We have a tendency to want to change or help others become better versions of themselves. I suppose that’s just a human thing and part of our internal wiring.
Life is an ongoing process of learning, discovery and understanding. As I grow older and I become more receptive to understanding and accepting people for who they are and not what I feel they can become, I’m coming to recognize the danger of trying to change others. I’ve come to the place where I realize the importance of just letting people be who they are. It is good for them and also good for me. It safeguards me against hurts and prevents that person from becoming resentful to me for trying to push them into someone they are not, do not desire to become or was not created to be.
And its a dangerous and problematic thing, too. I’ve seen it. It breaks relationships, breaks hearts, it breaks lives. Because at the heart of it, we are signaling to the person we’d like change a sense of ‘not being enough’. Whether the change is valid or not, many walk away feeling flawed or inadequate. That’s why some people lose themselves in relationships because they try to fit a mold they were never made for. They morph into a personality they feel will satisfy the person they care for and in the process, they slowly lose themselves. The end result of this is always some sort of resentment or bitterness.
As I reflect on my life, I am mindful not to repeat mistakes. In my last relationship, I never asked my partner to become someone other than who I thought he was. To me, he, as he presented himself, was enough. I loved him for him and to the best of my memory, I never communicated to him in any way that I felt he needed change. I thought he was enough as he was and I loved him because he was he. Nothing more, nothing less. Somehow, signals got crossed to him, and from the very moment when friendship crossed into love and there was a desire to be more than friends, he felt that there was things he needed to suppress in order to gain my acceptance. I guess he never realized that he was already accepted as he was. It was only when that relationship ended I learned that there was so much of him he held back because he felt that certain parts of him was not good enough. We both hurt because of this. Because he felt he had to become this person he thought I would love, he stifled who he really was. Consequently, he acted out his resentment through the course of the relationship and it manifested in physical and verbal abuse. Not only did I suffer this but I was deprived of the experience of truly knowing all of him. No wonder the relationship felt so disjointed at times.
Let people be who they are. Don’t try to change them. It’s frustrating, it leads to them either rebelling; because they feel you’re not accepting of them as they are, or to comply to satisfy, faking the change because they know that the change is important to you.
Maybe instead of trying to change others, we can decide to love and accept them as they are. I’m not suggesting that we should give up on the people we care for, not at all. We love, pray for and encourage them, if even in our hearts. But at the end of the day, we only have control over our personal choices. Not those of others. So, perhaps we should shift the focus to spending our time bettering ourselves, being positive role models and being the best versions of ourselves. And who knows, those people we’d like to see changes in may just be motivated and inspired to take the steps needed to become better versions of themselves, too.
Remember, change is a personal choice and individual process. Instead of trying to change someone, work on your personal development. What’s your take on the above? Chime in below and let’s get a conversation going.
Carlana Charles is the visionary and editor-in-chief of FemmePowered. She is a womanist, writer, speaker, story midwife and facilitator of meaningful and engaging conversations. When she is not working in or on FemmePowered, she can be found resting, baking, reading or scribbling furiously in her journal whilst sipping wine or coffee, sometimes both at the same time. She is currently working on her first book and hopes to release it in September 2017.