Paradoxically, You Must Change to Become More of Yourself

Why do some people talk about changing into their better selves?

Isn’t that a little weird and nonsensical—being different to be more of the same?

If you spend a little too much time thinking about what it means to be yourself, you might find yourself in deep philosophical territory. But it can be practical if you grasp some of the core ideas, one of which is:

Going through changes makes you more of yourself.

Kevin Tobia writes in Aeon:

“…Many other large changes don’t disrupt our identities. In fact, some profound changes actually seem to make us become really or truly ourselves. Consider finding one’s true self through romantic love; discovering a hidden life passion; committing to radically improving one’s health; or experiencing a religious or spiritual conversion. The same effect might arise from harder experiences, such as surviving a period of wartime or incarceration. All of these result in tremendous transformations, but they don’t threaten identity. Instead, these changes seem to unearth our core selves, making us become who we really are. This allows for a seemingly paradoxical statement: paradigm cases of continuing to be the same person involve becoming radically different.”

The process of embracing change and going through transitions—to live in a new place, to start a new job or endeavor, or to build relationships—is not just about those obvious details. The process is also about who you are and who you are becoming.

Change is also a necessary component of every story. Stories are about character transformation. If the protagonist doesn’t change (for better or for worse) by the end of the book or movie, it probably wasn’t a good story that engaged you in its plot and development.

In Nautilus, Jennifer Ouellette writes:

“In the end, of course, all stories are ultimately about change. Nobody tells a story about how they’ve always been the same. Therein lies the psychological power of narrative. We can change our stories, thereby changing ourselves, even though our core self remains the same.”

If your life is like a story, the way you embrace change is a huge determining factor in the kind of person you’re becoming.

In the Author’s Note of The Variable Life, I wrote:

“If you and I sat down for coffee, I would ask you about the most important moments of your life. And as you shared your stories, you would realize none of those moments would have happened unless you made a choice and something changed.

Your life is the story of the choices you make.” (Read more)

Change is difficult and scary and strange and uncomfortable. It’s also worth it.

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