Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Sunday Musings: You Can Only Fix Yourself

with 7 comments

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been grappling with something that has completely vexed me. To wit: Why do I allow myself to get so frustrated over what other people do?

See, we can’t fix other people. It’s impossible for us, as human beings, to wave a magic wand or think a magic thought or do something otherwise that changes the outcome of someone else’s behavior.

It just doesn’t work that way.

Because I’ve chosen to be friends — and, in some cases, family — with some rather iconoclastic people, this means sometimes I just don’t see eye-to-eye with them. I understand this, but I still get upset when I realize we can’t meet in the middle…and sometimes, we can’t even agree to disagree. (That last bothers me greatly, but unfortunately I can’t do much about it.)

See, people are who they are. They only change when they’re good and ready. They only make it easy for you to stay in their lives and talk with you and be communicative when that’s what they want, too.

Again, as a communicator — and, perhaps, as a peacemaker — at heart, this is something I have a hard time wrapping my head around. The whole idea of a casual long-term friendship where people dip in and out of my life on a whim isn’t something I do, as a general rule.

Now, what do I do instead? I try to be as steady as a rock with my friends and family. I don’t always succeed at this, but that is my intention. I do my best to live up to my obligations; I do my best to live up to my own, personal belief systems; I do my best to be ethical, aboveboard, and honest; I do my best not to throw vitriol for the sake of throwing vitriol.

But if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you probably know all these things. So what’s got my goat to the point I felt I needed to come blog about it?

I think what got to me most, lately, is the idea that came up in a friend’s telephone chat. He mentioned that everyone lies in public. Everyone puffs themselves up. Everyone puts up a front.

I think many people do. But I try hard not to.

What’s the difference in what I do versus what my friend said everyone supposedly does? Well, I’ve decided that I am not going to waste my time or energy pretending to be something I’m not. I see no point to that whatsoever. And because I see no point to that, I don’t expect other people who know me well to still want to put up fronts.

Why we can’t all meet in the middle, sometimes, is just beyond me.

Still, this all relates to my overarching theme somehow. (It must, or I’d not be typing this out. Picture me smiling ruefully here.) And that theme is that we can’t fix other people.

And just as they can’t make us be what they want us to be (how horrid would that be, huh?), we can’t make them what we want them to be either. We can only choose to accept them as they are, or not. And get to know them on their terms, just as they get to know us on ours. Or not.

So, for all of the above reasons, I urge you to remember this: The next time someone vexes you, because they aren’t who you want them to be, remember that they don’t have to be anything but themselves. Just as you don’t have to be anything but yourself, either.

If the two of you can’t figure out how to be friends under those circumstances, well, then maybe the friendship is doomed. (But I’d like to think it’s not.)

And either way, you can’t fix them. Just as they can’t fix you. So you can delight in being different…or you can walk away, knowing you tried your level best. (The choice is yours.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 5, 2020 at 6:34 am

7 Responses

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  1. Well, this is right along with a thing going on in my own life right now. No details. I’m not ready to talk about that. But accepting that you can’t change others is a good place to start when trying to tidy up your life. Thank goodness they can’t make us change unless we want to. Who was who said they were sitting down on the outside but on the inside, they were standing up? Sometimes life is that way. Good thing probably. I wouldn’t want to be in telepath in today’s society. My own thoughts are enough.

    Kayelle Allen

    July 5, 2020 at 7:47 am

    • Yeah. I know what you mean, Kayelle.

      All you can do with someone who doesn’t fully accept you is to decide if you can handle a less fruitful relationship. It’s frustrating. I don’t know what to say beyond that…but I wish you well. Always.

      Barb Caffrey

      July 5, 2020 at 9:33 pm

  2. I have the same frustrations. I am a mediator at heart, and mostly like and respect other people. But we live in such a polarized time that this is a very difficult path to follow–it seems everyone wants you to swear allegiance to their side of things. It makes me weary. But I have to remember the same thing–can’t fix the people, can’t fix the times we live in. Can only work on ourselves.


    July 5, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    • Yes. That’s absolutely it, Eurobrat. (And good to see you again!)

      All we can do is try to meet people where we are, and hope they can accept us and we can accept them despite — or maybe because — of our differences.

      Personally, I think we were made all different because variety is the spice of life. 🙂

      Barb Caffrey

      July 5, 2020 at 9:35 pm

  3. I think because other people’s stupidity negatively impacts us, so that’s why we’re frustrated.

    Lika Phipps

    July 5, 2020 at 9:48 pm

  4. Very Good.

    Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    October 31, 2021 at 1:01 pm

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