You Cannot Change People

They say that people can’t change, but I disagree. People change all the time.

People grow and develop. People learn new things and change their minds and take on new and better habits. People apologize for their own wrong-doings and try to make amends. People change their entire lives and use their mistakes to help other people going through the same thing.

Change isn’t just possible; it’s common. It’s a daily occurrence that comes for us multiple times in our lives.

But what isn’t always possible is changing someone else.

Sometimes, the people we care about don’t want to change. Maybe you see something wrong with them, but they don’t. Maybe you want them to become a more outdoors-y type person, but they’re perfectly satisfied staying indoors – in fact, they might even prefer it. You might be succeeding only in making them uncomfortable by encouraging them to do otherwise. Maybe you disapprove of a specific habit of theirs, but they see absolutely nothing wrong with it, and don’t understand why you’re trying to take it away from them.

Sometimes, when we try to make people change when they don’t want to, all we do is create a strain. We make them want to do the forbidden thing even more, directly because it is forbidden. Sometimes, when we try to make people change when they don’t want to, all that we are really doing is getting mad at them for being who they are. And from time to time, we seem to take this opinion that, especially if we’re in a romantic relationship with someone, we should come before everything else in their lives, but that just isn’t the case. I’m not saying that our loved ones shouldn’t value us highly, but it is important that they value themselves, their personalities, their likes and dislikes and the way they were made.

And it’s important for us to value all of that too. Maybe not like it; no one is going to like absolutely every tiny little aspect about someone, but so long as what they are doing does not hurt or disrespect anyone, then all that making a big deal out of it does is hurt and disrespect who they are as a person.

And no one should have to shave off important parts of themselves in order to be with someone they love.

And if what they are doing is hurting or disrespecting someone, and you want to stop them from doing that because you truly do love the better sides of them… you still might be disappointed. Like I said, people can change, but you can’t necessarily change someone.

If they are going to change, then that change needs to come from them. This is true of small changes, like encouraging someone to go to the gym once in a while, and this is true of larger changes, like dissuading someone from engaging in behaviour that is bullying or abusive. You can try to help them out, you can try to be there for them, but if you choose to do that, then you need to remember who they are, and that they aren’t going to change unless they make the decision to do so. And they might never make the decision to do so.

And if you don’t think that you can handle that, then it’s okay to decide that you can’t have that person in your life anymore. It’s okay to value your own well-being.

Because change comes from within. You cannot enforce it on someone else. And if you choose to try, you run the risk of pushing them away or forcing them to give up pieces of themselves. So end of day, you can choose between two options: you can love them for who they are, flaws and all, or you can decide that they do you more harm than good and leave them. There is no shame in either choice, but you need to make the one that you can live with end of day.

 

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This Is Not Your Life Forever

I’m not going to lie: I’m not entirely where I want to be right now. But, to be fair, I’m twenty-two years old; how many people my age are?

Right now, I’m still living with my parents, but I have my eye on a cheap apartment in the town where I actually want to live, the town where all my friends live and where I actually stand a chance of getting the sort of job that I want. However, I cannot currently afford aforementioned cheap apartment after four years dedicated to university, and so I’m working retail jobs until I can. I’m single, I don’t have a lot of friends that I see on a regular basis, and I’m not very good at making new friends. All of this sort of adds up to a general feeling of “meh” about where I am right now.

And I know I’m not alone in this.

There are a lot of people out there who aren’t exactly where they’d like to be. A lot of young adults, still trying to figure out what sort of life they want to live and how they can achieve it, as well as a lot of older adults who really don’t feel “settled” yet. To be honest, it’s sort of a human condition, because very few of us are lucky enough to be born directly into the place where we want to be.

We all have goals we want to achieve.

We all want to find ourselves and become comfortable in our identities.

We all have places we want to go, things we want to see, stuff we want to do.

And sometimes, when we’re stuck in that place where we don’t want to be for long enough, it becomes easy to think that you’re going to be there forever.

It’s easy to lose hope, and to think that the things that you want are never going to come to you – either because you aren’t good enough or strong enough to get it, or because the whole cause feels hopeless.

