You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. A leopard can’t change its spots. Blah blah bull—- blah. Now I can’t speak on animal behavior, but I do know that we as humans are capable of changing our own behaviors. It isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Yet the fact remains that you truly can change your outlook with patience and determination, with two steps forward one step back, and with naysayers un-cheering you on the whole way. I know because I’ve done it. This is my story.
A little over four years ago I had an awakening, an epiphany if you will, and I accepted the truth that I was at times a less than positive person. (I pause here to give some of you who know me personally the chance to say “all of the time”, and I say “bite me” because while I’m positive I’m still human so picture me saying it with a super perky grin). Truth be told I was firmly entrenched in and fully contributing to a hostile work environment. it was a situation where gossiping, backstabbing, and undermining of co-workers was not only tolerated but at times appeared to be encouraged. While talented enough in my profession I was not a good co-worker or a good employee for my management team in that I was openly critical, negative, short-tempered and even shorter on patience. I recall a new hire who barely spoke to me for months before divulging that she’d heard that I made people cry. And I admit that at the time I wore that badge with a now wholly embarrassing sense of accomplishment. Over time I began to realize that the environment I was in was not only making me into a person I most definitely did not wish to be, it was also taking a toll on my health and all aspects of my life. I had allowed outside influences to take over and shape the person I had become, and I found that I didn’t like her much at all. So it was that I made the decision to leave that workplace. I can clearly remember my husband taking me out to lunch on my last day to celebrate, and I told him then, “I am making a promise to myself today that I will never be that person again. I will never be that type of co-worker again. I will never be that type of employee again. I will never be the person that treats people that way again.”
Fast forward four years, and I am happy to say that I have kept that promise. It’s been a long road, and there is still a whole lot of work to be done, but it’s been a fantastic journey. One of the best moments I had was during my first six-month evaluation at a subsequent job when my manager praised me on how well I interacted with my co-workers and on my diplomacy. (I can assure you that at that exact moment at least thirty of my former co-workers fell out of their chairs). I will go into greater detail in future posts on ways I changed my behaviors and mindset- today I just want to provide my backstory. Mainly I began every day reminding myself of the promise, and telling myself that it was going to be a good day. I developed a habit of sorts, or a morning ritual, of discovering my feelings upon awakening and, if required, shifting them in a positive direction. The wonderful thing is that as I began to experience more and more “good” days- happy days, less stressed days, mentally and physically healthy days- the easier it became, and the less often I needed those morning adjustments.
As I mentioned at the beginning, there will be people around you who are unwilling to accept or believe in your change. And you know what? That is on them, not on you! The best thing to do is to keep on keeping on with the being of who you are today instead of allowing others to pigeonhole you back into being who you were yesterday. In a surprising turn of events I actually went back to work at the place I initially discussed, albeit under new ownership and with a mostly new staff. The co-workers who had not met me yet judged me for who I was in that moment, and I was able to work and relate to them in a wonderful manner. Some of the former co-workers noticed and acknowledged my change in behavior, and a few even complimented me on my positive outlook. Of course a few of the former co-workers held strongly to their views of the person I was the first time we worked together. This was perfectly understandable, and I accepted that it would take time and effort on my part to change their viewpoints. Unfortunately it didn’t work with everyone, but it was not for my lack of trying. Rather at some point you just have to accept that not everyone is ready to travel the same path as you. And again, that is okay and is not a reflection on you.
I am in all aspects still very much a work in progress. I can tell you this, though… I find my happiness and satisfaction these days in building others up instead of knocking them down. I surround myself with like-minded people, and the results are truly awesome. Hopefully as I continue on this personal journey I can bring inspiration, motivation, and encouragement to as many people as I can reach. Thanks for listening to my story!