Won’t I lose who I am if I change?

I just spoke with a friend who lives in my house. She moved to the US from India a while back.

Because of that, she pronounces some words differently, so that sometimes people don’t understand her.

Here’s where we come to one of these interesting “peeks under the hood” of people’s inner workings.

She’s 1) SUPER motivated to be understood and to be successful in the US. But 2) Not very interested in changing her pronunciation.

I got flustered. To me, those two views don’t go together. So, I poked around until she said:

“But if I start changing my accent, won’t I lose who I am?”

BAM! How could I forget? This is one of the biggest objections our readers have before they decide to take the leap.

So, I told her what I tell our participants:

We change all the time. You speak in one way with grandma and another way with your friends. This doesn’t make you fake, quite the opposite: One of the things that make us human is our ability to adapt and improve. It’s not shallow, it’s beautiful.

I told her about the two things that we DON’T want to change: Our beliefs and our values. (Even they change over the years, but we shouldn’t change them to fit in).

Then there are manners – like how we act, energy level, accent, topics we talk aboutAs long as they don’t go against our beliefs and values, we can adapt them to any situation we’re in.

What she did after I told her this surprised even me. She started practicing my pronunciation and asked me to critique it. (Yeah yeah I know, my pronunciation is also a work in progress). It was like she had always been motivated to improve, and now that the final objection was out of the way, nothing held her back.

Changing how you act won’t make you lose who you are. As long as you act in accordance with your values and beliefs, you will always be you. It’s a powerful realization, but sometimes I forget HOW powerful it is.

Read more: How to be yourself in social settings.

Have you ever kept from self-improvement because you’ve been afraid to lose who you are?

Let me know in the comments!

David Morin is the founder of SocialSelf. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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  1. For the longest time I thought I simple didn’t like socializing… going to parties, meeting people I simply thought that wasn’t me. So I didn’t try to fight it or change anything about it. But it was always in the back of my mind and I couldn’t quite let it go. Especially when I saw all the fun other people were having that I thought I was uncapable of.

    So I started to question wheather I was avoiding social situations because I didn’t like them… or maybe I just wasn’t confident enough. I realized it was the latter… Going to university was the final drop that made the cup spill so to speak. I couldn’t live like this anymore, I need to do something. And now here I am about a nonth in to my self development and already seing improvement. Without changing who I am!

  2. i have a twin sister and i grew up with her. we went to the same first, middle and high scool and we were always together. because of that, all of our friends are common. she was the extravert, and i was always the introvert. she was the one to make friends with people and to socialize, i was just being a follower. now that we’ve been seperated because of college, i feel insecure. i feel like i can’t make friends if i am alone. when i meet a friend of ours alone, i always get the feeling that im not enough or im so boring or i lack something because im not like my sister. in a group where there’s her, me and other friends, they all get interested in her and they kinda ignore and underestimats me. so i really wanna get over this and be more confident to make friends and socialize. i wanna feel that im enough as a single person and im capable of making good conversations. i just want help and thank you for your email service that makes me better in socialization.

  3. I am afraid that if I let people see the real me that they will disaprove and I will be letting them down; because it is not what they expect of me.

  4. Fear is the one thing I have dealt with for a while and for good, solid reasons that are better left in a therapist chair. However, I want to live my life and it’s encouraging to have this forum to see that I am not alone in my struggle(s). Letting go of control and fear, a daily struggle but I am encouraged to move forward and LIVE this life to the fullest, one positive moment each day.

  5. Being close to God and the Psalms helps me be who I am…without needing to constantly prove myself/strain needlessly, feeling like I have to do it all on my own….while still being human, & being able to love. There’s something more personal via looking at Luke 9:16-36 (King James Version), plus Psalm 121, Psalm 148, in a hard-copy (book version) of the Bible that can be held & touched, rather than online.

    • Love this response because we are spiritual beings, we need to also listen to the spiritual aspect of our life. In addition no matter what we do or no matter how we change we’ll not be able to please everyone and we might end up feeling unhappy with ourselves. So the greatest thing is to be happy with who we are first, at the end of the day you’ll have to live with yourself.