But here’s the thing: you aren’t at the end of the race yet.

After all, change is the only constant in life. And maybe it won’t always be the change that you expect, but it will be change nonetheless. A year from now, you will be an entirely different person. Ten years from now, you will have an entirely different life, hopefully a life that you’re more satisfied with.

And I know, change takes a long time to come. It can be frustrating sometimes, it can be disheartening, but where you are now is not where you will always be. Time passes slowly, but it passes, and it brings with it many beautiful things. It brings with it your dreams, a new love, new friends, new family. It brings with it an endless array of possibilities, so many that you can’t even imagine them all now.

So don’t get stuck in today. Don’t keep dwelling in this idea that this is your life, this is forever, because it isn’t. People come and go. Dreams come true and evolve into new dreams. And along the way, even in times where you are not satisfied, there are still many things that should not be taken for granted.

I may not be satisfied living in my parent’s house, but at least I have a place to stay. There are too many people out there who cannot say that, and I know that I am incredibly privileged to be able to. I may not currently have the life or job that I want, but I have the means to work toward it. I am grateful for that.

And though I don’t know what your circumstance is, whatever it is, I am sure that you can think of something in it that makes it at least bearable for now.

That’s a problem with being dissatisfied with today; you run the risk of taking things for granted. It’s not the only problem, of course – just a problem.

Enjoy life while you can, but keep working toward the life you want. Stop and smell the roses, and then charge ever forward. But whatever you do, do not give into despair. Do not give up. Your life can be exactly what you want it to be, just so long as you do not give up hope.

Why “My Girl/Boyfriend Won’t Let Me” is Problematic

In many relationships, two things tend to happen: 1) you will change over the course of the relationship, and 2) you will find that you need to respect the opinion of your partner. This is just the nature of life in partnerships, and I am not going to argue that either of these things are a bad thing. Really, they don’t have to be. Change can very well be a good thing, it can be a sign of growth and development, while respect is absolutely necessary in creating a happy and harmonious social environment.

But that being said, I do have a growing pet peeve when it comes to relationships that involves both of these things.

These pet peeves show up most often in the form of little comments, things like: “I wish I could change my hair, but my boyfriend won’t let me”, or “I can’t go out tonight, my boyfriend won’t let me”, or “I don’t really hang out with that person anymore, my boyfriend doesn’t like them”. These sorts of comments usually earn from me one of two responses, either “dump him” or “he’s your boyfriend, not your father”, but to be honest, these comments trouble me a bit more than I tend to let on. Not because I think of it as a sign that the relationship is abusive or that either party in this relationship are inherently bad people or anything like that, but it does reflect an attitude that I find somewhat troubling: this idea that one partner in a relationship can and should control the other.

And although I focused primarily on women in the given examples, this can happen to men as well. And I’m sure that this happens in many different ways, taking several different forms depending on who is involved, but the way that we tend to think about most often, stereotypically speaking, is an intentional attempt from the female partner to ‘change him’ – to make him spend less time playing Dungeons and Dragons with his buddies and more time being suave and cool or whatever it is that she intends for him to do now. I can’t personally speak to how accurate this stereotype is, but I’m sure it does happen. I think we’ve all heard the tropes that when it comes to women, they ‘like a project’, they want a ‘fixer-upper’.

And, personally, I take issue with this idea for two reasons: 1) maybe he liked playing Dungeons and Dragons with his buddies. Maybe that made him happy, and yes, you also make him happy, but differently. You aren’t his entire source of joy in this life, and you aren’t making him a better man by taking the other sources away from him. And 2) chances are, you entered into this relationship knowing who he was; shouldn’t you love him for who he is? I mean, yes, we are all flawed, and he might have some habits and hobbies that are kind of annoying, but asking him to stop doing something that he enjoys is entirely different from asking him to pick up his dirty socks off the floor; one matters to him and the other doesn’t. You don’t have to join him in the hobby; you don’t have to understand it; you just need to respect that it matters to him.

