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In my last post for this series I wrote about the feeling of helplessness. A lot of that period of time in my life is kind of a blur, but I do remember one of the next things I tried to do to make my life better, and unfortunately, how it failed horribly. At least there were lessons to be learned from the experience.
Since I was still really messed up and desperately trying to figure out how to fix my life all on my own, I just did whatever I thought might help. I was still feeling like a victim, like all this bad had been done to me and not by me, I decided that the best way to try to change my situation was to fix everyone around me. Helping others is a wonderful thing, but how you go about it makes all the difference in whether you’re actually doing good or just making things worse.
I thought that if I could fix what I saw wrong in others, then they’d be better to me and then I could get better without the constant distraction of other people’s issues. It wasn’t an all bad idea, because having better people in your life does make it easier to improve yourself. However, when you’re surrounded by really broken people, you’re likely to meet a lot of resistance and resentment.
I was living with my boyfriend, his brother and their parents, so they were the focus of my attempts to help. I tried to fix BK’s dysfunctional mother and his parents’ marriage. I tried to encourage his brother to be a better person and follow his dreams. BK was my biggest focus, and I spent a lot of time trying to get him to be a worthy man and get him off alcohol and drugs and away from all the losers we’d been calling friends. I even tried to help those so-called friends.
It didn’t work. No one wanted to listen to me. My desire to transform into a better person was met with disdain and dismissal. How dare I think that I was or could be better than them! How dare I accuse them of having issues! People had pretended to like me before, but at this point people were starting to openly hate me. I couldn’t understand it. I had discovered that we were all horribly broken and living the wrong way, how could they not want to come with me on this amazing journey to recovery?
It turns out that people get really attached to being broken. They don’t want to admit that they have issues; they want to think that they’re normal or even better than others. Shining a light on everything they’re doing wrong pisses them off. It’s actually a rare person who can hear that sort of thing and say “Man, I need to get my shit together and be better.” It’s also unfortunately true that if you make a sudden transformation in the company of people who have seen you be less, they’re not very likely to let go of who you were in favor of who you are becoming.
The lesson of all this is that when you decide to become a better person, you need to change yourself, not others. You need to focus on your own growth no matter what other people are doing. It’s hard and unpleasant, but you need to focus on just yourself, especially in the beginning. Changing other people isn’t going to make you better, it’s just going to waste your time. I wish I’d known that back then, I could have gotten in two more years of making myself better instead of being miserable that I couldn’t change anyone else.