  6. To be honest I have been hesitant to improve for fear it would cause me to lose the ones I love. It can happen. It has happened to me many times over. That’s part of the journey though. It’s better to Just grow. And improve the ones who are supposed to be there will support you. The others may just change your relationship with them. Still grow and improve.

  7. ive changed into the women Ive always wanted to become. But I miss my old self. The beeswing. And so do the guys. I dont pull anymore ! Only hang round with women and the men run a mile. Im sad because of it.

  8. hey wow that email really inspired me. I’ve been thinking about that actually for the past 2 years in a new college while taking my A levels and finding new friends in Singapore. Thanks for the message really appreciate it :). May God bless you and I hope you have a blessed day ahead :)!!

  9. well, I try to change things to get myself being respectful with others. But when I tried a high change in my character, I relized (from your email) that I lost myself between naturality and the stone-heart person (not a lot). I thought if I change I be better. but from your words I rechanged my idea. the only thing I want is to be brave, dare to do good, respect others, be trustful with people! now you deserve my respect because you helped me a lot Mr. David! really grateful!
    best regards

  10. Well, i am afraid of change too! I try to shuffle my cool guy, reserved, self conscious school guy to my ‘i dont care about how i look and dress’ guy at work.
    Its been difficult but now i dont need to, thanks to David. I am not two faced and hypocritical just two different sides of me.

    Thanks David Morin, Viktor Sander, Patricia hmm..i dunno.


  11. I have not ever felt fear of changing. I do however, fear being rejected or being misunderstood by others. I do work to expand my comfort level to go out and meet new people which can be a very scary thing to do sometimes.

  12. I want to improve certain things about myself, not necessarily change who I am. Sometimes I feel like I’m capable of doing great things, but I just don’t have the confidence to show any of it. When I speak to strangers or even people I know, I constantly feel the need to prove something, I want to show them by my behavior that I’m not some scared little girl, I have confidence but quite often I end up doing the opposite. I put so much pressure on myself that I get nervous, my mind goes blank and then I say things I wish I said differently later on. I hope I can face my fears and become confident someday, easier said than done in my case.

    • >Sometimes I feel like I’m capable of doing great things, but I just don’t have the confidence to show any of it.

      >I put so much pressure on myself that I get nervous, my mind goes blank and then I say things I wish I said differently later on.

      These two parts stuck out for me, because I’ve felt both these things before. It can be frustrating when you have the will to change, but are held back by nervousness.

      • I know how you feel because nevervousness makes it difficult for me to change. I have been struggling with this all my life and even today it is still a challenge at times.

  13. I feel like I do want to change myself so bad. I hear people laughing together, and overhear casual lighthearted conversations; I long to be like that or have a positive effect on people around me instead of negative. Instead of dry, tiring greetings that I seem to have to force out of people. I’m afraid I’ll be like this my whole life and won’t learn to make connections or at least have a base level understanding of coworkers acquaintances around me. I am afraid of changing who I am but sometimes I don’t even know who I am.. My mind is blank most times.

  14. This is very helpful. I should stop being afraid of changing my way of communicating while around certain people. I feel like I have been catagorized by some as silly or even an idiot due to nervousness and social awkwardness. I have decided to create a more serious and relaxed persona around those folks who have judged me as such.

  15. Good point david about changing to be like someone else. I’m guilty of that and now realise that I should just be myself.
    I am going to practice this and see you I am interacting and my real self.

  16. I have often kept myself from self improvement.Not because of fear of changing who I am, but because I am usually afraid of what people would think or say..I have grown up constantly hearing people say that I am a very shy girl. As a result, when I get interested in some things and even though I may be totally convinced that am capable of doing it,I kind of hold back.. For example, I have always been interested in poetry but never tried it out for the very reason. I also liked debating during my junior and Senior secondary school but I would never volunteer to participate.. one time while my class was preparing for a debate against another class,I decided to help a participant by demonstrating how she could have delivered her points.. I did it so well that the class unanimously decided to have me on their panel despite my reservations.well,I did debate and guess what? I actually turned out to be the overall best speaker of the session.. now I try to dare to do the things I think and believe am able to do..but I still find it much easier to do the things that people recommend I actually am good at even though I am unsure of it… it’s as though I am always waiting for approval before embarking on anything.

