Don’t Try to Change Into Someone Else


I’ve been involved in the personal development world for several years, since I was in college. I believe that there’s a lot of good material – in blogs, in books, taught by coaches and trainers – which can help you to enjoy life more and to achieve your goals.

But what I’ve come to believe is that, on some deep level, we are who we are. However much you might envy Richard Branson or Steve Jobs or Oprah Winfrey or whoever your particular hero is, you are you.

Perhaps you’re reading this because you’re curious. Perhaps you want more from your life. Perhaps there’s something you’re desperately keen to change – your weight, your fitness, your financial status, your job, your happiness.

Hold up a second. Do you really want to make those changes … or are you trying to become someone you’re not?

You Are Unique

First off, you are unique. There is no-one in the world quite like you. Your personality, your interests, your skills and talents, your memories, your background – all of those combine to make one very special person. You.

It might not always seem that way. Perhaps you think you’ve got nothing in particular to offer the world. Maybe you don’t feel unique, you feel anonymous.

The truth, though, is that you do have an incredible amount of potential. If you feel as though you’re not getting anywhere in life, perhaps you’re trying to make the wrong changes.

Is it Right for You?

I’ve come across all sorts of systems and tools and tricks and hacks in the personal development field. The truth is, most of these aren’t my thing. I use a simple to-do list split into four sections, which helps me keep on top of the major areas of my life.

It’s not a system I picked up from a book. It might look totally different from how other people manage their week. But it’s right for me.

Similarly, after losing some weight a few years ago, I decided that what’s right for me is to have plenty of energy to enjoy my life. I don’t want to eat a raw food diet. I don’t want to spend hours in the gym. I don’t want to cut out sugar. I’ve got no ambitions whatsoever to be a magazine cover model or a fitness poster girl. Sure, there are lots of people who are fitter than me. But my personal mission in life isn’t to run a marathon.

If you feel pressured into making change, ask yourself whether it’s right for you. There’s no rule which says we all have to strive for the same things. Perhaps money doesn’t matter to you, but your fitness and strength is hugely important.

And bear in mind that what’s right for you changes over time. Maybe you’re not interested in having a significant other right now, but you’re pouring your time into your hobbies and passions. Don’t let other people push you towards what they think is right … you’ve got the whole of your life to try out other directions.

Build on What Works

So how do you change, if you’re not being led by others?

You build on what’s already working. Rather than seeing your life as something broken which a guru needs to come and fix (the “I Can Make You Thin” and “I Will Make You Rich” school of thinking), start seeing the potential which you already have.

Look at your skills and talents. Look at the things which you love to do. Start to do more of that, instead of trying to shoehorn yourself into someone else’s box; it won’t be the right shape for you.

Sure, part of personal development is trying out different things: how else would you find something new to enjoy? But there’s no need to construct some checklist of attributes which you feel you should have. You don’t need to be an early riser. You don’t need to hit the gym every day (or at all). You don’t need to write a book. You don’t need to live a carbon-free lifestyle. You don’t need to cut out caffeine. You don’t need to be a millionaire.

Sure, there are plenty of folks who are passionate about each of those things – and you can definitely be inspired by them. But don’t try to become them. Let them be their own unique people … and concentrate on being yourself.

Photo by helgasms!

23 thoughts on “Don’t Try to Change Into Someone Else”

  1. Ali,

    Thank you for this article. I found it whimsically simple yet profound. (I wish you much success in your creative writing degree.)

    I appreciated your words: “There’s no rule which says we all have to strive for the same things.” There is something in human beings which draw us to the “how-to’s” and “easy-steps-to” life. The temptation is to emulate another person’s life and in turn, miss the life we’ve been given.

    For instance, I knew I was overweight and eventually decided to engage in a life-style change. Diets had not worked for me and my knees were in rough shape. Rather than following someone else’s plan for my life, I took the principles from the professionals and adapted them to my life. I still enjoy food. I am motivated to do the type of exercise that suits my body type. And most of all, I’m healthy and enjoy the results. When people ask, “What did you do to lose weight? Whose plan are you following?” I’m tempted to say, “I’m just taking care of myself better.” Come to think of it, that is my response. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks, Mark! And thanks for sharing your weight-loss success … there’s never going to be a magic plan (much as people want there to be!) — just the motivation to start making changes, and the wisdom to try out different things until you find what you actually enjoy.

  2. Very simple, yet powerful ideas.

    I’d like to see what you’re to-do list is like and how you set it up for the day – just out of curiosity as I’ve been writing down my daily tasks as of late.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you asked: “Do you really want to make those changes … or are you trying to become someone you’re not?”

    I’ve found that I struggle most when I’m doing something I “think” I want but don’t fully resonate with. I then look back at how I was spinning my wheels. Once I drop whatever it is I was doing and start doing something I actually want to do, life is much more enjoyable. Things become so much more clear.

