“You’ve Changed”: Why Yes, I Have.

Ever notice that the people who like to say, “you’ve changed” are the ones who never did?

I’ve change enormously over the last decade. I got an advanced degree, one I had to work tirelessly for and that almost brought me to me knees. That changed me.

I became a wife, needing to learn how to navigate a life that suddenly wasn’t just my own—how to compromise, how to get my needs met while caring for the needs of someone else. That changed me.

Then I became a mom, suddenly having to put the big feelings of tiny people ahead of my own, having to regulate myself because their feelings mattered more than mine in those moments. That changed me.

I went through a separation, and it changed me.

I reconciled my marriage, and it changed me.

I spent years in therapy, and you bet that changed me.

And yet, I’m fundamentally the same person I’ve always been. Ask the people who know me best, and they say I’m the same person they met years ago, only a little further down the path.

But ask a few people who have known me a few years or less, and you’ll find one or two who will tell you, in an all too accusatory tone, that I’ve changed. It’s clear that, in their opinion, that change has been for the worst.

I can’t help noticing that, on the whole, the people before whom I’ve stood accused of “changing” were those who were doing life with me at a time when we were pursuing similar goals. Together, we walked down individual paths that we hoped would lead us to the same place. But somewhere along the way, I began outpacing them.

It could have been because of skill, or perhaps from just plain luck. Whatever the reason, I ended up further down the path than they did.

Doors opened for me that didn’t for them, even when I tried to jam my foot in the frame and yank them through. Opportunities arrived that I couldn’t pass up. Things I dared to reach for came into my grasp, and I took them. Because I deserved to.

And although I did my best to uplift and encourage them along the way, to quench my joy and to make my big moments a little less big, it didn’t seem to matter.

The inevitable “you’ve changed” always came my way.

The thing is, in those cases, I didn’t change. Not the fundamental me that makes me who I am. Sure, with new opportunities came new responsibilities, new obligations. Sometimes, with them came less time, less energy, less attention for me to give. But these were circumstances that changed. I did not.

I have never met a perpetually evolving person who accused others of changing when their circumstances brought joy, prosperity, or success. Those people are changing, too, and they know that eventually, with work and dedication, their circumstances will change as well. They are able to cheer for others who are getting their turn, because they know their turn is coming soon.

It only seems to be the people who never mastered the art of evolution who make these accusations. Stuck in immaturity, or self-centeredness, or in wounds they refuse to do the hard work to heal, they remain perpetually the same—arrested in time. And to resolve the cognitive dissonance there is in watching people around them evolve and embrace new circumstances, they posture.

You’ve changed is how they tell themselves that change is toxic. To change is to become somehow worse. The real prize, they tell themselves, is to remain perpetually the same.

Because, ultimately, they don’t want to change.

And the fact that you have holds up a mirror they might not be able to face.


Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.

Check out her blog called Compassionate Feminism on Psychology Today to join a feminist conversation centered in openness, empathy, and equity.

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