But let’s get back to the little comments that I’ve heard women make about what their boyfriends will and will not let them do. Because while these two examples are similar, both of them getting back to this issue of control, they are also very different. The latter example that I gave about one partner intentionally changing the way that the other lives is very overt, and it does require a bit of consent on the changed partner’s part – how rational and well-informed that consent may be is another matter, as they might be agreeing to go along with everything just because they’re so in love at the moment, but nonetheless, consent must be given to make this very obvious, blatant change. The first example is much more subtle.

The first example is limiting what the other partner can and can’t do in small ways, ways that can easily be ignored or brushed off at first, but that build up over time – making them ask for permission instead of an opinion.

And don’t get me wrong, it is perfectly fine to consult with your partner about making plans or changing your style or hanging out with a specific person. You can ask them if they had any plans, what their opinion is, etc., but at the end of the day, the decision should always be yours. This is your life, your body, your friends – you have the ultimate say in what happens with all of it. And if your partner is actually getting outright angry with you because you have respectfully made plans with someone else or because you got a haircut, then that is a totally separate problem and it isn’t fair to you.

The reason why this is such a pet peeve of mine is because, in relationships, the issue of control seems to come up often, but I am personally of the belief that neither party should be in control of the other. Too often, we romanticize this idea that every couple is two halves of a whole that is only completed when they’re together, but this isn’t true. Every single couple in this world is made up of two completed, totally whole individuals who are just trying to make all their quirks and weirdness mesh well together, and both parties in the relationship should be treated as though they are both whole, both capable of making decisions for themselves.

You do not need your partner to make decisions for you. You should not let them make the decisions for your own life. Because you are a partnership; you need to work together. You need to respect one another, and part of that respect comes from respecting who they are as a person and the fact that they are fully capable of taking care of themselves. And while you’re together, you very well might change, but your partner should not be the one in control of that change.

Change and Destruction

I have had plenty of reasons for the goddess Kali to come to mind lately.

If you are not familiar with her, Kali is a Hindu goddess, frequently representing change. If you look up images of her, you might think of her as a malevolent figure, because she does strike a very gruesome image. In a Christian theology, she’d definitely be interpreted as a demon, between her necklace of severed human heads, her skirt made of severed human arms, and the man’s head that she holds in one hand, catching the blood that drips from his neck in a bowl that she holds in another hand. Not only that, but Kali holds many weapons, and she is depicted as standing on top of the Hindu god Shiva. To the casual observer, one who does not know a whole lot about Kali or what she represents, she might appear to be terrifying – and in some ways, she is. But she is not a malevolent figure in Hindu mythology. In fact, she is quite the opposite.

As I said, Kali represents change, and the thing about change is that it is never easy. Kali comes into your life and destroys everything that needs to be destroyed, and it might be painful. It might be hard to bear. But Kali only does it because it needs to be done, and afterwards, she creates something new, something that you might not immediately recognize to be better, but that is in the long run. Maybe it’s better because it allows you the chance to learn. Maybe without it, you would never have grown the way you need to, never would have developed the strength and the resilience that you didn’t realize you were capable of. Maybe it simply is better, but it will take some time for you to realize that. Or maybe you realize that it is better right away. Either way, it is something that needs to happen. It is change, and the only thing that we can guarantee in this life is that things will change.

This representation of difficult change is not unique to the Hindu theology. The phoenix, for example, must burn itself to ash in order to be reborn into a new life. Only by dying can it become something new, something with a whole future ahead of itself.

Change is difficult. Change can be crushing, heartbreaking, destructive even. Sometimes we will wish that things could just stay as they were, but they simply can’t. Life progresses, whether we want it to or not, and sometimes all we can do is have faith that Kali will serve us well – or at least that we will be reborn like the phoenix. And we are not entirely powerless in this either. As much as change is hard, we can make it that much easier by learning to accept it. We can mourn for the things we have lost, but at the same time we can take our steps in letting them go, in moving forward. If we hold on to the past, then it will constantly drag us back, but if we allow it to slip away the way that it wants to, then we can start moving forward. We can guide our future into place. We can force this change to serve us for the better, and the first step in doing this is by accepting that all things must change. Once we do that, once we stop resisting, then we can fight alongside Kali to put the things we need in place before us.