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. I have recently shifted from a well-known metropolitan city to a suburb. And this place is entirely different from where I came from as if I shifted to another country!
    People are just different and obviously, I am having a problem fitting in. But I don’t even want to fit in. I am trying to not leave my roots and where I am from. It’s not that the people here are rude or I don’t like them but I just don’t know I don’t want to it’s against my will.

  2. No specific comment to this piece but I find your emails and your material very helpful. I really appreciate the relating of your experiences they are great learnings.

  3. Honestly, I never liked who I am and always wanted to change a lot, especially with some people who, as I thought, I was annoying, being too active, spoke too much or just behaved goofy with.

  4. Hello
    Thank you so much for helping and supporting
    it’s awesome

    I guess I have social anxiety, I can’t present or express my feeling always have a nervous in public or crowd or even interview
    I’m not a talkative person and always my reaction is wrong. I blame myself a lot for it, but my thoughts about myself are that I am better than this and deserve to be a better person

  5. I struggle with not liking who I become when around certain people. It seems certain people make me feel awkward, self-conscious and uncomfortable. They bring out a side of me I don’t like. Then when I’m with other people I feel completely different. It’s something I’ve dealt with all my life. Not sure how to handle those situations. It’s exhausting.

  6. I was at a small lunch yesterday and felt awkward. The other women had lots to say. I felt like there was never a break in the convo for me to add something. I guess baby steps are the way.

  7. I have “mirrored” social cues and others for as long as I remember . I can remember as long ago as Kindergarten watching and dressing and acting as those that I admired . OR worse those that I thought were cool .
    However I cannot remember ever feeling anyone connected WITH ME .
    Sometimes looking back I can see how poorly I actually fit in . I have not found many explanations for reasons why i have not been included or invited to things .
    Being on the outside analyzing all the time is exhausting . I find it is better to just go it alone .

  8. For a long time, I felt unworthy, since I stunk at being social, struggled with sensitivity with caring too much about what others might think of me. Like when someone gave me their phone number to keep in touch, I thought I “didn’t deserve it” and never called them. That is an example. I had no idea how to change myself for a long time, but better late than never!

  9. I always wait for your mail. You are the best personality in the field of social improvement. I wanna do all of the courses. But here in Bangladesh, sending payment to foreign is enough tough for teens. Keep mailing me my friend????. I love your words.

  10. True that fear of the unkown brought about by change has made me to remain in my not so good situation other than taking that bold step and face my fear or challenge.

  11. Why don’t you comment on someone who carries learned behavior from childhood, that impacts his adult life. More importantly, what can be done about it. Example, Dismissive Avoidant Attachment. Facing and getting in touch with repressed feelings, would allow this person to his or her life with a sense of authenticity. What say You? Chuck

  12. I still feel like people will judge me if I try to change and become a person I’ll forever appreciate to be. Well I’m still afraid of change honestly I even know where to start ????

  13. First of I don’t even have words to explain to u how remarkable ur emails are…I m so delighted that somehow coincidentally I signed in on ur website…honestly I feel like I eventually did find that someone who does motivate me to becomes a better person…and it’s tremendous that u are helping people every day surprising for free…that is literally like the best act of kindness one can do for anyone…I m beyond inspired and impressed by ur emails…ill forever be grateful to u
    Thank u so much

  14. Personally, I think your amazing. My interest levels are very low, eventually I will be able to write something.

  15. There have been cases where I wanted to be like one or two people because I found out that most if the time when I’m amongst my friends, I’m always the quite type. So I sometimes wish I was like someone because I am not sociable enough. Basically, I’m scared of rejection and also people criticising me for who I’m.

    • I read your comments and I can totally relate. I was always the quiet one, but I never knew how to reach out to people, or people would talk to me but it always ended in awkward silence. With these lessons from David, my life has changed so much, in a matter of less than a week.
      I did have to start slow just by texting and messaging I’m chat, and now I can almost start a conversation with anyone

  16. I never thought about losing how I am due to improving or changing my self. I have always longed for changing how I behave in social situations.

  17. Hi! I was wondering something. I recently got diagnosed with ASD (autism) when I was maybe 15 or 16. Through this, I have been trying to learn self-acceptance. The problem for me though is where is this line where being myself is okay and when being myself isn’t? For example, I tried whittling it down to if it harms others in any form, it’s best not to because I don’t want to hurt people. This sounds so chaotic. Sorry if you don’t understand.

    Basically, where do I start with being myself and when should I not?

  18. I’m not afraid of change, but I do feel overwhelmed being different with different people, we show different sides of ours. Like you said, that’s normal, but there’s so many parts of me that no one will get to see; this is not necessarily bad, it just makes me sad to think about, cause there’s some sides of me that just don’t fit with anyone. I’m sorry, I’m really bad in explaining my mind and this is not my mother tong.

    • That makes so much sense. Don’t worry I understand! I feel the exact same. Must I hide parts of myself that I feel just don’t fit with people?

  19. Seeing as personality is shaped by experience, you are always changing. Understanding this makes me feel more at ease, because its not so much losing who I am but building who I am.
    I am only afraid of change because of the uncertainty of knowing if I’m going to be happy with my choices later on. Mental note. Need to have more trust in myself.

  20. I often think about this subject, wondering of I should let go of my second group of friends but I dont so I ignore it. Today after reading that email, my life turned around.


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