If you’ve ever mulled over the question of whether people can change in any significant way, you’ve likely landed somewhere on the yes-no spectrum based on what you’ve experienced in your life and relationships. The unique blend of your personal history will inform your conclusion. I’ve always felt that people are capable of change but generally unwilling or unequipped to do so.
“None of us really changes over time. We only become more fully what we are.” — Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat
I saw this quote on another blog, and it has stuck with me for the better part of a week. While I don’t think what Rice is expressing here is particularly revelatory or original, it’s been hanging around the edges of my awareness, so I thought it deserved a little exploration.
When I try to think of examples of people I know who have undergone significant change, I end up with a list of folks who experienced trauma, had unresolved emotional issues, or dealt with sickness/chronic pain. When the trauma was addressed, when the emotional wounds were treated and the scars began to fade, or when the illness subsided, those people appeared to exhibit signs of change. But were they changing into something else or were they merely stepping into themselves, unhindered by the pain?
I equate becoming “more fully what we are” with the concept of authenticity, which is at once the most simple and most complicated state to achieve. Authenticity is both encouraged (Just be yourself!) and warned against (You should never say that on a first date, even if it’s true). It is what we long for in others yet so often fail to walk out in our daily interactions. I mean, how do we even know if someone else is being “real”? What does it mean for someone to tell me that they love how authentic I am when they barely know me? Saying what’s on your mind isn’t the sum total of living authentically.
I think that for someone to exhibit authenticity, they must abandon:
- Managing others’ impression of them (image management)
- Depending upon external validation
In other words, when you quit giving a fuck what other people think of you, not out of some anti-social I-don’t-have-to-change mentality, but BECAUSE you feel assured that you are enough and your personal growth springs from a place of wanting to do it for your own well-being, you’re probably living in a place of authenticity.
I still vividly remember the moment when, several months into our separation, I stood up to My Ex, asserted myself unapologetically — he looked at me and said, “You’re so different now.” Hell yes I am, I thought in the moment. But in hindsight, I hadn’t changed. I had merely shaken off a false identity that had elevated another person’s sense of well-being over my own emotional health. In rejecting the mantle of self-abnegation, I appeared to change. But appearances are misleading. I was just becoming more fully who I am. My choices that led to authenticity, painful as they felt at the time, never comprise my regrets.
What are some ways that you have become more fully what you are? Did it look like change? Did anyone notice?