If you change yourself to please another, you are sure to end up unhappy. Do you remember that movie with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere ,”The Runaway Bride”? In that movie, Julia’s character would always change herself to suit the current boyfriend. The boyfriend then became a fiance. She always had cold feet at the moment of getting married, because she knew that she was not being her true self.
Let me tell you the story of my long time friend Carol (not her real name), a vibrant young woman who was studying law. She was funny, sociable, outgoing. Her self-esteem suffered because she was overweight. She was not obese, but everyone else in her family was slim, and they gave her a very hard time about it. Her family had humble origins. Her dad was the son of a butcher, but he had studied law and become very successful. Carol often felt like she was “less than” her peers at the private university she attended. She had also felt “less than” her classmates at the expensive private high school she had transferred to from public school.
Perhaps because of these insecurities, she fell head over heels in love with a man that was crazy about her. He called her every day, visited her at home whenever he could, took her to fancy restaurants, bought her expensive gifts. His name was Paul. Paul was several years older than her, good looking, successful, and came from a family with a long history of money.
For the first 3 months, Paul acted like Carol was perfection itself. After the initial infatuation of love, though, he started changing with her, acting indifferent to her, giving her sideways glances. Carol felt very anxious about these changes, and asked often what was going on. Paul seemed reluctant to answer, and always did so with kindness.
Changing to Please Paul
After a dinner with his friends, Carol wanted to know why he was so silent. Paul told her, “Well, I don’t want to embarrass you, but you forgot to wipe your lips with the napkin before reaching for your glass of water, and left some crumbs on the edge.” Carol was so chagrined she bought a course on table manners the next day.
Another time, they had gone to a drive-in movie with her friends, and Paul was silent and sullen. When asked about it, he admitted that he was bothered by how loud she laughed when around her college classmates. Carol made a mental note to laugh softer, but she also started suggesting fewer outings with her friends.
Little by little, Paul’s small rejections ended up in Carol deciding on changing many things about her behavior. In the beginning, Paul had always reassured her she was beautiful and he liked a woman “with curves,” but over time he changed. He never outright told her that she was not good looking — he was a lot more subtle than that. Let me share some examples:
- After Carol got a different haircut, he told her, “That is a great haircut, but not for you face shape, you need something different.” Then Paul suggested that next time he should go with her to the hair dresser.
- When Carol bought a blazer, he told her that it made her shoulders look even more manly than usual. After that, Carol always asked him before buying new clothes. When they were going out, she asked him to come pick her up early to approve her outfit.
- Every time Carol wanted to share something funny that happened at her college, and mentioned a male classmate, Paul acted as if he was jealous. Carol stopped hanging out with male friends altogether.
Paul’s True Colors
Our other friends and I felt very happy for Carol when she met Paul. He seemed to be a man who really valued her. As the months passed, though, she confided in us less and less. She always claimed to be busy when we invited her to go out. She would never go to any social event if it was not with him. There were times when Carol had RSVP’d to an event, but then didn’t show up, because when Paul came to pick her up “he looked like he was down” so they decided to stay put.
One day, while Paul was teaching Carol to drive, she hit the bumper of the car in front. Paul immediately got out and talked to the driver of the other car, apologized, and right there paid –generously — for the damage. When he got back in his car, he slapped Carol, and ordered her to get out and sit in the back. We learned of this because someone we knew saw this happen from the sidewalk.
We went to visit Carol that night when Paul was not visiting. There was a humongous flower arrangement on her dining table, with an apology card.
After that Carol withdrew from us even more. We rarely saw her, and she always claimed that she was doing great. All the beautiful and lovable things about Carol were fading away. She had become a shadow of her former self. One day, her mom confided in me that she barely recognized her.
I lost track of Carol for a while, busy with my own studies in the school of architecture. Of all our friends, she only kept in touch with one, but very seldom.
Coming Back to Herself
I do not know the details of what made Carol wake up, but it had to do with the discovery that Paul was cheating on her.
We learned that for months she had been trying to break up with Paul, but he refused. We also learned that, at his request, Carol had stopped using birth control. Paul was angry that she had not gotten pregnant. From the time of that fender-bender, the physical aggression had escalated. Paul had beaten up Carol a few times.
After Paul, Carol fell in love with a very meek man, the exact opposite of Paul. Because she had never addressed her own lack of identity and lack of self-knowledge, Carol also changed herself to please her husband Mark. Mark never asked her to change, she did this on her own.
Their marriage didn’t last long, because Carol was dissatisfied.
Enter Feng Shui
When Carol asked for my Feng Shui help, her marriage was on its “last leg.” I saw signs, all over their upscale apartment, of Carol trying to conform to social expectations, instead of expressing her true self.
One thing you need to know about Feng Shui is that when you use this art to help a marriage in crisis, there are 2 ways things can go:
- The couple starts communicating better and the relationship improves.
- The relationship smoothly dissolves.
Carol’s marriage dissolved.
Carol spent a few years by herself, trying to figure out what she actually liked in terms of… everything. What she actually liked to eat, what decoration style really suited her, how she wanted to wear her hair.
Today, Carol is happily remarried and has 2 kids. She is very successful in her profession. She is now very careful of establishing healthy limits and boundaries with her spouse. Part of this confidence comes from knowing that if she had to go it alone again, she could. To top all her blessings, Carol is now very fit.
How Are You Living Your Life to Suit Others Instead of Yourself?
Look around your home and look for the following:
- Pieces of furniture that are actually very uncomfortable for you.
- Gifts that were given to you that you do not actually like.
- Knickknacks that you do not like, regardless of how they entered your home.
Choose 2 items from the list above, and let them go. As you do this, set the intent to be authentic, true to your own self. Only in being authentically you can you fulfill your life missions — what you came to do in this lifetime.
Only by daring to be yourself you have a chance of finding true love with a new partner, or with a current partner.