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 SocialPro. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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  1. Im going to choose to answer a little differently. With that, I’m so glad I read this because I can definitely relate. I think compromising who you are is dangerous because it can hurt yourself and others you may be trying to fool or
    by letting down those who care about you most.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for all the emails man. 3 weeks ago I started realizing I need to change and hi prove my life and it’s crazy how much I relate to so many stories. Helping me a lot even though I have a ways to go. I’ll be the first to buy the course when it comes out!

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  3. Yep this changeing of oneself around different people and groups confused me about myself…i thought i was being a hypocrite.
    I am as yet not sure of who i really am.

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  4. Yes, I understand…but even tho your letters are helpful and I still want more to come but…my main problem is that I have mostly no one to talk to and that the fact that covid-19 is all over the world there’s not many ways to talk to people…but anyway thanks for the letter I wait for more to come.

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  5. I always think that if I act one way around someone and then get in a relationship with them they would not like me anymore because they think I changed who I am but I am acting really how I normally act around people because that happened to me by a different girl and they broke up with me.

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    • I feel we all act accordingly, acting one way at work, another with family etc..Perhaps communicate patience and a grounded friendship in different settings.
      Just be you, and stay true to your beliefs and values.

      Reply
    • I feel that communication is essential and at times misinterpreted. It takes time, a willingness to be open and “read” someone with a few different topics and the setting of the conversation makes a big impact (fair for all). Yes, some people are players and some have been played and want a deeper, sincere, meaningful conversation that is validated and respected. I am open to new friendships and my comfort level just takes longer. Great reading, and put into action.

      Reply
    • I’m sorry for breaking up with your girl tho that’s not me because I’m male. tho you may not really care right now because I have vary VARY little friends.

      Reply
  6. This is GOLDEN! I’ve felt the same way, worried about if I was being fake for adjusting to my environments. I can accept and appreciate that part of myself now! Love the way this was put! Thanks!

    Reply
  7. When I went to another country and was having trouble my parents said you do not have to change yourself. But actually this was the wrong advice and I regret listening to it – I became less flexible and receptive to the culture and this caused even more stress for me.

    You will probably always keep your values and aspects of yourself that you like, like David says.

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  8. Soooo relatable,i was jsut reading and my mind was ecstaticing to lnkw that there are people like me who feel the same…and i m soo glad this is motivating and helping me

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  9. I can actually relate to this story. I have this friend of mine that always wants to show how smart he is, he points at every single mistake you made. He corrects you with this air of pride and that always makes me feel inferior around him and his group of friends. In the midst of his friends, he wants you to start a conversation, contribute to their discussion, but I don’t feel myself, I usually ran out of words or things to say but in another group I find myself chatting with ease, crack jokes, make suggestions and even my opinion about something is being requested. And when I get home I will be like ‘ am I ok ‘ but now I know better 🤔

    Reply
  10. I can actually relate to this story. I have this friend of mine that always wants to show how smart he is, he points at every single mistake you made. He corrects you with this air of pride and that always makes me feel inferior around him and his group of friends. In the midst of his friends, he wants you to start a conversation, contribute to their discussion, but I don’t feel myself, I usually ran out of words or things to say but in another group I find myself chatting with ease, crack jokes, make suggestions and even my opinion about something is being requested. And when I get home I will be like ‘ am I ok ‘ but now I know better

    Reply
  11. I’ve actually been going through a sort of similar issue, except that instead being afraid to lose myself, I’m afraid of behaving the way I truly feel. I’m afraid of sharing a part of myself- even with my friends- because I’m afraid of being judged or vulnerable. In the past people have taken advantage of my openness and that’s why I’m so guarded and reserved now. I don’t know how to loosen up even if I want to- which 85% of the time I don’t, simply because I’m afraid.
    Because of this my topics of interest, mannerisms and values seemingly change depending on my company and I’ve adapted so many times that I feel as though I’ve lost myself. I don’t remember how to be me anymore- I don’t remember who me IS.

    Reply
    • I love this, I can relate so much to your story. I’ve been in a place where I have no idea who I am because I act differently around others than I do by myself. I’m still struggling with who I am in public vs in private. Though, I know I’ll get to that place where I figure out who I am rather than who I’ve been for other’s sake. I’m sure you’ll reach that place as well! Good luck!

      Reply
  12. I want to be able to feel confident and start and hold conversations with anyone I choose but my fear is knowing what to say to sustain the conversation especially with older people and the opposite gender.

