We’ve all been there–we liked someone but felt like we weren’t enough, so we went on a personality makeover. Or maybe it was the way we dressed that we changed. Or (yikes!) even tossed our values aside for things to work out—is that such a bad thing?
It’s wrong to change ourselves so that people will like us. We don’t have to change how we are to be accepted or loved. But when it comes to things in us that need work, such as destructive habits or attitudes, changing ourselves for the better may be necessary for our relationships.
Who doesn’t want great relationships, right? But relationships can be tricky and require work, which can mean changing what needs to be changed while staying true to our identity as individuals. Let’s delve deeper into that in the rest of this article.
Why People Feel the Need To Change for Others
We’ve heard it many times: Change is the only constant thing in this world. It may be a cliche, but it’s true. Changing ourselves (or the desire to change ourselves) is not necessarily bad. Partners unwilling to adapt to the many changes a relationship brings are bound to be unhappy with each other (source).
Reasons Why We Change Ourselves That Are Not Okay
Whether you’re changing for a romantic partner, a spouse, or a friend, there are red flags that you should take care to notice. If you find that you’re changing yourself for these reasons, you might want to take a step back and evaluate the relationship.
If you and your partner are willing, you might also want to discuss these with them so they can be involved in making your relationship more committed and better.
Wanting To Be Loved or Accepted
It’s sad, but one of the most common reasons people change themselves for others is that they want to be loved and accepted. Unfortunately, this never works because it’s already coming from a place of doubt about your worth. Also, trying to be someone you’re not is a highly exhausting business.
In short: You won’t be able to keep it up. You should never change who you are just so that someone will notice or like you. Ask yourself, would you be happy if you ended up in a relationship with the person you overhauled yourself for at the expense of being your true self?
In that case, they would like you not for who you are but for someone you’re pretending to be. Wouldn’t you rather be with a partner or a friend who truly enjoyed your company and valued you for being you?
Changing Out of a Desire To Belong
Maybe “they” get invited to certain social events, and you don’t. Or “they” can afford to travel worldwide, and you can’t. On the other hand, let’s say you don’t believe you’re as good as they are. “They” here can mean colleagues, acquaintances, and even a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Sometimes, we try to change ourselves when we’re afraid we will be left out. And that’s perfectly natural. We have a genuine desire to belong.
But that doesn’t mean that you should change yourself so that you would be in the in-crowd, especially if that means having to forgo specific values you hold dear or doing things you know deep down don’t give you joy.
If you’re trying too hard to belong to a particular group or for certain people to like you, maybe you should stop focusing on them and enjoy being you.
Sooner or later, you will find people whose values, interests, and lifestyles resonate with your own; then, you won’t have to force relationships to happen.
You will genuinely belong where you are, being true to who you are.
Changing Yourself Because You Feel Insecure
Sometimes, we try to change ourselves because we don’t like what we see in the mirror. Often, that’s a result of comparing ourselves with others. When we’re not happy with ourselves, we will try to fake being someone that we think is better.
It’s great to work on things about yourself that need change, such as character flaws. However, it’s never okay to change because you’re insecure or think you’re not good enough.
One solution to feelings of insecurity that I find to be effective is gratitude. Why do you see so many good things when you look at others, yet see only bad when you look at yourself?
It won’t be an instant fix and is more like a process, but you can start by being grateful for what you have.
Things That Are Okay for You To Change
There are also reasons for changing yourself that are perfectly okay and may benefit others. Intimate relationships, like marriages, often expose major flaws and unresolved trauma that manifest in poor conflict resolution or insecurity. These need to be addressed if we want a healthy relationship.
How You Take Care (or Don’t Take Care) of Your Health
You will do yourself a lot of good and give people who love you peace of mind when you start changing your unhealthy lifestyle habits. If you’re constantly stressed out, not sleeping, or overeating junk, you should begin cleaning up your health habits soon, or you will reap the consequences.
Not only will you suffer from your poor lifestyle habits; those close to you will also suffer. When you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s good to start thinking about how your well-being can affect your partner. It’s beautiful when both partners actively better themselves.
Trying to exercise regularly, cutting back on alcohol, and quitting certain addictions, like smoking, are great ways of taking care of yourself so that you can be a better, more present spouse or partner.
It Would Be Best To Change Your Destructive Habits
Destructive habits can be as apparent as alcohol addiction or as subtle as avoiding confrontation, even when necessary. When you’re in a long-term relationship, your partner may ask you to change how you deal with problems or seek help for your alcoholism. And that’s a valid request because these habits will negatively affect your relationship.
