This originated as a FB post and conversation ( primarily about making health/ lifestyle choices), but I decided that since it is such a common issue that people struggle with, that I should make it into a blog entry and expand on it.
Improving ourselves, making big changes in our habits and lifestyles, and even altering our way of thinking/ viewing things…. can be very difficult to achieve, and yet is crucial in order for us to progress, and achieve goals (and who we would like to be). However, in order for changes to be real, and lasting…. they have to be something that we firmly want to do for our own selves. Real changes cannot happen just to please others, or for some kind of temporary gain (both purposes result in temporary changes, if even that). It all starts from within.
We all have layers of “self”/ conscious within us. The top surface levels are where our chatter is—our active thoughts, worries, reactions etc… and is also where we lie to, and attempt to deceive ourselves. Our “core self” is deep down, at the very bottom. That is where our truth is. Our core is where our true desires, needs, beliefs and personality exist. However, sometimes our surface layers try to resist what our “core” tells us—usually due to temporary wants and desires, fears, wanting things not good for us, wanting to please others, being scared to face truth, or act on things etc….We drown our “core-self” out sometimes with all that surface chatter and noise, but our core-self will keep prodding and shouting until we hear it….and will continue to do so no matter how many times we try to block it out, or deny what it is telling us. These mechanics are the very reason why we have to truly want something for our own selves, on all levels, and for the right reasons. Our core is our basement, and is where all the wiring and gears are. Thus, to make true, lasting changes for ourselves…we have to be able to get down in there, and re-arrange things. That is not possible if only our “surface self” is engaged in the act of making a change.
When we try to change something about ourselves to please others, or for an interim goal….it results in being a temporary surface desire, rather than something that our core is engaged in. We all do it. We want to lose weight for a special event, or to try to interest someone in a relationship……we want to stop smoking because someone else has given us an ultimatum, we want to improve our work performance to gain a promotion etc…… Often those goals in some form still involve making a change for someone else, or to “fit” ourselves in some way. Once the desired result is achieved, we often return to our old ways ( because what is the point of still doing it when you no-longer have to? ). Worse yet, if we did not get what we had hoped we would gain, we tend to see all our efforts as a waste, and then we binge on whatever it was that we had been restraining ourselves from (that we really had not wanted to change for our own selves anyway). This is why we cannot change for others, and why we have to be committed to something on every layer of who we are (down to our core-self) in order for a change to truly happen.
When faced with changes others want us to make, we can think it is a true and noble reason to make alterations to ourselves (especially when we really want to please someone, and fit ourselves to what it is they want). However, unless it is something we came to on our own, and that we truly want for ourselves (and not just to please others, gain a relationship etc..), any changes we make will likely just be temporary. Our true self ( that is not on board) will hammer away at us until it breaks free, and might even (again) want to gorge on whatever it was being restrained from.
In reverse, expecting others to change themselves for us (no matter if it is something for their own health and well-being), very rarely works. Ultimatums essentially insure that whatever change you are desiring for someone else to make will most likely fall-apart—you essentially are setting that person up for failure. They might try really hard to do whatever it is you want of them, but in the end their true self will smash it apart with a wrecking ball. They have to be able to come to it on their own, for their own self, and without feeling pressure, or expectation—they have to want that change on their own. Something I often ask clients is, “Would you have wanted this for yourself if they were not in the picture?”…Or…. “Would they have wanted this, or come to this on their own without you?” If “no” is the answer to either of those questions, then it is a change that is not being done for the right reasons, and it will have very little chance at being lasting. Take a moment, think of changes you made in the past to please others ( maybe even under pressure of an ultimatum). Did they stick? Are you still implementing those changes?