    Reply
  13. Thank you so much David, your words really help me, and I just realized that I’ve been holding myself back just to talk with my friends and slowly i feel like i change my behavior and the way i talk too, i thought it might help myself to get a friends but, your words just make me realize that a true friends are actually those who could accept me the way i am without changing myself and can start a healthy conversation

    Reply
  14. Thanks very much David,this piece of writing is really helpful in diagnosing the actual problem.when I try to become socially adaptable I behave awkwardly and feel dishonest to my actual self.this gives way to mood swings and I go back into my introversion.moreover i have feeling of being judged by people and that worsen the situation

    Reply
  15. I never realized this until I started to read the emails, that I often hold myself back. From what I really want to say or do or think, I’m afraid if others opinion of it and don’t want to become a laugh stock.
    When I’m with someone for the first time, I always abit diffrent from myself.

    I am afraid of judgment from others, to be left behind when I trust or love someone. I know I am not as smart as others are, in fact I am bot that smart and my memorie are bad to. So I am insecure about myself and scared to get close to someone. I think I need to be perfect look perfect, and I need to change myself.

    But I am started to realize that I dont that I am smart in my own weird self, I always avoid things that scare me or like talking in public like with someone and be honest with myself. But I don’t want to avoid it, and your emails always help me get through this I am learning soo much from you

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  16. Your words are really encouraging. I have friends with different characters, but I’ve always held on to my beliefs and values, every time I hang out with either and I never switched on my self. In other words, my friends, including those who live contrary to what I believe have accepted me the way I am, just as I have accepted them, and of course, our friendship is based on our common interests.

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  17. Thanks David,This time i see my self a little changed am able to start a conversation and have worked on nervousness atleast at 65% and for the first time in 3 years two classmates at my GCES classes asked for my number,Only one whom we are working out well cos we are writing the same subjects.Have fears of starting a coversation with Girls not that am nervous but keeping up the conversation going and saying proper stuff cos Girls mostly dont put a story to talk about,But the good part is i can see my self improving now THANKS ALOT David

    Reply
    • Thank you David , your emails have cleared most of my worries .
      And yes the most worrisome things was that i dont want to lose myself for society .
      It cleared up my thoughts and present it into precise and smart package

      Reply
  18. Thank you David for your encouraging words. I have lived in fear for attending social events and speaking in audiences for years. Its my time to change from awkward to awesome now.

    Reply
  19. scheduling my time. that’s not my way of being productive. i appreciate the ability in people that they can be spontaneous. i love to be spontaneous. since if all these self development books tell us we should live in the moment and we must be present, being spontaneous is the no.1 thing that comes in my mind. i prefer memories over “productivity”

    Reply
  20. i always hear constant gossip of “fake” people, names pointed out and what not. And sometimes you can be hated on in my school for being yourself. So often I feel scared. Scared that one day that person will be me. So I often watch my behaviour. Thinking out what to say carefully before speaking my mind. Careful about the way I act as well. But I feel like im constantly on edge while my other friends are happy and free. I feel stressed

    Reply
  21. I want to be able to have a good, comfortable, interesting conversation with anyone from people I know to people I just met in different to strangers in any context and situation and be comfortable going up to others.

    Reply
  22. Actually we need a time to find who we are.. But unfortunately some of us are anxious and nervous around people and that is obstacle for being ourselves.. Because when you’re at home you don’t care what your parents or grandparents are going to say, because they will love you no matter what.. In the other hand when you’re with strangers or potentially friends you can’t relax.. Some of us have fear of neglect, what others are going to say, are we going to be a good company, if other won’t like us anymore.. This is also and a fear of loneliness.. Just for some of us it’s hard to be ourselves around other.. Some times you feel really depressed around others, we just care too much about the opinions of people.. And that is exhausting for our mentally health.. Some just don’t play the attention on themselves they just play it on the other people and how they act on us.. And you loose focus of yourself which is not good.. Just we have to be the way that we like, the way that we feel confy and happy.. And sometimes we should solitude with ourselves for a moment and disregard from the world, and ask ourselves “How I feel happy and what I want to be?”. The things around us doesn’t matter, It’s all inside!

    Reply
  23. Well the fact that I like you more and more, proves to me that what you are doing here works. Your emails make me feels special (you use my name). Your interesting headliners in the emails u send catches my attention. How you share realness about yourself and about how it makes you feel, allows me to be myself and feel comfortable around you. It’s like you’ve given me the insight into what i was doing wrong and need to improve on. Anyone who is open to self improvement and is really honest about self reflection will find a lot of substance in your work! If i was wearing a hat, I’d take it off to you sir! 🙂

    Reply

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