Can people change?? Absolutely.
Can we change people?? ‘Fraid not.
I am one of those people that 100% believe people can change. Some might call me naive or even argue that a leopard never changes its spots, but I do believe with every ounce of my being that it is possible.
Where we can get hurt with this mentality is believing people, who have no real desire to change, will just because you want them to. We assume that our hopes and prayers and let’s face it, in some cases demands, are enough to create a shift in them that will change everything for the better.
This is a trap and it almost always ends in the believer getting hurt.
It’s heartbreaking to see someone making choices that you both know aren’t in their best interests. And it is incredibly frustrating to hear people you love and care about assure you that they will do better when there is no real motivation on their end to improve other than to get you off their back. It doesn’t matter how pure and loving your intentions are, if they don’t want to change, sister, they ain’t changing.
So here’s the harsh reality of it all, we can’t change other people. Trust me, I’ve tried. We can inspire them, we can motivate them, we can even lead by example in hopes that they follow suit, but no matter how hard we try we cannot change them. Seems a little defeating right?? The plus side is, we CAN change how we respond to them, which in turn creates a shift in itself.
I struggle a lot with this, basically because I’m a control freak of magnitude and think that everyone should behave in a way that I personally find to be perfect portions of appropriate, positive and uplifting mixed with equal potions of shenanigans, humour and a respectable potty mouth. You know, much like myself.
Seriously though, I do struggle with this and it is something that I am working on. I am an empath, I am also a healer, which means that I not only feel things from others so deeply but it is in my nature to want to heal them and fix them too. This is a wonderful quality that I do actually love about myself, but it is not always a reflection of the kind and loving spirit I wish to emulate.
Because I am also stubborn and become way too emotionally invested in other people’s healing, which again, doesn’t sound like a bad thing, until you are faced with someone who has no desire to change.
It’s like beating your head against a goddam wall. Am I right???
It is so frustrating and even though you might be coming from the purest most loving intentions, you still can’t make a horse drink.
There are two very important things I have learned in these circumstances, and it took a lot of angry moments, disappointment and unfortunately unkind words to get to this realization.
#1. You cannot be mad at people for being themselves, no matter how much you disagree with their life choices.
This is a big one to wrap our heads around. Whether you’re an empath, a highly sensitive person, or just someone who wants to see the good in everyone, this can be a really tough pill to swallow.
The hardest thing about this realization is understanding that not everyone has the same heart as you.
We assume because of our own values that stealing is bad, that cheating will hurt someone, or that lying is totally not ok, that everyone else holds those same values and I hate to say it but it’s simply not true.
By making these assumptions we set ourselves up for the possibility of disappointment. Now I’m not saying you can’t give people the benefit of the doubt. I totally assume everyone has the same heart as me, until they prove that they don’t, and in these cases I adjust my perception accordingly thats more in alignment with their true colours and not with who I secretly hope they might be, or at least, that’s what I’m working on doing.
When people show you their true colours, and I’m not talking from the perspective of judgment where you are holding it against them, I’m talking from a point of awareness where they show you who they truly are and you don’t judge them for it, you just understand and acknowledge that is who they are and it is not your responsibility to change that. When people show you that side of them, and you don’t like it, you have 2 choices. You can accept who they are, even though it is not how you choose to be, or you can choose to let them go because they don’t reflect the same values that you do. The choice is yours and there is no shame in walking away from a relationship that doesn’t feel true to you anymore. Where most of us get tripped up is that we feel like we need to hold on to these relationships. We feel like we need to help or save that person so that they can be better, we convince ourselves that if we just try a little harder or do a little more that eventually they will see the light and make choices that we have decided would be better for their ultimate happiness. This is a perpetual loop that you will never be free from and it’s time to break the cycle.
People CAN change, and YOU can help them, but the one key ingredient that is often times missing, is their desire. Just because you want to do better for your life, for your kids, for your future, does NOT mean that everyone is on the same page. I can hear all the “Yah buts” coming my way in DM’s and texts and I’m sorry to say it is what it is.
Your co-workers might promise you they’ll pick up the slack and work harder because they know you’re planning an HR complaint. Your friends might promise that they will stop bailing on lunches because they know It upsets you when they do so. Even your significant other might lead you to believe that they will make more of an effort to help out around the house because they know that will make YOU happy, but ultimately, if they don’t want to do it for them, its likely not a promise that can be sustained.
People are who they are, the choice is yours, but getting mad at people for doing what you know they’ll always do just because you hoped they would do something different is a special kind of hell that only you can get yourself out of.
Realization #2. Once you master realization number 1 you can choose to respond and react differently to these people in order to make your life a hell of a lot easier.
If you know that your colleague is always going to lie to you, then by mastering realization number 1 we understand that we cant get mad at them for doing what we know they will always do. What we can do however, is change the way we react when they lie.
There is no use in getting upset or even pissed off. They have done exactly what they have proven they would do over and over, it is your expectation and hope that they won’t do it again that’s creating the upset. When we are angry it is often times a distraction from a much deeper emotion. Perhaps it’s because we are disappointed that they chose to be dishonest once again, possibly it’s because we are sad that they continue to choose a path that you wouldn’t choose for yourself, or maybe you’re actually just mad at yourself for believing that this time would be different. Whatever the case may be, it’s up to us to decide how to respond.
Now I get just being totally complacent and accepting of someones poor choices might seem like a kick in the crotch, you don’t want to keep your mouth shut, you want them to see the error of their ways, you want to be right for fuck sakes, but these are all reasons that contribute to creating your special kind of hell.
To avoid reacting in a way that you may later regret you must remember that you are on your own journey, just as they are on theirs and it is not up to you to decide what is right or wrong for them.
But Jenn, what if….
No. Not your journey.
You guys know I will always tell you all to do you, to follow what’s in your heart, to not let anybody tell you what is best for you, and guess what?? To each of you that means something entirely different. Remember that. As much as you don’t want people telling you how to live your life its not your place to tell anyone else how they should live theirs, unless of course they ask.
Bottom line is this. We can’t change people, but by changing ourselves and how we react it’s as if the people around us begin to change.