    I, too, with you luck with your post-grad studies.

      1. Thanks, JC!

        I basically split the to-do list into four quadrants:

        Top left: “Aliventures / Novel” (these are my two big projects) — I try to spend my best time (mornings usually) on these

        Top right: “Everyday tasks” (emails, etc) — this section I’m actually thinking of changing slightly

        Bottom left: “Paid work” (mostly my freelance blogging) — again, these get the “good” time of day

        Bottom right: “Household/admin” — little tasks, the sorts of things I can do when my brain power is low!

        Since I started doing this six months or so ago, a few things have changed (some new projects, some different work habits, etc) so I’m probably going to rejig the categories again. The key thing for me is that it keeps my projects in focus and it reminds me to work on the important stuff (left hand side) when I’m at my best.

  3. You know, this is so true. We look around and can feel guilty so because we’re not going to the gym or eating vegan or like watching TV, reading fiction books, etc. All those things that we should be doing but aren’t. Why? Because they’re not true for us. And, that’s perfectly okay.

    I’m a firm believer that everyone is where they are supposed to be in life and are totally fine – they do not need to be improved. But, if you do want to make tweaks to your life and develop other ways and skills, then personal development can provide you with the necessary knowledge to do so.

    What works for many, many people may not work for you. Because we are all unique. You have to be happy with who you are today.

    1. Karen would you mind expanding on the following statement?

      I’m a firm believer that everyone is where they are supposed to be in life and are totally fine – they do not need to be improved.

  4. Hi Ali.

    I sure won’t change into someone else. I have a lot of folks that support me as me and know me as me and I have no plans to alter that. It is easy to temporarily change or want to change for others but that is worthless. If you like being talkative, adapting to a quiet demeanor isn’t the way to go.

    Good call about not making some list of attributes we need to have. I know some do this, but it hurts our own self-esteem to do something like this.

  5. God created each of us to different from one another. Each of us, by our uniqueness and special gifts, are destined to give to the world our unique contribution to it.

    Imagine what a waste of resources if there is at least one duplication in this world. They will be contributing the SAME thing. Why not something different. Similar they may be, but not the same, Something that will complement or supplement what others have given.

    And is it not degrading to our importance if we are just a copycat of another?

    Discover your unique gifts and share it with the world. I think that should be the first order of the day. Discover our uniqueness first, and share it with the world next.

  6. The uniqueness of each person is one of the main foundations of the self confidence advice i give to people its extremely important that every person gets this point, very nice post Ali, As usual :)

  7. I love this post. I used to have HUGE issues around my weight and appearance, despite the fact I have never been overweight and at times was ridiculously skinny.
    It was only relatively recently that something clicked and I couldn’t work out exactly why I was so determined to be all skin and bone? This was something of a turning point, I completely changed my approach and have never looked back!
    I think the word ‘should’ should be banned!
    Many thanks,

    1. Thanks Kate. I’ve struggled quite a bit with body image too. I *was* overweight as a teen, and got bullied a bit … I’m a healthy weight now but I often feel like I “should” be skinny or “should” have some perfect figure. And then I realise that in the grand scheme of things, whether I’m 10lbs lighter or heavier isn’t going to have any impact on the world whatsoever ;-)

  8. The message of “unique” is essential. Farouk’s highlight as “extremely important” is so easy to miss because of the pace of life, excuses, wounds that we receive from other people, etc. They are obstacles to embracing who we really are…the gift of, as you say Ali, “being yourself.”

  9. Ali: So well put. Sometimes the answers we are looking for and the direction we need are things we can only give to ourselves. It is easy to fall into the trap that you have to make major changes about who you are if you really want to grow and evolve, but I really like what you said about building on what you already have going for you. Enhance and expand what is working. Great post.

  10. this is one of humanity’s greatest problems…we are always trying to become something…becoming is always in the future…hence our conflict…by always looking to what we want in the future..we never look at what we are in the present…if you could see something as it “is” and not what it “should be” you could bypass a lot of struggle and effort to change…society fills us with beliefs with what we should be..but if you ever take a good look at beliefs…you will see they where never yours…they are just band aids for something you don’t know…they cause you to have contradicting personalities,,,you need to develop trust in can’t be given to you by society…trust comes from your own experiences…you need to become integrated and whole so you can take action on things you really want to pursue and not just an idea from a false personality….

  11. Ain’t that right Ali! We are so scared to understand and accept ourselves we become busy bodies expecting everyone else to change. To focus on knowing who we are and letting that shine means we can get on with our life and let everyone else do the same. Love the angle to this post.

  12. I deal with home organization and not being able to change someone else is very true. They have to want it themselves and be ready to do something about it. So many people just get bogged down in “the way it’s always been”.

    Thanks for the post!

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