Ultimately, any and all change has to be the result of wanting to change yourself. If you’re adjusting and altering your behaviors, feelings, and relationships to fit the needs and wants of someone else, it might look the same, but it will never bear the same weight and change that comes from a true desire to evolve for your own reasons.
That said, we all do it. We all pick out little parts of other people that we wish fit better with how we work and what we want from another person. And as quickly as we promise unconditional love, we feel the urge to try and change people. Rarely is this a good idea – usually it leads to the other person feeling bad about themselves and then resentful of you for making them feel that way, and then you feel bad about that, and then the whole thing turns into a snowball of gross feelings, insecurities, and dissatisfaction. So maybe never actively, directly try to change another person – but especially not on the following 7 issues.
How they feel
Probably the most common mistake we all (yes, all) make sometimes is trying to tell someone else how they should feel about something. It could be something we said/did to them, or something that happened to them that has nothing to do with us, but to which we think they are having a reaction that isn’t the most logical or constructive. Like, you might be right. They might be completely misreading a situation, or overreacting. But – say it with me – you cannot tell someone else how to feel. Usually it will only make them dig in deeper as they become defensive of their position. What you can do is clarify what you mean, or talk about how you view the issue, or discuss your feelings and intentions. In other words, stay on your side of the conversation. The other person will feel respected as opposed to belittled, and you’ll have a much stronger chance of bringing them around to how you want them to feel anyway.
Their issues with their family
Relationships between people who are related are always the most intense and least reasonable, largely because they were formed and defined for the first time when we were young and unreasonable. Someone’s relationship with their parents or siblings is messy with the complexities of history, experiences had while still young and vulnerable, biological ties and a powerful psychological influence. No matter how ridiculous you think someone’s feelings about their family are, the best thing you can do is listen and always be on their side. Don’t try to get involved in that shit. And, I mean, let’s be honest: you’re probably just as weird about your family sometimes too.
Their bad habits
The difference between habits and all other behaviors is the way they are ritualistically woven into our lives. The fact that something like smoking or nail biting is such a part of how a person gets through their day makes it a much more challenging thing to alter. It’s not that these things can’t change – but if they are going to, that has to come from within the person with the habit, not an outside person who doesn’t like it. And when it comes to the really #dark habits and addictions, like booze and drugs, this is doubly true. No one is going to truly stop using something that hurts them until they want to. Keeping yourself in close enough proximity to their self-destruction means you’re liable to being hurt as well – decide how much you can take, let them know they are loved, but never keep someone in your life with the idea that you will “fix” them. That is just not how that shit works.
Whether it’s how much someone weighs, how they style their hair, what tattoos they have, or how big or small certain parts of them are, there is no healthy outcome to imposing your dissatisfaction onto someone else’s physical being. There’s a line between “supporting someone as they strive to be the best version of themselves possible while letting them know that you adore them no matter what” and “shaming someone or withholding approval to try and make them turn themselves into what you want them to be”. Know that line. And know where your behavior falls along it.
That terrible TV show/band they love
Just accept it. We are not defined by our guilty pleasures, nor will we be separated from them.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with being uncomfortable about parts of a person’s past, but it’s never a good idea to hold it against them. It’s easy to see whether someone has used their past experiences as fuel for personal growth and learning, or if their history is part of a still-repeating cycle of dysfunctional behavior. Are they still making the same mistakes? Are they stuck in their past? Those are legitimate issues, but even still, they only are because they directly affect the present. If it’s simply a matter of things or people from their history that aren’t manifesting in a current, negative way, then there’s no good to come from obsessing or fixating on it. It’s already done. You literally cannot change it.
Usually when we have a problem with someone else’s priorities, it’s because we really want their priorities to match ours, or to give us more weight and importance in their life. But since it feels kinda shitty and self-involved to say that, or even consciously acknowledge it, often how it ends up expressed is as (supposedly) objective judgment; we tell them that their priorities are “wrong”, as opposed to saying what we really want. Either way, it’s not a thing that you can change as an outsider. What you can do is talk about how you feel as a result of how they structure and prioritize the parts of their life. People who care about you are far more likely to change out of concern for your feelings than the are as a response to your orders. It’s about owning your feelings, not placing blame, and keeping them in the driver’s seat of their own lives. The power to change always rests with each person, no matter what your relationship to them is.