Sometimes people will feign at making changes in order to achieve what/who they want. They will make promises, and even sometimes a few initial motions at that change for the sake of appearances…. but often just long-enough to get the other person off of them, or to get that person to commit to them. As soon as they think they are in the clear, they will revert to their normal habits, and who they really are ( thus why it is important to not trust words, but rather to pay attention to actions). Often people will try to force others into being ready for relationships, or want to convince them that their love and desire compensates for the hesitation of the other—and thus try to force things to happen prematurely, or with someone who otherwise would not/ does not want to get involved on those levels. These are examples of relationship-related expectations of changes/ choices by others that will likely not be for the right reasons, and thus will eventually result in destruction in some form. We cannot push our agendas on others… even if they try to please us, eventually their “core” will fight against what does not align with it.
Addictions. This of course is one of the most difficult, and needed areas for personal change. It is also of utmost import that we do not pressure loved ones to “do it for us”….or to whip-out ultimatums, or threats of leaving etc… because again, any changes made under those conditions will likely only be temporary, no matter how much that person wants to please, and keep us in their life. In order for a person to truly be able to fight that kind of battle, their core self has to be armed with sword and shield…..and completely want, and be ready to do it for their own self. If we shove someone into it before they are ready on their own, they may end-up standing against their demon in their underwear. Even once changes are achieved, it may still be a battle they have to revisit at times…. and thus our job should be to support, love, and encourage them in healthy ways focused on their welfare, rather than anything we want for ourselves ( unless it is something harmful to us, then we may need to remove ourselves under those kind of conditions). They need to feel secure in our love and support, rather than judged, guilted, or pressured. That is the often the best way to help someone struggling with those kind of issues.
If a person truly wants to do something for their own self, and are engaged completely on all inner-levels….then making others happy, and achieving various other related gains and goals etc… can be contributing factors that help to bolster, and increase the conviction that they already have.
Sometimes we have to accept that a person is not going to change, or has no desire to do so on their own. It can be difficult if it is over something that is deal-breaking. We may not be able to change others, or choose for them…. but we always have the option/ability of making changes for ourselves– and sometimes that is in the form of letting-go, and removing ourselves from situations that are unhealthy, or not working for us (when the other is not able to make real changes to their core self).
I can think of many examples in my own life when I have either failed, or succeeded because of the reasons behind attempts at changes. Years ago when I was investigating a big choice…. I had to refrain from talking on the matter with someone who was really eager for me to make that choice, because I did not want the risk of them (and my desire to make them happy) impacting something that was so important, and personal. It was confusing to that person, and even difficult to resist at times, but it was what I personally knew had to be done in order to make sure it was something that I felt, and wanted for my own self. It was hard, but it insured that I made that choice for the right reasons. Had I just done it to please, I might have skipped crucial thinking/ steps that ultimately led me to investing myself “on all levels”. Sometimes it can be a matter of knowing our own selves, and what we have to do to make-sure others are not the reason for big changes and choices that we make for ourselves.
The big obvious change for me this last year has been in the area of improving my lifestyle and diet to achieve weight-loss. I had losses in the past, but because I was usually focused on short-term goals and reasons, and had not addressed the true reason behind my habits (comfort source), I always slipped-back as soon as something stressful happened, or when what I had wanted did not result. Now, because I have addressed the root-cause and fully-engaged myself…..I have made solid changes that I feel have become my *new* habits, and I was able to maintain myself despite a devastating event that occurred this last year. The difference is simply being fully engaged, and wanting new and different things for myself…to be healthy…. not just in the short term, but for the rest of my life. I am still working on reversing past damage, but have no doubt that with a little time I can get myself down to the person I truly am, and was supposed to be all along.
So, the message is…. truly evaluate yourself honestly when it comes to making changes for yourself, or expecting others to make changes. It is crucial that we truly want it for our own selves—otherwise we could end-up making mistakes, reverting in ways that damage us even worse than before, or doing things prematurely in a destructive way that makes us fear, or even decide against working towards those changes at a later time. Always ask those important questions ( would you (or they) come to it, and want it on your (their) own?). Know yourself, be honest to yourself, and be true to yourself…. all of those are keys towards true self-improvement and growth, and knowing what we need to achieve those things.