From New Year's resolutions to starting college, many of us tell ourselves that when the times change, we will change as well. We will no longer be viewed as the jock or the nerd, and we will reinvent ourselves. Whether we strive to accomplish this through starting restrictive diets or changing our wardrobes, this reinvention almost always never works. We start off motivated to change and look as lean as Victoria's Secret models, but we slowly wean off of our goals and fall back into our old routines. I am not advocating for us to be complacent with ourselves and neglect our need for self-improvement, but I am advocating for us to stop setting unrealistic goals that seek to change who we are, and to start focusing on accepting and improving what we were given.
One of the world's cruelest feelings is jealousy, and wanting to reinvent ourselves many times springs from this feeling. We reinvent ourselves to become more successful, more beautiful, or more accepted by our peers, but true change and growth spawn from our inner wishes. Some of the greatest advice many of us are told is to never change for anyone else but ourselves because changing for others will never make us happy. While this advice does ring true, it is not the only reason we should stop ourselves from changing for others.
When we try to change for others, we are not nearly as motivated as when we change for ourselves. One study analyzing the relationships between extrinsic and intrinsic motivations found that extrinsic motivations actually undermine intrinsic motivations. This means that when we set a goal for ourselves because of our personal motivations, we are more inclined to stick to the goal than when we set goals based on the rewards from others. This directly relates because intrinsic self-growth causes us to strive for the best we can be, while extrinsic growth focuses on the validation from others. Intrinsic motivations are what cause us to work hard towards becoming the best at our passions, and this inner approval improves our overall well-being.
Changing for others is also always fickle. Different people in our lives come and go, but the one person we always have to live with is ourself. Whether or not we like this person shapes how we truly feel about ourselves and those around us. If we spend months trying to change for someone who ends up breaking our heart, we are left with a shell of what we used to be. If we change ourselves because we feel we want to improve in specific aspects of our lives, this change will more likely than not stick with us forever.
When we give the world a false glimpse into who we really are, we begin to lose sight of ourselves as well. Instead of trying to reinvent ourselves and become new people, we need to improve on and accept what we were given in order to truly be happy.