“I’ll still be the same person” is one of the weirdest things I think people say, aside from referring to “my body” as a separate entity. There’s this concern that change will make someone worse, somehow. That letting go of one of our cute habits will make us, what? Less fun? Less lovable? Less ourselves, in such a way that we might not even be recognizable.
Staying the same in every way, is that how to be authentic?
Is it some kind of expression of integrity, never changing?
I’ve always been mystified by this, because most of the changes I’ve tried so hard to make have been for the benefit of others. Interrupting less, being late less often, following through and keeping my commitments. Would it be better to “be the real me” if it meant sometimes hurting people through sheer ineptness?
In some ways, I’m exactly the same person I was at two years old. I loved books then and I love books now. I was transfixed by birds then and they still delight me today. I loved pickles then and I’m sure I always will. In those ways, there’s a continuous thread of personality that anyone in my family could recognize.
In other ways, why on Earth would I want to have anything in common with Child Me? The me who couldn’t bathe or dress herself, who couldn’t make a slice of toast or control her emotions?
At what point do we decide that we’re DONE, that we’re fully formed and that we mustn’t change anymore?
In my case, never, I hope. I like changing for the sake of change. I like experimenting. I like exploring and trying things out. If I ever felt that I had to behave in the same way, speak in the same way, and think the same thoughts for the rest of my life, I’d run screaming for the door in a last-ditch attempt to change my identity.
I don’t see a risk in changing myself. That’s because I remember what I was like when I was younger, and how many of my attitudes and habits made life more difficult, both for me and for people around me. See that list of lateness, interrupting, procrastinating, and all the rest.
Age is supposed to make us wiser, and in a lot of ways I think that happens automatically. We learn how to do very, very complicated things like tying our shoes, drinking out of cups without spilling juice down our shirts, waiting in line without throwing a tantrum, accepting critiques at work, dealing with rejection, and avoiding fights with belligerent people. We just get better at doing things, and those things include getting along with others.
We see the consequences of doing certain things, and at a certain point we don’t want any part of that.
The dark side of this is when we change, we’ve changed, we have a track record of changing for the better. Yet, for reasons of human frailty, the people around us don’t buy it. They continue to see us the way we were in the past, maybe even decades into the past.
No amount of deeds, words, or thoughts will ever convince a clique of fixed-mindset people that someone has changed for the better. That’s because it’s much too much fun to gossip about people. Is there anything in the world that’s more fun than chastising, lecturing, correcting, telling off, or scolding someone?
Witness the way that average people will sometimes bother a disabled person or leave nasty notes on their vehicle because they don’t think that person “looks handicapped.”
That one I never understood. I’m neither a doctor nor a meter maid. How am I supposed to know who is or is not disabled? Who’s going to pay me to be the enforcer when I have so many other things to do? What is this sick relish that people have for bothering people who are 99.999% likely to have very serious problems already?
Ahh, the desire to PUNISH must be so much stronger than any fear of hurting the innocent. Juicy, juicy punishment.
What does that come from? Conformity. Group norms. People have a deep-seated need to feel safe, secure, and “normal” according to what they perceive as group rules.
That’s why gossip is popular, even though it’s mean and people hate being on the receiving end. We need to keep proving that we fit in and belong with our group.
That means never improving, either!
Being different isn’t safe. Other people hate it because “you’re making the rest of us look bad.” The majority will always pull back the person who is getting ahead. It isn’t very fair, is it?
Stand out because you’re less... whatever... less annoying, less loud, less gossipy, or you smoke less or eat less fried food... If someone else in your social circle thinks you’re “winning” or gaining status, there’s an almost biological command to pull you down.
On the inner level, maybe there’s a similar identification. That “self-improvement” is vain, arrogant, shallow, selfish, preachy, pretentious, boring, uncool, elitist, or deluded.
The great thing about being dedicated to change is that it eventually separates out the like-minded from the... from the like-minded! People who want everything and everyone to stay the same will flock together. They’ll work hard to maintain one standard and force everyone to fit in. People who believe in change and growth will find themselves in a different group.
Growth-mindset people wind up outside the group of the fixed-mindset people for three reasons. One, they climbed there; two, they were in the process of being pushed out; and three, the fixed group didn’t follow or try to keep up.
That’s why it’s always fine to change, especially for the better. Wouldn’t we want those people we judged so harshly to stop doing whatever it was that was so wrong? Wouldn’t we want the “bad guys” to stop being bad? What would it look like, to give people room to change?
It’s fine to change because that’s why we’re all here in this vale of tears in the first place. It’s our duty and our mission.
It’s fine to change because change is authentic. You can still “be the same person” and be the “real you” if you’re kinder, wiser, more patient, or any other quality that matters to you. If you move in a positive direction, maybe the group will move with you.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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