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Be Better: Lasting Change Starts Within Yourself

My mum once told me, “One of the most important things you can do is to work on yourself first.” In other words, in a healthy relationship, don’t spend all your energy trying to change the other person, because lasting change has to come from within. You can’t force someone to change, or even to want to change.

This has been some of the most impactful advice I’ve ever received.  I’ve applied it to several relationships, both romantic and platonic, and had cause to use it in my work, as well.

How Lasting Change Starts Within Yourself

While I’m fortunate to have full-time work and amazing colleagues, there are times when my day job leaves me feeling like a pile of limp rags on the floor: it’s tiring, physically and mentally, and the content I have to deal with can be horrific at times. I’ve learned to be gentle with myself on these days, but also focus on what I can do to improve things.

This meant getting better at my job, usually by regularly reviewing feedback and redoubling my efforts not to make the same mistake twice. I also endeavour to be as efficient as possible. This has made me a better colleague and a more valuable worker, and it’s also gifted me more opportunities to relax and pursue my passion projects.

Mum’s advice to work on myself first has proven most beneficial when it comes to my interactions with the people I care about. We all have those people in our lives who we love but have a difficult time getting along with, for whatever reason.

The more I’ve made this advice a part of my everyday life, the more I’ve realized it’s futile to grumble and wish these people would change: all I can do is concentrate on how I react to them and how I act, in turn. 

I know I’m not perfect. I know I’ve made mistakes in my interactions with them and not always acted out of kindness.

Realizing this about myself, and making the effort to be respectful of them, no matter how they act to me, has made a big impact. I would venture to say it’s changed those relationships for the better.

Speaking of relationships, this advice also made a huge impact on my love life. One thing I’ve discovered in my adult relationships (and this isn’t the case with my friends or family, just my partner) is that I don’t always fight fair. 

I pride myself on never having been a game player, but I have been known to be sarcastic and harsh in times of conflict, and to be tempted to lash out when I’ve been hurt so they can feel my pain. Not a promising building block for a healthy relationship, let alone a healthy life. 

Luckily, I realized this pattern after the breakdown of my first relationship (this wasn’t the reason for the breakup, but it didn’t make the aftermath any easier), and I made my best efforts to change the way I approached conflict and hurt feelings. 

Even in the best relationship in the world, misunderstandings will happen and feelings will get hurt. That’s a given. But I didn’t want to be the cause of any more unnecessary pain.

This advice has meant the world to me because I am continually striving to be a little better than I was yesterday, to lessen the negative impact I have on those around me and increase the positive impact, instead. It’s a little selfish, too, because the more I do this, the less drama and angst there is in my life: good fodder for a writer, bad for my health. 

I feel good, most days, about my work; I react more proactively to people who rub me the wrong way; and I have a loving partner who continually inspires me to be the best ‘me’ I can be. Of course, we can always make more progress, but working on myself first has already proved to be life-changing advice.

What life-changing advice have you received? Share with us below!

About the Author

Victoria Fry

Victoria is a writing coach who's a creative catalyst for burnt-out writers, helping them tell the stories jostling for room in their heart and mind. She also writes, devours books, loves to dance, and takes part in a weekly Star Wars tabletop game.