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Sweet Disappointment: When New May Not Always Mean Improved

I am about to write about something that I recognize is perhaps the silliest thing I’ve ever spent more than a few seconds thinking about in my life. But please stay with me because I promise there’s a point.

I’m sitting here after midnight eating some cookies I bought from a favorite cookie place earlier today because, due to jet lag, I slept from 6pm-11pm and then woke up and remembered the cookies were waiting for me. 🤪 Anyway, this cookie place recently changed the recipe on a favorite cookie of mine. And I am so sad.

The cookie tastes nothing like it did before. (In my opinion, anyway.) According to my own experience trying this new recipe, it seems to be missing the key flavor that made it so incredible, and it tastes extremely sweet to the point that I don’t want to finish it (which I think says a lot coming from someone who loves sweets as much as I do).

It is absolutely preposterous how disappointed I’ve been feeling tonight about the fact that this new recipe seems to have rid the cookie of everything that made it unique in order to appeal to a broader audience. There are so many bigger issues in the world. This is literally nothing in comparison to almost anything.

And yet it keeps bothering me.

I’m someone who never wants to give anything but glowing reviews to any person or business, and yet I typed up my thoughts and almost hit send on them in a comment on their Instagram account—twice. But I couldn’t bring myself to critique a place I love so much. (Though I suppose I could write a whole other post about why that’s exactly why I should share my thoughts with them.)

But I just couldn’t. I felt mean. But mostly I felt silly. And then as I sat here trying to work out why I was having so many thoughts and feelings about this, I realized why it was getting to me.

This cookie was so beloved by a dedicated fan base of people who would go to this store specifically for this cookie over and over again. But it wasn’t selling as much as the other cookies on the menu. So they changed the recipe, tested it among focus groups, and found people seemed to prefer this new recipe to the old one. That sounds science-y and all, so fair enough—but here’s the thing…

Even if the group that LOVED this cookie was not a large group, perhaps they had made up a majority of the sales of the cookie. Now that more people generally prefer this new recipe to the old one, I wonder whether that will make most people any more likely to purchase it than they were before. Just because they like the new recipe more than they did the original recipe doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll like it enough to choose that one to purchase in the future over other options.

Meanwhile, the people who loved the original and bought it all the time are feeling ignored and pretty sad about the change, and they likely won’t purchase the new cookie the way they did the old one.

Basically, it seems to me like this unique, incredibly delicious, not-necessarily-everyone’s-cup-of-tea cookie was completely altered in order to appeal slightly more to the masses. In the process, its biggest fans have lost something they loved so much.

Something that was amazing just as it was changed so that people who hadn’t cared much about it to begin with might find it slightly more palatable, while those who loved it all along no longer have the special treat they fell in love with in the first place.

It seems to me that the company may have exchanged a small yet passionately dedicated group of customers for a large, neutral group of customers who may or may not prefer other cookies on the menu to this particular one. I suppose only time will tell. Maybe I’m completely off base, and maybe their sales will reflect that it was the best decision. (Though I could talk all day about how just because sales data—especially short term—is easily measured doesn’t mean that’s the only metric that matters in the long run.)

And if I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m used to it. 😂

But whether I’m right or wrong doesn’t really matter because this isn’t about the cookie nor the cookie company, which is partially why I’m not naming it.

My strong feelings about this change were about more than my basic human desire to eat something super sugary that makes my taste buds say, “YUM.” (And, honestly, I’d probably be better off not eating these cookies anyway since sugar is definitely not what my body needs to thrive.) This recipe change stirred something up in my soul.

As a lifelong people pleaser, it struck a nerve with me to see so much effort poured into changing something that so many people loved just as it was in order to get a few more people to like it a little bit more. It made me wonder how much of my time and energy I’ve dedicated to trying to be more palatable to more people, as if the number itself is the only thing that indicates that I’m a human being worthy of love.

A few years ago, I was sharing with my mom about some of my anxiety around things like never wanting to unintentionally hurt or upset anyone with anything I might say or do. I told her about how saying “no” felt so difficult for me and how I worried people wouldn’t think I was nice if I didn’t say yes to a request. I was concerned I’d hurt them or that they wouldn’t like me anymore.

Then my mom looked at me and said a phrase that unlocked something inside of me that day: “Your being nice isn’t even my favorite thing about you.”

That thought shook me to my core.

There was more to my identity than being nice? People would find other things that like about me if I didn’t always say yes to everything they might ask me? They might even still want to be around me?

This was life-transforming news to me. I felt free. Even now, I think I am still processing that and integrating what it means for me into my life and how I approach relationships with people.

In recent years, I’ve started to distinguish more between the terms “nice” and “kind.” Oftentimes, being “nice” isn’t necessarily about being “kind.” For instance, I want to be “nice” and not share my constructive criticism with the cookie place I rambled on about for several paragraphs. But is that kind? Might they benefit from my feedback? Might their customers?

As Brené Brown writes in Dare to Lead, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” In the past, if I said something I didn’t want to say yes to, that was neither clear nor kind. It wasn’t fair to anyone for me to do something if my heart wasn’t truly in it. Sometimes, being clear can feel like the most difficult or meanest thing in the world, but perhaps it is actually the kindest.

Perhaps kindness is about putting what is truly best for someone else ahead of what will make them like us or stroke our egos. Maybe risking someone’s not liking me in the short term is not nearly as important or valuable as doing what is kind and best for them in the long term. (This is basically parenting in a nutshell, too.)

Anyway, I digress. Back to the cookie.

That cookie was incredible. It was different. That’s what made it a bit polarizing, I suppose! It’s also what made it interesting. It made it what it was.

Now it is unrecognizable to me. It’s difficult to distinguish it from any of the many, many cookies I’ve tried over my lifetime. I can’t even describe the flavor anymore, even though I just ate some of it less than an hour ago, because it isn’t its own thing anymore. It’s a watered-down version of its former self.

How often do we water ourselves down so more people will like us well enough? What might we be sacrificing in the process?

I’m all for change and growth, but I’m not excited about taking a stand-out original and making it into something cookie cutter.

And I think there’s so much value in listening to customer feedback (and feedback in general), but Brené Brown has a wonderful perspective on that as well. In a 99u talk, she shared that we shouldn’t not care what anyone thinks about us or who we are and what we’re doing, etc., but we don’t necessarily need to care what everyone thinks about us.

She suggests carrying around a 1-inch by 1-inch piece of paper on which we have written the names of the people whose thoughts/feelings/opinions we strongly value and focus on the feedback from those people. I wish the cookie had followed her advice before seeking to change itself.

Change can be so good and fun and healthy. I am not knocking growth whatsoever. It’s quite honestly one of my favorite things in life.

However, sometimes personal growth is not nearly as much about changing ourselves as it is about changing how we view ourselves.

I wish that cookie had leaned into itself and embraced what made it different rather than trying so hard to please everyone just a little bit more. I wish it had worked on itself in a way that made it even more of what it truly was rather than losing itself in the process.

And I wish the same for you and me as well. 🍪✨

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