A friend said this to me recently and I knew she was right. Sure, people can change at the margins, I thought, but can they really change from being (for example) narcissistic to selfless? Or from judgmental to open? Can we help them change (this from the woman who feels compelled to help everyone!).
These are questions I’ve asked myself these last six months (for obvious reasons to some of you) but then I realized … I’m looking at this life issue completely the wrong way.
There’s no reason to change others. They can change themselves – if they want.
We all want to be loved and accepted, just as we are. We want people to support our interests, value our needs and respect us. If that’s the case, why do we expect others to change to meet our needs? Why do we hope people will change their goals, habits, and values to better align with ours when they haven’t given us any indication they’d be happier for doing it? Or, we’d be happier if they did?
Sometimes we think we (read: me) know what’s best for others. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll likely realize we want people to change because we are not satisfied or happy in our relationship with them (friends, I’m talking any kind of relationship). Or, we think we know what’s best for them.
I’m not talking about people who are dangerous or abusive. No one should ever feel bound to an unhealthy situation by the ideas of unconditional love and acceptance (that was a message to the universe! 🙂 )
I’m talking about the friend who’s not as open-minded as you. Or the one who has different life values, maybe dislikes conflict … is just different from you.
I spent may years with partners who were completely incompatible with me. I’d think that eventually they would change their “ways” because I was changing mine. I’ve done this with managers/bosses when I was younger. I would take a job not because of the fit … because I figured that would come later.
Any relationship is about compromise. There’s no such thing as a perfect match. And, we owe it to ourselves to recognize what’s non-negotiable in relationships so we don’t end up resentfully sacrificing our needs while secretly hoping the people we’re with will make it worth our while.
The people we want to change—I’m sure there are others that will value who they are. And, while we can appreciate who they are, we can let go knowing that life is too short to try to make it fit. That means that in life, work, school and relationships – we must start by choosing to be with people who we’d never want to change. And people who are ok with not changing us! I know they’re out there.