Mental Health
You Can't Change Others: Letting People Be

You Can't Change Others: Letting People Be

6 min read


Lauren Carlson

Human nature is wired to seek control and influence over our surroundings, including the people we interact with. Whether it's our friends, family, or even acquaintances, we may find ourselves yearning for them to align with our values, adopt our viewpoints, or behave according to our standards. However, this desire for change often leads to frustration, disappointment, and strained relationships.

The realization that we cannot change others can be a transformative and liberating experience. It invites us to shift our focus inward, redirecting our energy towards self-improvement and personal growth. It challenges us to embrace diversity, recognize the beauty of individuality, and foster a sense of empathy and understanding.

By understanding that we cannot change others, we open ourselves up to a world of personal growth and genuine connections. We learn to appreciate the unique qualities and perspectives that make each person special. Embracing this mindset allows us to cultivate healthier relationships, build stronger communities, and foster a more harmonious society.

Why is it important to accept and let people be as they are?

Accepting and letting people be as they are is crucial for fostering healthy relationships, promoting emotional well-being, embracing diversity, and encouraging personal growth. It is an empowering mindset that allows us to celebrate the beauty of individuality and cultivate a more accepting and harmonious world.

Respect for Individual Autonomy

Every individual has the right to live their life in a way that aligns with their own values, beliefs, and choices. By accepting and letting people be, we acknowledge and respect their autonomy, allowing them the freedom to express themselves authentically without judgment or pressure to conform.

Authentic Relationships

Genuine connections are built on acceptance and understanding. When we accept people as they are, we create an environment of trust and openness, encouraging others to be their true selves. This fosters deeper and more authentic relationships, where individuals can feel safe and valued for who they truly are.

Emotional Well-being

Attempting to change others can lead to frustration, disappointment, and stress. Recognizing that we cannot control or change someone else's fundamental nature helps us relinquish the burden of responsibility for their choices and actions. This allows us to focus on our own emotional well-being and invest our energy in personal growth rather than futile attempts at changing others.

Diversity and Perspective

Embracing the uniqueness of each individual enriches our lives by exposing us to diverse perspectives, experiences, and ideas. When we accept people as they are, we create space for diverse voices to be heard and respected, fostering a more inclusive and tolerant society.

Encouraging Self-Reflection

Accepting others as they are encourages us to reflect on our own biases, judgments, and expectations. It challenges us to examine our motives for wanting to change someone and consider if it is rooted in genuine concern or a desire for control. This self-reflection promotes personal growth, empathy, and a deeper understanding of ourselves and others.

Building Positive Influence

While we cannot change others, we can positively influence them through our own actions, words, and behaviors. When we model acceptance, compassion, and understanding, we inspire others to embrace those qualities as well. By letting people be, we create an environment where personal growth and change can occur organically, driven by internal motivation rather than external pressure.

How do our attempts to change others often lead to frustration and strained relationships?

Our attempts to change others can lead to frustration and strained relationships for several reasons:

Lack of Acceptance

When we try to change someone, we inherently communicate that we do not fully accept them as they are. This lack of acceptance can create a sense of invalidation and rejection, causing the other person to feel misunderstood and defensive. It hampers the development of a genuine connection and can strain the relationship.

Imposing Our Values and Expectations

Our attempts to change others are often driven by our own values, beliefs, and expectations. However, when we try to enforce our viewpoints onto someone else, it disregards their autonomy and individuality. This imposition can generate resistance, resentment, and conflict, creating a wedge between us and the other person.

Undermining Self-Confidence

Constantly pressuring someone to change implies that they are not good enough or inadequate as they are. This can erode their self-esteem and confidence, leading to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. It damages their sense of self-worth and can strain the trust and bond within the relationship.

Ignoring Personal Boundaries

Our attempts to change others may involve crossing their personal boundaries. When we push someone to change in ways they are not comfortable with or violate their boundaries, it can lead to a loss of trust and a breakdown of the relationship. Respecting personal boundaries is crucial for maintaining healthy and respectful interactions.

Frustration and Control Issues

Trying to change others stems from a desire for control over their thoughts, behaviors, or choices. However, people have their own agency and autonomy. When our efforts to control their growth or transformation fail, it can lead to frustration, as we realize that we cannot force someone to change against their will. This frustration can strain relationships and create a hostile dynamic.

Can we help others grow and change for the better?

While it is possible to support others in their personal growth and development, ultimately, individuals have the autonomy to choose their own path. We can offer guidance, provide resources, and be a source of inspiration, but true growth and change must come from within. People are more likely to embrace change when it aligns with their own motivations and desires. It's important to respect their agency and allow them the space to evolve at their own pace. Our role should be one of support, encouragement, and providing a nurturing environment rather than trying to forcefully change them against their will.