However, when changing these things, it’s best when the desire to change comes from within you, and you’re not simply trying to change for the sake of your partner.
At first, especially when the relationship is new, you may feel like you can do anything. But when the desire to change is not genuine for you, you may be unable to sustain it. Worse, you may even resent your partner for demanding these changes of you.
Change How You Deal With Conflict
No relationship is conflict-proof, so if you don’t know how to deal with conflict properly—you may run away from it or escalate the drama. When your partner tells you something is wrong—you have to be willing to accept that you have work to do.
Being willing to sit down, discuss issues, listen to your partner’s perspective, and respect their feelings are part of a healthy relationship. No relationship, whether between a married couple or friends, can survive when the people involved refuse to work through issues with an open mind and mutual respect.
Change Your Unrealistic Expectations
If you constantly feel disappointed because things don’t work out as expected, you may be holding on to unrealistic expectations.
It’s great to have a positive outlook on life, but expecting too much of people can be frustrating, not only to you but especially to those who never seem to live up to your expectations.
Letting go of expectations that are too idealistic will help those around you breathe a little easier because they no longer have to strive to live up to your impossible standards.
Why Do Some People Try To Change You?
People try to change you for several reasons, including changing you to meet their expectations or changing your negative habits. People can seek to change you for either selfish or caring reasons. It is best to consider what and why they want you to change—and whether it helps you or hinders you.
The truth is we can’t change other people. They have to do that themselves. This impossibility is why the very idea of changing someone else is not only wrong but also simply impossible. You may be able to encourage other people to change, but you will never be able to make the change in them yourself.
But why do people desire to change someone?
They See Your Potential
Sometimes, people try to change others or want others to change because they see something that the other person cannot see in themselves. In short, they may want you to reach your potential.
Because of this, they may push you to do things outside of your comfort zone, such as auditioning for a role you’ve wanted all your life but are afraid you’re not qualified to assume. Or maybe they see that you deserve that dream job, but you keep putting yourself down, so you never take steps to get it.
You’re Being Destructive to Yourself and Others
If you’re in a long-term relationship, your spouse or partner will eventually see (and suffer) from destructive habits that you may have, whether you like it or not. They may try to change you, too, to save you and your relationship.
If you have a habit of having fits of rage when something triggers you, for example, it will affect not only your mental and physical health but also that of the people with whom you have the closest relationships.
So it’s only natural for them to try to pull you out of this habit and help you to change.
They Are Trying To Manipulate You
Sometimes, people will try to change you for less noble reasons. Some people will try to change you to manipulate you. They may want to make you do things you don’t like or expect you to make changes that are against your values.
What if the Person They Want You To Be Is Better Than What You Are?
If the person they want you to be is better than who you currently are—you should accept it—if you are comfortable with the change. However, if they want you to change yourself to meet superficial standards, such as losing weight or changing the way you speak or dress—you have a right to refuse.
If you are in a relationship with someone who thinks you should be “better” than you are, you may have to rethink the relationship altogether. This attitude is harmful and can mean that the person doesn’t love you for you and is comparing you to someone else.
A relationship should be between two people who love each other for who they are, not for who they can become.
Sure, personal growth is excellent, but it should never put you in a place of insecurity and make you feel like you are less, because you are somehow not as good as someone else expects you to be.
How To Be a Good Partner Without Losing Yourself
Being a good partner should never come at the cost of losing your identity. Besides, your spouse chose you because you were the way you are.
They accepted you and loved you for who you are.
So being a good partner does require a lot of work, but none of that should involve forgetting your identity.
Here are some tips that you can keep in mind:
- Stay true to who you are but keep improving yourself. Keep rooted, but keep growing. Improve yourself—including how you think, love, and care for yourself and others, and work on your goals or career.
- Do what you love, but try to love what they love too. You don’t have to be as passionate as your partner about their hobbies, but you can show interest and be involved.
- Get to know your partner. Like you, they are evolving. Stay curious about who they are and who they’re becoming. Have heart-to-heart conversations. Keep date nights alive.
- Respect their values and feelings. When there is mutual respect, it’s easier for two people to be free to be who they are.
- Learn to compromise. A relationship is between two different people, so learn to compromise. Not everything should go your way, and vice versa.
Change is good. It is also necessary for thriving relationships and personal growth. But it must come from our desire to be better partners and spouses. Unless we want the change, it won’t happen and will most likely cause harm and further relationship difficulties.
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