A Hard Lesson - We can't change other people.
I speak with a lot of people. Everyday I am honored to sit with my clients as they open up their hearts and speak with me. It is my privilege to work with these brave human beings.
One of the hard moments we often encounter in session is the recognition that as much as we can work on ourselves and attempt to move ourselves forward we actually have very little say in getting other people to be ready to make changes. This is usually one of the moments in sessions when we recognize the struggles we face are influenced by others (family, friends, etc.) but we can't get other people to change their actions. It sucks!
Maybe it's the lover who won't stop to listen to our needs.
Maybe our child who hurts us with their insults or actions.
Maybe it's the long time friend who isn't ready to deal with their own demons and we find we need to put up a boundary because it has become too much for us.
Sometimes we get that sense in our gut that we need to move forward and we aren't sure the people we love will understand who we are becoming.
These are the moments of change and one of the hardest lessons to work through is this:
We can't change other people. (Did I mention it sucks?)
And- we actually risk our own well-being and emotional health when we try to force change on others.
So- what happens when we set out to work on ourselves? How does it change our perception of others?
I have three ideas about this.
1) Making changes in our own lives helps give us perspective on the people who surround us. When we come to terms with the inconvenient truth we can't change others we can explore how we feel about the other people who we let speak into our lives. When we expect more of ourselves we can begin to expect more from others around us. This takes time but in my work with so many clients I have seen the personal progress leads to a new confidence to create brave and rewarding friendships and romantic relationships.
When we get to know ourselves and come to terms with our own truth we can better know who should surround us and who we should trusted with our love.
2) Moving forward in our own growth demonstrates to others that change is really possible.
When we take time to work on our emotional needs and other people begin to see the changes it begins to spark a new hope and curiosity in others. This is not a guarantee but instead of telling others how they should also be changing I have seen many experiences when clients working on themselves helps inspire change in others. But we must prepare ourselves that this is not always the case. And truly working on our needs and goals can not be motivated by wanting other people to change. Changes we make for others will often be short lived in our own lives too.
3) We must be compassionate with ourselves and be realistic in our expectations. If you have lived in one way for decades it takes time to make these changes. The relationships in your life have shaped and impacted you and it takes a variety of new experiences and time to clarify your goals and begin to move forward. Give yourself time. Praise the small steps. Honor the moments when you achieve a baby step and set a boundary.
Brene Brown (therapist, researcher, and my not so secret dream interview) discusses being willing to get "in the ring" and fight the good fight. I think that image really stand out to me. She puts out there the idea that even when other people are not ready to change we have to be ready to rumble with our own fear and vulnerability. Her book Daring Greatly really clanged my thinking. It is a great read - you should check it out.
Here is the take away.
We want to make changes in our lives?
We want to move forward?
Other people might not be ready for that and they are going to want us to stay the same as we have always been.
But when we are ready to set ourselves on the path of change - we can inspire ourselves, honor our process, and maybe even inspire others.