How can we influence someone positively without actively trying to change them?

While we cannot directly change others, we can play a role in supporting their growth and transformation. Here are a few ways we can positively influence others:

Lead by Example

Our actions and behaviors can serve as a powerful model for others. By embodying the qualities and values we wish to see in them, we inspire and motivate them to adopt similar traits. When they witness our personal growth and positive changes, it can spark their own desire for self-improvement.

Create a Supportive Environment

Providing a nurturing and non-judgmental space can encourage others to explore new ideas, perspectives, and behaviors. By offering emotional support, constructive feedback, and resources, we can help create an environment conducive to personal growth. Showing genuine interest in their aspirations and offering encouragement along the way can make a significant difference in their journey.

Practice Active Listening and Empathy

By genuinely listening to others, seeking to understand their perspectives, and empathizing with their experiences, we create a safe space for them to share their thoughts and feelings. This allows them to gain clarity, process their emotions, and potentially discover new insights about themselves. Our empathetic presence can be instrumental in helping them explore their own potential for growth.

Offer Guidance and Resources

Sharing knowledge, resources, and guidance can provide valuable support to those seeking personal growth. Whether recommending books, suggesting workshops, or connecting them with mentors or experts, we can help broaden their horizons and expose them to new ideas and opportunities. Offering guidance without imposing our own agenda allows them to make informed choices and take ownership of their growth process.

Encourage Self-Reflection and Goal Setting

By asking thought-provoking questions, encouraging self-reflection, and helping them set meaningful goals, we empower individuals to take charge of their personal development. Guiding them to identify their strengths, values, and aspirations can assist them in formulating a clear vision for their future and taking actionable steps toward positive change.

What can I do to overcome my own frustrations and expectations when it comes to wanting others to change?

Overcoming frustrations and expectations when it comes to wanting others to change requires self-reflection, empathy, and a shift in mindset. Here are some strategies to help you navigate this process:

Overcoming frustrations and expectations

It is important to take a step back and examine our motivations behind desiring change in others. Are our expectations rooted in genuine concern for their well-being or driven by a need for control and conformity? Engaging in self-reflection allows us to gain clarity on our intentions and helps us approach the situation with a more balanced perspective.

Shifting our focus towards personal growth 

By redirecting our energy towards our own development, we can shift the spotlight away from trying to change others. Focusing on our own journey allows us to channel our efforts into becoming the best version of ourselves and embracing personal growth. This shift not only empowers us but also sets a positive example for others, potentially inspiring them to embark on their own paths of self-improvement.

Letting go of the need for control

Recognizing that we cannot force others to change is crucial for maintaining healthy relationships. Accepting the reality that each individual has their own autonomy and the right to make their own choices allows us to relinquish control and cultivate a sense of respect for their agency. This shift in mindset frees us from the frustrations that arise from attempting to exert control over someone else's journey.

Effective communication is key

When expressing concerns about someone's behavior or choices, it is important to approach the conversation with respect, empathy, and understanding. By sharing our perspectives and concerns in a considerate manner, we create an environment that encourages open dialogue. However, it is equally important to recognize and respect their autonomy in making their own decisions. Ultimately, the choice to change lies with the individual, and it is essential to honor their agency throughout the process.

Seeking guidance from trusted individuals or professionals 

Seeking help from professionals or trusted friends/family can provide valuable support during this process. They can offer additional perspective, insights, and tools to navigate through frustrations and expectations effectively. This outside support can contribute to personal growth and provide guidance on maintaining healthy boundaries while fostering acceptance.

Quick Recap

Letting go of the desire to change others is a transformative journey that leads to personal growth, healthier relationships, and inner peace. Recognizing that we cannot control or force change upon others allows us to shift our focus inward, embracing self-reflection, empathy, and personal development. By understanding the motivations behind our expectations and practicing acceptance, we create a space for genuine connections and open communication. Through empathy and understanding, we can foster relationships that honor individual autonomy and unique perspectives. By redirecting our energy towards our own growth and letting go of the need for control, we free ourselves from frustrations and allow others the freedom to be themselves. This mindset shift opens the door to authentic connections and nurtures a more harmonious and compassionate world. It’s time to embrace the beauty of diversity and honor the individuality of each person we encounter.

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About the author

Lauren is a member of the content team at MyWellbeing. She originally began her career in Client Services within the field of Advertising Technology. Recently, she transitioned career paths to pursue her passion for helping others. In December 2022, Lauren graduated with a Master’s degree in School Counseling and is primarily focused on working with middle school and high school students.

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