Change is always hard.
I have seen, in my life and in my work, that it takes courage to change, always. However, I have also seen that it often requires more courage right after we make the decision to change.
After the dust settles, we have to be even more brave. We have to continue to choose to believe that our new way is the right way, even if things start to get uncomfortable.
Almost 20 years ago, I had three sessions with my therapist that changed my perspective on my life. However, after that came the real courage. Moment by moment, some of which were excruciatingly hard, I had to bravely choose what was true and the most freeing.
It often requires more courage right after we make the decision to change.
I recently heard a story on the radio that made me think about this second wave of courage needed when we go against the norm. Apparently, women’s suffragist and social reformer, Susan B. Anthony never paid her fine for voting in the first election before women were allowed to vote. She defiantly told the judge she would not pay the fine when she was brought to court after the 1872 election.
I laughed out loud when I heard this on NPR. It got me thinking: how often in life we pay fines we shouldn’t be paying?
Anthony believed she had the right to vote. Not paying the $100 fine for voting was an act of defiance. Many of us struggle under the weight of confinements and restrictions in our lives, and yet, we continue to pay the fines. (In hindsight, we approve of what Anthony did, but I am not advocating for breaking actual laws of course.)
However, her point is well taken: in order to break free from the limitations and hindrances that are holding us back in life, there must be change.
We must break off the confinements we put ourselves in. Whether they stem from relationships or faulty beliefs, the result is the same—believing and choosing something that is not true for us. Like Anthony, we must take a deep breath, choose something different and count ourselves as worthy.
This may be when we stop allowing the person who criticizes us to do it anymore. This may be when we disagree with our internal critic for the first time. Our vote may be choosing to believe something different about ourselves than what a hurtful upbringing taught us. We may finally encounter enough truth and stop believing we are not worthy.
We must break off the confinements we put ourselves in.
Soon, word will get out that we have gone outside the norm. Then, we will be called into the court of our own lives. We have broken the law that says we are not worthy to show up and be counted in our lives, relationships or workplaces.
When you are called into the court of your own life, will you pay the fine?
It is written in many informed consents for therapy, mine included, that when we begin to change, there may be some people that do not like it. Families are built like systems. So when we change our role, there can be a gravitational pull to get us back to our previous role where everyone knew what to expect. Every action has a consequence and a number of ripple-like consequences.
As we breathe in the new air of believing that we deserve to be counted and as we feel this deeper freedom, the old belief or way of living may try to move us back to the comfortable norm. However, like Susan B. Anthony in court, we must dare to say this isn’t working anymore. The judge will tell us we are wrong, and we will have to pay a fine, but we must have the courage to choose to stand up for what is true.
Courage and changing your life are a long arc, and not always a smooth one. We must not give up when our bravery is penalized or ruffles feathers. That is when we must be the most brave.