Saturday, December 7, 2013

Should You Stop Trying to Change Yourself?

Change is much harder than the change industry would have us believe. Many shrinks, how-to writers, and TV exhorters from Oprah to Suze Orman to Rick Warren make it sound easy: "Just do what I say."

It ain't that easy, at least for my clients and for me:

My cold-call reluctant clients rarely get comfortable cold-calling. My math-challenged clients rarely become good at math. My shy clients rarely become social.

I know I should eat broccoli not cheese, be laid-back not intense, cheerful not dour, but I can't make myself do any of them for very long. Nothing helps: reminders, accountability, looking at supposed childhood roots, nothing.

We are mainly a function of our genes and early environment. Defying those ain't easy. So might we all be wiser to  accept ourselves basically as-is and simply find the work, relationships, and recreations that don't require us to make major changes?

You can tune-up a Prius all you like but it will never win a race against a Porsche.  But a Prius, in its context, is most worthy in itself.


Maria Lopez said...

I do think that if you want to change you'll do better to try to change outward behavior rather than some supposed inner nature. I also think you should try to change one thing at a time. For example, putting your shoes away rather than being neat in general, doing one thing despite fear rather than conquering all your fears.

Also some big changes are possible, provided you have much social support, for example giving up drinking with the help of AA, converting to a new religion with the support of a congregation and the guidance of a religious leader.

I think much of the time we underestimate both the rewards and costs of change. Also, in the case of pleasurable bad habits the costs of giving them are often felt immediately while the rewards might be a long time coming and even invisible. For example you quit smoking and don't have lung cancer ten years down the road. It's somewhat hard to rejoice in not getting hypothetical lung cancer.

Other habits with more immediate costs are given up, for example many two or three year old boys will wear girls clothing in public if not prevented by adults. Very few men, whatever their values say about such things would cross dress in public.

ST said...

I like cheese on my broccoli, myself. :)

There's a difference between things like that (and whether or not to smoke), than personality traits. (Of course personality can contribute to emotional eating, smoking, drinking, drugs, etc.).

I also ask, who says we have to change, society, employers, spouses, friends, etc.? (Or why do we think we have to change?) There are borders we have to maintain, of course, and we can't go crazy if we expect to keep a job, spouse, be free in society, etc. But, it's probably better to understand who we are innately, and find a place in this world where the fit is the best that we can do.


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