By Jessica Darling Wilkerson, LMFT
Last week I wrote a blog I titled, “Your New Normal.” It’s such a big concept that I wanted to touch on another way of looking at the same topic.
When we’re growing and changing on purpose there’s a lot of emotional labor involved. Noticing what you’re doing that’s contributing to pain and dysfunction in your life, trying to change established patterns of thinking and behaving, and navigating relationships around you. That’s exhausting! You’re always thinking!
Tell yourself, “this is my new normal.”
- “This is my new normal, when I say I don’t want to do something I follow through at not doing it, no matter how much my friend or relative tries to convince me otherwise. I will let my no mean no and my yes mean yes. They’ll figure out it’s my new normal eventually.”
- “This is my new normal, if someone is rude to me then I leave the situation. I don’t have to attend a party where the host or a guest is disrespectful.”
- “This is my new normal, if I hear gossip in my presence I either shut it down by confronting it, changing the subject, or leaving. People will learn that when I’m around they need to censor the negativity about other people.”
- “This is my new normal, my spouse doesn’t get to invite people over for dinner without giving me a day’s notice and think I’ll drop everything to be a hostess for their last minute party. When the guests arrive and they are the one who had to figure out the menu they’ll realize that I’m serious about being willing to host as long as I have adequate prep time.”
As you precede your internal statement with “this is my new normal” it will give you that extra bit of courage to engage in the new behavior. You’re telling yourself that this isn’t a new or scary change, but instead it’s the first step to the personality shifting you’ve been wanting to make.
Another way to use “this is my new normal” is for your temporary baby steps toward your bigger shift.
For example, you eventually want to be able to host parties on weekends spontaneously. You’ve always wanted to be that social type of person who can just invite folks over and throw together a quick barbecue, put on some music, and enjoy friends. But… the house is always messier than you’d like it to be, you don’t usually have quick and easy foods to host with, and getting dressed up is more work than you want to do for a last minute party.
The new normal could be that you accept the messy house and your friends love you anyway. You offer whatever random stuff or everyone stops and picks up an ingredient or a pre-made dish from the grocer on the way to your house. You host a party in your comfy-cozies.
Self disclosure: I’ve actually done all of the above. I’m constantly in some state of transition (having a baby, grad school, husband in grad school, second set of late-life children, moving towns, expanding my business, etc.) so trying to have everything just right is impossible. It’s actually really enjoyable after the first few disheveled barbecues because you no longer need to get everything just right anymore! The mask has come off!
But I digress:
The new normal of baby steps toward your big goal here is to take a portion of the big picture and start making that small piece a new normal. Once that small piece feels normal and you feel ready for the next step, you build upon it. This could be that you start buying “just in case” barbeque fixings and you always have something on hand (Tri Tip in the freezer, baked beans and rice in the cupboard). Then you start BBQ-ing more often with just your little family, so BBQ feels casual and relaxed. Once that feels normal you find what your next shift can be: you invite your very dearest friends over who don’t expect the house spotless. Then you invite them again and this time you’re in your comfy-cozies instead of all dressed up. Once hosting is a little less foreign and feels more “normal” you invite them again and it’s last minute (to them). Then you invite them again and it’s last minute to you. Then you repeat.
So that each small change you just maintain that one change until it feels like it’s a normal part of you until you reach your end goal. In this example, spontaneous hosting without having all the stressful parts impeding your invitations.
Some will be fun changes (more barbecues – yeay!) and some will be difficult (strengthening boundaries with unhealthy people – and the resulting melodrama from their toxic response to your healthy boundary). But as long as you’re making these changes in order to have a happy and healthy life for you, you’ll be able to make each change your “new normal.” Eventually, the people who didn’t like the changes will realize they have the option to either opt-out of your interactions or get on board with your new normal.
Jessica Darling Wilkerson, LMFT104464 is a licensed marriage and family therapist in California. She owns Inspired Life Counseling in Chico and Redding, California and provides in-person sessions in both offices as well as telehealth video sessions to people all over the state.
Jessica is dedicated to helping people heal, grow, and change in healthy ways so they can enjoy happy relationships with friends, family, colleagues, and romantic partners. She looks through a lens of relationship with an understanding that all the various people in your life have poured good things into your experiences and have also poured some hurtful things. It’s these experiences that curate your responses to your emotions, responses to other people, and your confidence to reach for your dreams and goals. She has also been providing EMDR since 2014 and is exceptionally skilled in this type of therapy to help her clients cut through the noise and get to the deeper issues and get them resolved as quickly as possible.
If you think you’d like to learn more about Jessica or work with her, please click the button at the bottom to go to her bio and access her appointment request form.