What is “Up Leveling” and Why does it Feel so Lonely?

This photo popped up on my Facebook feed as a memory from last year. It looked beautiful and bucolic, yet the memory it evoked was not. It was 2020 and COVID was raging in New York City along with riots and protests. It felt like the world was ending. I lived in a suburban area just outside the city. The sun was out and it was a gorgeous day. It felt luxurious after months of living in fear and isolation to just take my lawn chair to the park and read a book in the sun.

When I posted the picture, two of my friends saw it and got upset with me. They said I had no empathy for what was happening because I was living in the suburbs and had no idea what they were going through. As if I wasn’t allowed to post anything but suffering! But their anger with me had started a few days earlier. I did something that one of them felt triggered by. I’m not certain I did anything “wrong” but I did feel terrible that my friend was feeling pain as a result of my actions. I apologized but my apology was not accepted. I apologized a few more times and promised that I would never do this again. My apology was accepted; however, there were more conditions around my apology. There were more asks from me. It felt like my friend wanted to punish me over and over again and to declare her righteousness. It felt like I was unjustly being beaten up repeatedly. I finally said that was it – she could take my apology or not.

She decided to “not” take my apology and promptly “unfriended” me in every way possible. I never heard from her again. Sadly, my other friend also went silent. I reached out to her on 3 occasions (different methods) with no reply at all. She also decided to “unfriend” me from her life as well.

That felt very sad to me. The three of us had many great times together. What I realized was that I was “up leveling.” I was continuing to grow, read, educate myself in a certain way that no longer resonated with them. I took risks (and yes, sometimes made mistakes); I set boundaries; I learned how to say “no” and not everyone is going to like that. I realized, even though it felt badly to lose them, I also do not want to be friends with people who expect me to be perfect and never make a mistake. They liked “nice girl” Joanne; the Joanne who never ruffled any feathers; the Joanne who cared more about other people’s feelings than her own feelings; the Joanne who was a doormat for the sake of keeping everything nice and calm; the Joanne who agreed with every conversation because that was peaceful and correct and obedient.

As I started to grow out of my cocoon into the butterfly I am becoming, I no longer resonated with these types of friends.

When we learn that this is a result of our growth, it becomes easy to see as you shed your old skin and leave some people behind, that you will meet new people on your journey who resonate with the “new and improved” you. Now this is not to say that you are going to constantly lose friends and make new ones. Some people will grow with you. Some will love the new authentic you even more than before.

Generally, we tend to really dislike and be triggered by people who are reflecting what our unconscious mind has hidden away from us as “bad.” We don’t really hate those people; we dislike what they are reflecting back to us. They are acting like a mirror for we cannot see inside ourselves. So, if I was a person that wasn’t as “nice,” who was bold, who said “no” and who made mistakes, can you see how that would not resonate with people who think those qualities are “bad”? I started to reflect all the things they did not want to see – perhaps even the things they longed and yearned to be. (We dislike those people, too. Why do you think I sometimes look at a skinny person and say “Grrr, skinny b*tch!!” – because I want to be that skinny!!!!!!)

It can feel very sad and lonely when this happens. We start to wonder if we were wrong in the situation or if we are bad humans. Most people think that we are supposed to have the same friends for life and if anything other than that happens, something is wrong with us. I really like the phrase by Brian A. (Drew) Chalker, People always come into your life for a reason, a season and a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.” That about sums it up. People come into our lives and leave our lives perfectly.

The other part of this is as you “up level” you will notice that people are drawn to you – from different circles that you travel in, classes you attend, etc. Suddenly you will have lots of people who want to be your friend. We may not trust this at first and think – “What do they want from me? Why is everyone wanting to be my friend all of a sudden?”  Let them in, trust your intuition. Those who are resonating with who you are “becoming” will stay, others may fall off. Not everyone drawn to you is going to be on your level. The more awesome you become, the more EVERYONE is going to want to be hanging with you, right?

Back to my “ex” friends. They also had every right to feel how they did. I wasn’t wrong and they weren’t wrong. All was OK, as is. I’m not right and they aren’t right. This isn’t a pissing contest; it’s humans having feelings. That’s it. No one needed to be right. I can do what I want. In fact, I always could have done what I wanted. Now they are allowing me the freedom to do it. I no longer have to tip toe around them and their feelings. Do you see how that all works? When we take a step back outside of our own little temper tantrum bubble, we can see that the outcome is really for the best. Thank you, gals…I appreciate your departure.

The flip side of all this is that I don’t need to dislike them back. I always see people as “becoming.” They are on their own journey on their own timeline – just as I am. I keep the door open. I let them go with love and say to myself, “The door is open. When and if you find your way back to me, I am here – with my boundaries, of course. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. You don’t get to have doormat Joanne any longer. But if you want to accept me as I am today and love the “up leveled” Joanne, then by all means walk right through that door again and let’s sit down and have a glass of wine together. I will love you back, just as you are.”

joanne newborn
Joanne Newborn is CEO & Founder of Newborn Evolution LLC. She is an Executive Leadership Coach and Consultant working with Organizations and Dental Practices around the globe. Her Superpower: Interpreting Senior Leadership’s vision and strategy and translating it to achievable goals to ALL levels of an organization from C-Suite to Middle Management to Individual Contributors. She and her team are Transforming Organizations’ Visions into Results through Leadership Coaching,Training and Consulting. Using a unique blend of Eastern & Western Methodologies in her Coaching practice – she combines hardcore Business Strategy with Jungian Theory and Eastern Philosophy. She has Coached clients on every continent with the exception of Antarctica and has her MBA from Penn State, her ACC from the International Coaching Federation, is a DiSC Certified Practitioner and a DEI Certified Coach. She can be seen speaking at conferences on Leadership around the US and at Universities and Colleges. You can connect with Joanne on LinkedIn or visit her website.

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