Giving up smoking 18 years ago was without doubt the best thing I could have done at the time for my long term health and well being.
No argument there.
So, how could it be that some of my friends (and, even worse, family) didn't seem happy with my successful quest to become a healthier person?
Well, there’s one thing that the people I’m thinking of had in common: they were all smokers too.
It’s clear to me now that their lack of genuine enthusiasm for my positive lifestyle change probably wasn’t because they were hoping I'd die of lung cancer. It was more likely because of their own fear of change.
The people around you have their own agenda which, unsurprisingly, isn’t always totally aligned with your own. Any change you make to your life is likely to upset the carefully balanced homeostasis of the relationships you have with them.
This is particularly true when it comes to unhealthy lifestyle habits. People generally hang out with other people who have the same vices as them. If you like drinking pints, smoking cigarettes and eating donuts it’s unlikely that you hang around with many teetotal, non-smoking underwear models.
Whether it’s your friends, family or partner who share your chosen vice with you, there will inevitably be someone who is unimpressed when you decide you’ve had enough and want to prioritise your health instead.
In her recent interview with Tim Ferriss, psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb pointed out a typical reaction you get from friends when you start a quest for wellness:
'When someone decides they’re going to get healthy and lose weight or go to the gym, they’re like: "aw you’re no fun any more, you don’t want to come out with me”.
She goes on to describe a similar dynamic in intimate relationships:
‘If you’re the person who’s struggling, the other person gets to be the healthy/sane person. And if you become the healthy/sane person, then all of a sudden they have to look at what’s not working in their own lives.’
The key point is that even if we don’t do it consciously, we sometimes feel threatened when other people make an effort to get healthier.
You may even notice yourself feeling envious of other people who are making positive changes to their lifestyles. Initially, you may be tempted to deny these feelings because they make you feel uncomfortable. However, if you acknowledge them you can use them to your advantage.
As Gottlieb explains:
'When people are envious, they’re so afraid to feel their envy. You should feel your envy, use your envy. You want to follow your envy, it tells you what you want. Don’t use your envy to sabotage someone or say mean things about that person. Use your envy as a catalyst to figure out what you can change in your own life.'
So, if you have friends who only manage a fake smile when you’ve dropped two dress sizes, you could either help them become aware of their envy or just accept it as a sign of success. As a famous actress once said:
'The worst part of success is trying to find someone who is happy for you.’ –Bette Midler