Saturday, August 13, 2011

Could You Change Just This One Little Thing, Oh, and That One, and While You're At It...

We've all been there. We're in love. The person we love makes a little request. You know, the first time he or she says "I really don't like it when you..." We shrug and think, okay, no big deal, I won't do that again. After all it's a little thing. The next time the person says "You really shouldn't..." We nod and say okay I won't do that again. All seems well. Then one day the person says "I wish you would stop..." This time it doesn't seem like the thing we did was such a bad thing, so our nod is a little slower but we still agree. Then one day the person says "Damn it. Do you have to...?" and this time it feels like an assault on our personality, but we're not sure. Maybe we really do need fixed. After all no one is perfect... Things go along and the person is happy, we smile but begin to feel ourselves dissolving. But, hey, the person is happy, and that's what matters. After all, this is love. He or she only wants what's best for us. Right? Then one day the person who loves us strikes out with cruel words or even worse, and when we ask the person to not treat us like that, he or she tells us it's our fault. That if we'd only..., then he or she wouldn't react like that. And, we believe it. After all, this is love and we want to keep love...

Maybe we even venture a little request for some changes ourselves here and there, so we tell ourselves it's only fair. We say "I wish you wouldn't..." or "It hurts my feelings when you..." or "Please don't do that..." And, maybe the person agrees and maybe he or she doesn't.

After all, we get to choose which changes we make and which we don't. Right? Just like he or she does.

Eventually, one day, perhaps even years after this begins, we look in the mirror and the eyes staring back at us ask only one question "Who the hell are you?"

When we reach that point, we know we've turned ourselves into a shell in order to fit the image the person desired, and that that person has no resemblance to us. Then we have to decide whether to remain the image or embrace our true selves. If we choose to embrace the image, we lose ourselves. If we choose to embrace our true selves, we risk losing love. Although at this point we might also venture to ask ourselves if the person loves us or the image we've created to please him or her. On the other hand, if the relationship is strong, it might survive us embracing our true selves. No one can make this decision for us.

So the next time someone says you need to change something about yourself in order to be attractive or loved or desired or needed or to otherwise meet his or her expectations (click here for my earlier examination of expectations), ask yourself if it's what you want. If it's not, feel free to say "No, I like me just as I am. If you don't, sorry but that's just the way things have to be."

While this kind of relationship dynamic may make for nice drama in fiction, it is definitely not a good life. When we see this in fiction, we tend to root for the person being told to change to break free and take charge of his or her own life. Usually, in fiction, it is the woman in this situation, but there are stories about men changing when they finally meet the right woman - the one who breaks through his defenses and makes him capable of opening his heart again. In those situations, the reader is almost always put in a position to root for the woman to reach the man because he just needs love. But, sorry, folks, that's why it's called fiction. No amount of love fixes those things in real life. Love may open a window and let a little fresh air in, but if the individual doesn't want to change, it ain't happenin'. It just ain't.

Now, don't misunderstand this post. I'm not saying change is bad. We are all growing and therefore changing all the time, but when we try to mold ourselves into the image someone else has of us, we lose who we are. And, that's not love. Control, desperation, neediness, and insecurity, you bet, but love, no way.

When someone loves you, they should love you for who you are, who you were, and who you are becoming. And, again, I'm not saying we don't have the right to set boundaries because we most certainly do and should. I'm talking about when someone asked us to change in order to fit some shifting idealized image in his or head that can never truly be met or when we ask it of someone else.

At the heart of it, you are who you are. Embrace that and don't substitute an image for the real thing ever. The people who truly love you will love the real you including both your positive and negative traits. They will always want the best for you even if that best isn't what they envision for you.

After all, in fiction, the main character almost always learns this lesson at the end of the story. So just jump ahead in your own story, and love yourself enough to be yourself now before it's too late.

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