When Doing Something For Someone Else Changes You
“If I just do this, they will like me.” Have you ever found yourself thinking this? When we receive criticism or go through heartbreak, we think that if we change aspects about ourselves, it might change our situation. But the truth is that it doesn’t. Changing who we are for someone else isn’t going to make our situation or our lives any easier. In fact, it will lead to frustration because we are changing for the wrong reasons.
I was watching Legally Blonde the other day, and I was struck by Emmett’s response to Elle when she expresses she may drop out of law school. After an encounter with their professor where she realized she was only given the internship because of her appearance and she confronts that she only attended law school to win back her ex boyfriend, she tells Emmett she shouldn’t try to be someone she’s not. But Emmett asks, “what if you’re trying to be somebody you are"?” That deep line, in an otherwise frilly movie, resonated with me, and I thought: what if through the process of trying to be someone for someone else, you end up becoming who you are?
When I started my journey with faith, fitness, and mental health, I didn’t do it fully for myself. I did it because I hoped it would somehow change what I was going through. I wasn’t sure how, but I felt that if I could change myself, if I could just be better, then maybe things would turn out differently. But that isn’t how life works, and I was unhappy because I was making changes for all the wrong reasons and expecting good results.
But something funny happened. The more I kept trying to be this person, the more I realized I was being more authentic and more honest. I was becoming…me. I was confidently engaging with my church community. I was running and exercising because it felt good and I noticed it helped my anxiety and depressive symptoms. I continued to attend counseling because I knew I had things in my head and heart I had to deal with to be healthier.
And through the process, I changed. I am more confident. I know better ways to cope with my anxiety and depression, I have words to put to those feelings, and I can recognize when they onset. I am better at saying “no.” I know what my dreams are. I’ve been able to establish a routine that I like, but I also feel comfortable breaking it. I don’t feel the need to plan everything anymore, but I recognize that I do have to plan a little to limit my anxiety. I know more about balance.
I have no doubt that I had to go through that journey to get to this point. I have no doubt that God led me to these points because He knew that what I really needed was Him. So, in the end, I didn’t change myself, and I didn’t change for someone else. God was—and still is!—working in me. He changed me. And I realized who I am meant to be in my Father’s eyes.
We should never change who we are for someone else. That doesn’t lead us to our true self. But sometimes we need a push to find who we are, and hard seasons can be that. When we are faced with difficult circumstances, we seek reprieve, but if we turn to God first, He will guide us to who we are supposed to be. And we will be found in Him.
So if you’re in the midst of hard change right now, keep pushing forward. Keep crying out to God. He will lead you. He will make you someone you never thought you could be. Because the change He creates in us is the best change of all.