This is what it really means when you want to "change" someone.

I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving. Instead, I spent the holiday with the new friends I’ve met in the last year. They’re people who mirror where I am in my life right now. They help me to visualise the next phase as well. I see where I want to be through them. We have a good time together, we support one another, and we call each other out.


At a critical point when I was transitioning to a new phase, I needed to be around people who I could be my flawed self around. I’m lucky to have found that.

Some people aren’t so blessed though.

There are relationships we find ourselves in where we have to wear masks. We can’t be our authentic selves. However, on the other side of things, there’s an immense burden of wanting to be the person who affects that type of change.

How many times have you encountered someone who would be great, “if only…”? You decide to take on the pressure of being someone’s saviour when they never asked you to be. Additionally, there are people who purposely seek out others as projects because it feeds their ego as a fixer. But thinking you can change someone is a selfish way to go through life and here’s why:

"A person has to do the work for their own reasons." via iStock.

1) You can’t change someone who doesn’t believe they have a problem. The USA's president-elect is a prime example of this. I’ve found there’s no reasoning with people like Donald Trump. The level of narcissism and lack of self-awareness prevents them from seeing the character traits that make them awful human beings.

2) Giving too much of yourself leaves you with nothing. There’s a high cost that you pay when you decide to sow seeds in others, particularly when there’s resistance. When you are a giver, eventually you’ll come to see that your well runs dry.

3) A person has to do the work for their own reasons. In most situations, a person is changing because there’s an intangible benefit for others. They don’t want to see people they love hurt. Or perhaps they want to please others. Changes that are tied to outside influences aren’t always guaranteed to stick. I learned on my journey that the choice has to come from within. The effort thereafter will match.

Listen to Meshel Laurie speak about destructive relationships with Mia Freedman on No Filter. Post continues after audio...

4) Some people are only for a season. It’s important to know when a person is meant to be short-term or long-term in your life. Those who are short-term aren’t worth the attention of trying to change them to be what you want them to be in order to turn them into long-term.

5) When it comes to mental illness, change is a “me first” commitment. When you try to change a person, what you’re really aiming to convey is that your love should be enough to do better. That’s not always possible; at least not as quick as you’d like. Change (in the form of treatment and medication) is a process that requires a lot of dot-connecting in the brain. You can’t stand in the gap for someone.


6) Also when it comes to mental illness, change isn’t going to be pretty. How we understand and talk about mental illness is still kind of antiquated. So the expectation of “change your mindset, change your life” just isn’t realistic. Case in point, that hollow advice is useless to the millions who don’t know where their next meal is coming from or how they’ll get to work tomorrow.

"There’s a high cost that you pay when you decide to sow seeds in others." via iStock.

7) You’re not better than anyone else. Humans are wired to compete and to be better than the next, rather than focusing on their path. The reality is every single day, we wake up trying to figure this thing called life out. Some of us are just closer to the finish line than others.

8) Some people don’t deserve your kindness and compassion. For the sake of self-preservation, you have to know that some people are lost causes.

When I look back on the progress I’ve made, it’s because I made baby steps along the way. I do, however, give credit where it’s due. I had people that saw potential in me. But they couldn’t do the work for me. It’s okay to have good intentions. But sometimes the desire to change someone is a nudge telling you that you no longer need them in your life.

This article originally appeared on The Good Men Project, and was republished here with full permission.

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