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. Wow, what a wonderful and insightful email. Thank you for sharing the message and your story. I shall write down my fears from now on to bring them to the conscious level where I can choose to act by my values!

  2. I’ve been very sensitive to people trying to be someone else or acting differently than usual, so I just took the stance that won’t be me. That in turn makes it impossible to adapt yourself.

  3. I always find it’s difficult to start a conversation with strangers/crush even when I think I have something to say inside but I’m afraid I don’t have a bad response or how they might take it.

  4. I think I’m having a good conversation but later I start replaying conversations in my head and that’s when I start doubting myself. I began to think about how I should have done or said things differently

  5. This was really helpful, I have maladaptive dreaming, and whenever I think I should stop I’m afraid it will make me less myself so it’s nice to be reminded that that’s not true ☺️

  6. I always feel like I can never really be my comfortable self. Even when I find the right people for me, I struggle to strike an interesting conversation since my mind goes blank. I always feel like I’m the problem and maybe I am.

  7. The old saying about your mood depends on who you are around, is so true.
    I know exactly how to be me, but my partner who is ASD) doesn’t like change, it makes him feel insecure. I am constantly changing and managing it, and I know who I am and want to be. I have ADHD so find it difficult not to get mad quickly at his insecurity (I swallow it and empathize) but I’m really struggling now. We are arguing a lot now because I’m exhausted being an empath. After reading this, I’m going to talk about core values.

  8. It’s more because of where I work (prison) I know that if I change they will pounce and see it as a weakness (both administration and the inmates). The problem is that I want to change but if I do there are dangerous consequences. At work it’s like this, with the inmates I am the prick that will tell you in not so many words to go screw yourself, and when I actually show concern for anybody its usually because the situation is pretty bad (i can’t be mean at hospitals or on the medical facilities if I can tell there is a mental health issue I can’t be mean either because most times they just don’t know, but any other time you get the angry drill instructor). Personally, if you’re in the medical facilities or had a death in the family or a mental health issue I can’t be a drill instructor for you because it’s just not right.

  9. Well, that was interesting indeed, don’t have much to say now, but I can tell you I can’t wait to see, Awkward to Awesome and yes how to get rid of nervousness around people, alone I’m the most Zen person you’ll ever meet but in crowds, well you guessed it nervous and awkward, thanks for what you do. ?

  10. Thank you for the distinction that who we are is embedded in our values, and in terms of behaviors, we are capable of change and growth. That is comforting. I can both be me (and become me), as well as have flexible behaviors. Love your posts. Thank you.

  11. HI David. I’ve been reading your emails and posts and I just can’t shake the fact that I feel like I should not be LEARNING how to talk to people. It feels so weird and all and it hurts because I really do want to be a social butterfly and improve my friendships with people. But I just always feel socializing is something that comes naturally

  12. Hi David.. I appreciate you do something like this for people ( and yourself) just knowing there are so many of those that have social awkwardness or feel alienation makes me feel in the superior majority and so it’s accepted and I’m not going to care; loner, eccentric, ocd, exercise obsessed, plays with dolls, midnite muffin baker, ( not so crazy) Pet men or ladies….. and more. It’s All your choice…be yourself don’t hurt anyone. And I’m more worried about the Rest of society that THINKS they’re functioning fine !!!
    keep ’em coming.. – P T. ????????????????????️????

  13. I really appreciate you David.,for what you have taught me. I was scared so much ,but I realize that is was me but now I improve it has far better to change my mind in topic.thank you very much David

  14. I really appreciate you David.,for what you have taught me. I was scared so much ,but I realize that is was me but now I improve it has far better to change my mind in topic.thabk you very much David

  15. I’ve always been scared of being judged, especially when people look at me and the first thing that pops in my head is omg they hate me. After years of being stressed out about what others think, I slowly stopped caring, in fact I realize that even when I thought I was being loud and annoying people actually said they liked my personality. I think the only person that hated me all this time was myself!! I was so wrong!!

  16. I think I was more scared of how people think of me, I don’t change much in terms of my personal image, I always appeared as more reserved because I don’t want to be judged. I rather be more shy than loud and vibrant, because I’m scared of being judged. I know it has been holding me back from being who I am really, because I am scare that people who I use to know will not accept who I really am and I will lose them.


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