Living In The Shadow

shadow hand

“I don’t even know who I am anymore.” Have you ever heard someone say that? Maybe you have even said it yourself. What makes people feel this way?

Suzjones recently wrote a guest post on OM’s blog, titled ‘Defining the Real You‘.

On that post I made the comment, “Sometimes it takes the observations of others to help us better understand ourselves, to see our quirks and to realize what we should change about ourselves.”

Sue’s reply gave me a lot to ponder. She said, “How much of ourselves should we change before we become someone that we’re not? I understand if it is something ‘huge’ but the little things that irritate people. Are they irritated because of something that they are unable to control in their own lives or because it is something you need to change. How much change do you think we should make to please others?”

How much of ourselves should we change before we become someone that we’re not?

In any type of relationship, some amount of compromise is necessary in order to keep it running smoothly. However, there is a fine line there. Everyone has flaws and those should be worked on, especially in a relationship. But, not all the issues can be placed solely upon one person. It’s a guarantee that both parties have problems of their own. No one is perfect.

We shouldn’t have to completely change ourselves to compensate for the flaws of someone else. If we do, then we will eventually change so much of ourselves that we end up becoming someone we’re not.

Are they irritated because of something that they are unable to control in their own lives or because it is something you need to change?

Is it me?

When problems arise, it is very important to examine ourselves to see if the problem lies in us. Usually we know if what we’re doing is wrong and needs to be changed. The question is whether or not we will accept it and work on it.

Perhaps you have low self confidence, low self esteem or anger issues. Maybe you’re overly emotional or a constant complainer. Whatever the issue may be for you, if it is disrespectful, unnecessary or unthoughtful, then it should be changed. We should always be working to improve ourselves.

Is it them?

Let’s say that you’ve changed everything about yourself that you know to change. You speak more positively, you control your mouth and your anger. You have learned how to manage heated conversations in a mature manner and you’ve learned which buttons not to push. In your mind you’ve conquered, or are working to improve, everything about yourself that you can think of.

However, you find that it’s still not enough. You’ve made all those changes, and yet all of the problems are still there. You can continue to change, but that would make you become someone else.

One would hope that the other person would be making changes themselves, but what if they’re not? What if they refuse to accept that part of the problem could be them? Maybe instead, they always place the issues on you. It’s your fault.

What do you do?

Many people at this point either walk away or give in. By give in, I mean that they submit to whatever they must in order to keep the peace. They walk quietly, speak with caution and sometimes become silent altogether. The person they once were, is soon gone.

This is what I call, living in the shadow. You live in the shadow of someone else. Everything you do and every word you speak, is done in a way that is best suited to their liking; in a way that will not cause contention. Now, you are only a shadow of the very person you have worked so hard to please. The very person who cannot be pleased.

So, how much change do you think we should make to please others? Change only what is necessary. Don’t change so much, that you lose yourself in the process.

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18 Responses to Living In The Shadow

  1. suzjones says:

    They give up and walk away or the begin looking for somewhere else to work.
    Many options there for sure. I also believe (and try to put into practice) the notion that the thing that bothers you most about another person is a reflection of something inside of you. I often find myself checking out my own self when someone is irritating the heck out of me.
    Thanks for a great blog (and for the pingback) my friend.

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    • mewhoami says:

      I agree with that – what bothers us is likely something we do also. Like you, I try to consider that possibility when something bothers me. Self examination is a big thing for me. Maybe too big at times. Sometimes that ends up being the case and sometimes not. But, it’s definitely worth the look inside to find out. You are very welcome.

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  2. If it’s discovering your true self, then it is discovery v. change. If one seeks to conform to external views and appease others, it is not true change, but betrayal of the true self.

    To thine own self be true.

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    • mewhoami says:

      Agreed. There is a difference between the two. Self discovery is a necessary step towards improving ourselves. Betrayal of the true self will only lead to a life of misery and uncertainty. I like the quote at the end, “To thine own self be true.”

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  3. Who’s this Sue person, BTW? };-)>

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  4. April says:

    What a great discussion. As I have discovered more about myself, I found that some of my faults that were annoying those close to me, were actually my expression of disappointment in myself. Or, acting out. The more I hated myself, the less love, compassion, and kindness I had to give. In order to keep this “war in my mind” invisible, so that I wouldn’t hurt others, I felt unlike myself. I wasn’t myself.

    Sounds simple, but I have learned to accept who I am. I may not weigh exactly what I want, I have wrinkly dry skin, dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep, I have yet to find a hairstyle that is flattering—but those things are the outer bits of me, and they don’t matter anymore. It’s what I changed on the inside. How I treat myself. When I learned to allow myself to have compassion and love, for myself, I actually found who I am. Beyond that, if another isn’t “pleased” with you, maybe they are the one with the problem, not you?

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    • mewhoami says:

      Your comment reminds me of the old saying, “you can’t love others if you can’t love yourself”. You’re right. Our dislike of ourselves rubs off on everyone else. It’s hard to be kind to others when we’re so angry/disappointed in ourselves.

      If after a person has changed all they know to change and the other is still not be pleased, then it must be them who has the problem. At the very least, a portion of it.

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      • April says:

        By the time we reach adulthood, we are the person we are due to our experiences and interpretations of those experiences. Some of which were interpreted with a child’s mind.

        Personally, I take out my mistakes and perceived failures out on those around me. Maybe not take it out on them, but my habits, or whatnot, irritate them because I’m irritated with myself.

        I have learned to give myself a break, and to take care of myself, love myself, and be patient with myself. I didn’t have to change who I was, but my treatment of others has vastly improved.

        I’m still the same person, and I didn’t see that until I finally realized what I was doing to myself.

        Am I making sense?

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        • mewhoami says:

          April, if I ever go to Georgia then we’re going to have to get coffee. I have a feeling I could talk to you for hours. 🙂

          That made perfect sense. We are definitely formed by our experiences whether exaggerated in our minds or not. It sounds like you beat yourself up just like I do and probably for the smallest and insignificant reasons too. I am so critical of myself and I know that my actions and speech portray that.

          Be patient with myself – That is hard. I can be patient with anyone, but me. I am trying though.

          I’m still the same person underneath everything, but the real me doesn’t come out very often. The ‘real’ me seems to cause ripples, so I keep her tucked beneath the surface most of the time. I form to fit those who I’m around, instead of just being myself. That’s a blog post too. 🙂

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  5. Cindi says:

    Deep and insightful thoughts. We’re all on a journey, and those that travel it with someone can walk a fine line between compromise and losing too much of themselves. Thank you for your very thought-provoking words!

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  6. A constant for me! Trying to see who and how I am, and what it is that I want to change. To discover about myself. Things I like and want to be stronger, things I don’t like and want to change. Great discussion regarding the difference between change and discover. I too have questioned my dislike of something about another person to see if it is something I actually mirror.

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    • mewhoami says:

      Life is a never-ending journey of learning and growing. Just as long as we don’t stop, than we’re right on the right path. (I’m wondering why comments get lost and I never get notified of them. So sorry for my very long delay in replying.)

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  7. Glynis Jolly says:

    I’ve made changes in myself in order to get along better with people but when I feel myself slipping away into oblivion, I revert a little bit so that I know that I am still me. Yes, it makes waves but I don’t lose myself either.

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    • mewhoami says:

      Glynis, I think some changes are necessary. But, you know when you’ve gone too far when you feel like you’re losing yourself. I do the same thing as you. I call it being a ‘rebel’, simply because it does cause waves, but I don’t want to lose myself.

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