It’s easy to think that you can change a person through your influence, example, or push. In reality, people only change if and when they want to. Expecting them to be any different isn’t a poor reflection on them — it’s an indication that you’re the one in need of alterations.
You have virtually no control over other people. You can have all the desire to change that you want, but nothing you say or do can change another person. They’re their own person and they have full autonomy over their way of being. Don’t drive yourself crazy thinking that you can change or control them because you can’t. The only person you can change or control is yourself.
Unreasonable expectations lead to resentment. Having expectations that are way out of alignment with reality is sure to lead to inevitable resentment on your end. It’s easy to blame the resentment on the other person’s behavior, but you’re the one who built up those unreasonable expectations. It’s best to just not expect anything that’s out of your control. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache.
Stop going to the hardware store for milk. This essentially means that you know what you’re going to get from this person, yet you still go to them for something else anyway. For example, maybe you’re looking for a good listener but you know this person isn’t. Going to them to be listened to is a foolish move on your part once you know. Stop doing it!
Start examining your projections. If you find yourself with unreasonable expectations and you keep going to the person for something you know they can’t give you, it’s time to examine your thoughts. What are you projecting onto this person? Do you continue to hope they’re someone they aren’t? Is there someone else you can go to in order to get your needs met?
Leave people to change themselves. Maya Angelou said, “People know themselves much better than you do, That’s why it’s important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are.” It’s easy to believe that you know what’s best for someone else and their life, but that’s just not the truth. The reality is that the other person knows what’s best for them and is going to act in accordance to their own desires, regardless of how you feel.
People change on their own time if they change at all. If this person is going to change, it’s not going to be because you made them. They’ll change in their own time if they decide to change at all. Maybe it’s a sibling that you hope will stop drinking. They’ll make their own decisions about their own life, just as you do the same in yours. I know it can be painful to watch, especially if you think you know what’s best for them, but don’t worry — they’ve made it this far in life on their own.
You need to start detaching from outcomes. I know this can be really difficult if you care a lot about the person, especially if it’s a lover who you really want to be okay. It can feel like a betrayal to let go of what happens to them, but it’s the only way to bring you peace. The best course of action is to wish them the best, but stop expecting certain outcomes. Detach entirely from what may or may not happen to them, even if it’s challenging.
Think of the serenity prayer. There’s a ton of wisdom in the serenity prayer. It says, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” The serenity prayer looks at what’s in your control and what isn’t in your control. It’s perfect for this situation as you can shift your desire from trying to control the person’s life to acceptance in knowing you can’t.
If you can’t change the situation, change your attitude about it. Life is all about perspective. You can choose to drive yourself bananas over trying to control this person and their life, or you can choose to shift your perspective to one of acceptance. Living in the mindset of letting go will bring you far greater freedom.
You’ll feel much freer if you keep the focus on changing yourself. At the end of the day, you can’t change another person, so it’s helpful to keep the focus on yourself. Why are you trying to change them anyways? What is it that’s unsettled inside of you that’s making you try to get milk from the hardware store? There’s a lot of self-examination and growth that can happen on your part if you’re willing to take a look inside.
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