During the courses of our lives, lots of changes will take place. We will be met with different challenges, we will learn and expand our horizons and we will definitely go through periods of sadness, joy, grief, anger, or plain stupidity. Even though it’s the very same person going through those changes, there is a different side of us that comes to light each time, according to the circumstances.
Imagine, that when you were a child at school, you said or did things that might have hurt other children. All in all, you weren’t a very nice kid. You didn’t know better at the time, but years have gone by and you’ve reflected on your actions. You have become a better, more mature person. Now let’s say you randomly meet one of your fellow students, maybe one to whom you were particularly mean.
Their memory of you- and not mistakenly- is not a very positive one. You can either try to reintroduce yourself to them, or if you think it’s not worth the effort and energy, let them remember you as you were. If you chose the second one, rest assured you’re not the only one avoiding school or other reunions.
People, like to tag and label everything in this world, in an effort to make an internal map of it. Because everything is easier to navigate when we have a map and because chaos feels more bearable, when we think we’ve put it in order.
The people we cross paths with, are no exception to this mapping process and so we label them and usually hang around those, whose labels we like better. Unfortunately, that mapping, even if it’s correct, is more static than dynamic and depicts the state of people around us in a specific moment or period in time.
We know it to be true that people change because of that old acquaintance, who pleasantly surprised us, or people , who we swore by that let us down. We know it to be true, because we barely recognize the person in our childhood photographs. No we’re not the “loser”, “weak person”, “angry child”, “bully” we were back then!
The past is with the past and it’s somehow easier to accept that someone is different after some time, even if it’s not certain that time itself was a key factor to that change, or that the changing process lasted long. We even sometimes fall into the trap of believing that someone has changed, simply because it’s been a long time since the last time we saw them!
It’s not as easy though, to re-evaluate and renegotiate traits and labels, our own or others’, on a day to day basis. Even more so, when we’re renegotiating our role in a current situation. To claim the right to reinvent oneself in an, on-going, yet established relationship with set rules and roles, is quite demanding.
Theoretically, it’s possible, but in praxis, it usually proves to be challenging. Imagine you’re still the “bad” kid in school and one morning you wake up a whole new person. You really feel bad for hurting those around you. Your change though, is most likely to be met with suspicion and disbelief. It’s also likely to be put to the test right away. And when all that happens, there’s two ways things can go.
You can either demand that people believe you and be very frustrated if they don’t do it right away, or you can simply accept the challenge and work hard to prove you’ve changed. The question is; do you allow yourself to change? Can you redefine yourself and get rid of old labels, without anyone else’s confirmation or approval?
Change itself is one thing, but then there’s our own brand that needs to change with it and a social construction that needs to be rearranged. If you can give yourself the green light, everyone else will follow eventually.
I am a firm believer in people’s ability to change and not in the same way I believed in Santa when I was little. I believe that we can be both good and bad, strong and weak, nice to be around or annoying. And I believe that accepting that, allows us to chose freely, wisely and more than just one time. So go ahead, reintroduce yourself, to you and others.
Published by Eleni Riga-Johansen