Stop Believing That People Don’t Change

Dayne Topkin
Dayne Topkin

There’s a common misconception that people don’t change. That the way someone has treated you is an indicator of his or her character, now and forever more.

That simply isn’t true. People are not frozen in time. People are always reinventing themselves. All people do is change. It’s the only constant.

If you’re hard pressed to believe these statements, consider your own journey to become the person you are. Are you the same person you were a year ago? You may have some of the same tendencies, but you mostly aren’t. Are you the same person you were five years ago? Absolutely not. You’re hardly even the same person you were a week ago, given the conversations and events you’ve been part of since.

We tend to look at evolution on a linear timeline starting tens of thousands of years ago, since which we’ve progressed from stardust to microbes to apes to humans. But what about the evolution of ourselves? What about the timeline of our lives?

We’ve all lived through summers and winters, had exposure to the joy of light and the sorrow of darkness. We’ve treated others well and not-so-well, and we’ve also done a fucked-up thing or two. But we don’t consider ourselves to be good or bad people based on those isolated instances. We see ourselves in the light by which we operate on a day-to-day basis, knowing that the sum of the parts is greater than any single moment, regardless of how heavy it felt as we experienced it.

We all just want to be happy, and as we look back at our pasts from a future time, we can examine what we did that felt good, and what we did that made us miserable. By applying those lessons to our lives, given the heightened perspective we’ve earned by simply living through it all, we grow. We make better decisions. We evolve. We change.

And we need to learn to extend to others the empathy we have for ourselves. We must remember that they too have walked paths parallel to ours.

Sometimes, it takes a little while for us to grow beyond a particular habit or behavior or mental state. Our brains are wired for conditioning— developing and recognizing patterns from memory— because patterns create the illusion of safety. Our ancestors knew that if they were able to raise crops on a certain valley during one growing season, that valley (or one like it) would probably produce crops the following year, too. In school, we repeated and memorized formulas that would allow us to get certain, correct results on a test.

To an extent, patterns are useful because they can provide certain things we need. Patterns are great for sowing seasons and math equations. They are harmful, however, when we ignore their basic function as indicators of probable results and start applying them to our relationships with other people.

People don’t adhere to probable results. We are all much too vast and intelligent for that. We may do the same things we’ve always done because we’re comfortable or subconsciously fearful of the unknown, but patterns only continue until we make a choice to change them. After that, we become different. We’re evolved beyond the past. By changing our patterns, we are fundamentally changed, too.

Just as you would hope that someone from your past would look past your mistakes to see you as the living, breathing, feeling human who embodies all of your experiences, others hope the same of you.

Do not be angry or feel resentment toward anyone. The unfortunate way someone has treated you has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with their own growth. The moment you replay over in your mind, the feeling of the weight of the world on your shoulders because of its occurrence, was nothing more than a moment from which the person who hurt you could change. It was a pattern for him to break. It was a lesson for her to learn. And you were the only one strong enough to act as a mirror for that person. In living through it, you changed for the better, too.

You have the choice to move forward. You have the choice to show love both to those whom you have not met and to those who you’ve already met and who’ve hurt you. You can be at peace. You don’t have to let your experiences of mistreatment influence what you see in yourself or others. Let it all go— it feels better, anyhow. And never see in someone else that which you would not want to see in yourself.

In seeing the best in others, we see the best in ourselves.

Apologies can be genuine. People can change for the better. Don’t always expect the worst. The worst is never a probable result. TC mark

Ashlee Schultz

Ashlee Schultz believes in the power of a positive mindset. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

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