  17. Have you ever kept yourself from improving or changing because you were afraid of losing who you are?
    Not really, i’m 16 years old and a couple of years back i felt like this and was very depressed and i found out that i didn’t have to care about what others thought about what i liked because not everyone is the same,and no one had to be the same. so even though i change my likings often (because i’m a teen and i’m also human) i know who i am

  18. I feel exactly the same way as Olivia, my words come out jumbled. I noticed I speak backwards, the end of my sentences should be in the beginning and vice versa. People either cut me off in mid sentence, walk away, or start talking to someone else. I focus so hard on what I’m going to say that it comes out a mess. I start thinking of what I’m going to say before the person is finished, so I miss half or sometimes all of what they said. Making this extremely difficult to continue the conversation and to pass the story on. I have been told I’m boring.

  19. Sometimes when I’m having a conversation I feel like I don’t have the right words to explain things so It feels like my brain just shuts down and then I feel like the person is going to get angry or bored with me
    Also whenever I’m talking to someone and I’m not excited I feel like it shows in my facial expression and I feel like it’s just putting off the conversation

  20. When I interact with people, after a couple of minutes, I tend to talk to them in their own style of talking. This looks to some people that I copy others, and they point it out to me that I am a copy cat with no originality and then I get affected by it and feel constricted. Then my interaction becomes robotic, awkward and draining and totally uninteresting. I have frequently wondered and doubted myself as unoriginal copycat without my own style.

  21. You are so right about people being like who they are around.
    But the older I get the less patience I have with things and

    I don’t like to be around two-faced people. And I have a
    friend that will read scriptures from the Bible then the
    next thing you know she is making a scene herself with
    someone and it usually isn’t none of her business whatever
    it is. And it is more embarrassing to be with her doing that.
    She doesn’t see that she is doing anything wrong. So I don’t
    plan on being at places where I am conforted with that situation
    with her.

    The people that I work with are all two-faced. I have
    got to the point that I really have nothing to say to them
    except “good morning” There are some people in my life I
    care about and that I know care about me. So I am good
    with just seeing them. And they aren’t even family to me.

    Relationship of any kind are hard and sometimes not pleasant.

  22. I fear being left out of eye contact and the conversation. I also fear being isolated at social events. I feel that people like me but are afraid or just choose not to talk with me that much

  23. That’s exactly what’s been holding me back from being 100% who I want to be ! – The fear of coming across fake. Thank you for sharing this with us! Because that’s exactly what I needed to hear – that as long as it matches up with my beliefs and values, it’s not being fake. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  24. Interesting insight. The observation that we as humans are adaptive by nature is worth remembering.
    In my experience it was less of me being afraid of losing who I am, and more afraid that people who knew and expected the old me would scoff at my trying to be different. Same result: sabotaged self-improvement and esteem. I’d feel like an impostor for changing something like my accent. “Oh, you’re too good to be one of us now, huh?” is the sentiment I’d have to face. Though I’m probably not being fair to these people (family members, mostly), because they never said this out loud. It was more an underlying fear that held me back for years.
    Thanks for all the work you do!

  25. Yes! This is so recognizable!

    I get why people resist to changing themselves – it’s scary. For me, it feels like I’m out of control of who I am.

    I had a date with a girl and I noticed I was behaving a little bit different. It was a positive change but I felt bad afterwards.

    It’s good to know the difference between being adaptable and losing your believes & values.

    Thanks for the tip! Just what I needed 🙂

    • Awesome Nigel! I hope it helps you to keep learning and growing as a person without having to change you truly are 🙂


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