“You cannot change others, only yourself.” This self help dictum is so widely accepted, to challenge its validity, feels tantamount to heresy. Well, this won’t be the first time I’m called one of those.
Of course you can change other people.
Ask anyone who has ever been abused or bullied if they really believe that you cannot change other people and be changed by them.
At 40 years old I can still list names of the kids who “reminded” me everyday in school that I was fat and poor. I can also list the names of people in my late teens and early twenties who individually helped heal those wounds. They each changed me.
Each time my wife looks at me and touches my shame filled body, she changes me-the way I see myself, the way I feel about myself. Each time my boys smile at me and wrestle with me they change my identity, very gradually, from seeing myself as “fatherless”, to seeing myself as “father.” Of course I play a significant role in this, but so do they. And that unhelpful self-help cliche overemphasizes one to the detriment of the other.
Of course we can change other people.
The impetus of this saying is to redirect the focus of those who need others to change. When we need others to change or need to be the one who changes others we are not being motivated by the good of the other but by our ego. It is normal to appreciate the influence you have in the lives of others.
How do I influence others?
How do others influence me?