Our society does not always look kindly on flip-floppers.

We like people to stay in their lanes, to declare something and then stick to it.

The problem, of course, is that life does not work like that.

Tastes change, growth happens, opinions develop, and suddenly, we find ourselves thinking a little differently than we did before.

“You are not a hypocrite if you change your mind after getting new information,” comedian Whitney Cummings Tweeted recently. But shedding those uncomfortable, hypocrite-y feelings can be easier said than done.

“I think we sometimes get locked into values or beliefs or opinions, and what happens is that we put them out to other people and they become other people's definitions of us, so it gets tricky,” psychotherapist Dania March, L.C.S.W., tells Shine.

When we shift our thinking, she says, it can be nerve-wracking to consider the way other people might interpret it.

“It’s a little bit of a conundrum, because change is the only constant, but fear of other people’s judgment gets tied into how we define ourselves,” March says.

When we shift our thinking, it can be nerve-wracking to consider the way other people might interpret it.

For example: Your friends may know you as the one who cracks dirty jokes and doesn’t mind nicking other people’s thin skin. But if a friend opens up to you about the way your comments make her feel, your outlook will likely change a bit.

You might find yourself more conscious of the way you speak, and a little quicker to call other people out on their less-than-kind jabs. It makes sense to you given your new insight into your pal’s feelings—but to others it may seem like a surprise, or even a betrayal of your group dynamic.

The key, March says, is to give yourself room—and time—to change. That might mean holding off on announcing any new moves or viewpoints until you personally settle into them, and keeping an open mind about other people’s reactions.

If it seems daunting, keep your eyes on the prize, which is the good-for-you benefits that come with embracing your natural, authentic changes.

“If you allow yourself an openness, you get more opportunity,” March says. “You’re less rigid when you’re open to change, if not you're clinging. It’s a place of abundance.”

'If you allow yourself an openness, you get more opportunity. You're less rigid when you're open to change.'
- Dania March, L.C.S.W.

Letting yourself shift on one thing may lead to another change, then another. You may discover new parts of yourself you’d kept hidden, or hadn’t yet realized.

Here’s how to lean into the change.

Think it through: Who needs to know about this shift?

“You really have to tune into yourself and see what’s important to yourself,” March says.

If you've decided to go to the gym and want an accountability buddy, that’s one thing. But if it's, "I used to vote for so and so and now I don't,” you might consider telling a friend or two at a time, so you can get a better handle on how you want to explain your new perspective.

Remember: You can move at your own pace, but you also deserve to let the real you shine through. You might start by telling a friend who’s already seen you through a few iterations, or testing out a new trait on someone you’re just getting to know.

Prepare yourself for unexpected reactions

“When you put something out there, especially on social media, you risk getting anything and everything,” warns March. “You might get a lot of feedback, or you might get crickets.”

They can be equally unsettling: If you weren’t expecting much reaction, you might get defensive. If no one’s reacting, you might start to doubt yourself—or the strength of your relationships.

'If you think about making a change, visualize what your life is like when you’ve made that change.'
- Dania March, L.C.S.W.

“If you think about making a change, visualize what your life is like when you’ve made that change,” March says. This will help you get a handle on your expectations: “What will I feel like? Can I imagine my relationships changing?”

Once you’ve gotten a feel for it, open yourself up to the possibility of any unexpected reaction. “If I come into it saying, 'I don’t know what they’re going to say,' you line yourself up in a better way,” she says.

Remember: It’s not always about you

“People, when they react to us, they’re reacting to their own stuff,” March says. “Those reactions are really about what’s happened for them. What’s their own experience of change. Who they expect you to be, and what you mean to them.”

A political pivot, for example, might shock your parents because it clashes with their idea of you—and what it says about themselves. Keeping that in mind may not prevent that stinging frustration or shame, but it can help you stand your ground and stick to your (new) convictions.

Treat yourself with a little kindness

“Change is hard,” March says. “Try to allow it to be a gradual process—even if you need to change something right now, there’s so much work you have to do in the middle.”

You might slow down by researching your new views, or meeting up with people who’ve made the same pivot as you. And above all, reminds March: “Be kind to yourself.”

Read next: How to Make Peace With Your Fear of Change