings and How to Do It”
The Inspirational Lifestyle: “Stop Taking Responsibility For Other People’s Emotions”
WikiHow: “4 Ways to Stop Absorbing Other People’s Emotions”