Embrace Your Spots
It is often said, “A Leopard Cannot Change its Spots.” I think about the subject of change regularly. I have always been a fan of change as long as it is under conscious, intentional direction and results in an evolutionary change. I like to think that with most of the big conscious changes in my life, that they have resulted in a better situation or outcome. Notice that I don’t speak of change to myself but rather to my environment. An example of conscious, intentionally change might be, “I want to change where I live.” If you were to put significant effort into this desire, it would most likely result in that change. You did not change but your environment likely did.
There are some changes we can make to ourselves such as changing our hairstyle, changing our weight, or breaking a habit but with these types of externally, visible changes we do not change who we really are as a person. In other words, throughout massive change, our personality and all the traits that make up our personality do not change. Just as the leopard does not change its spots, we do not change the qualities of our personhood. This may seem a facile point but it is important to note that much of self-help psychology is all about creating a “better you.” There are innumerable books and articles written on the subject of how to be a better person. This is to say, “There is something wrong with you as a person that needs to be improved.”
I am of the opinion that people may have bad habits and bad behaviours and on occasion do bad things but saying you can be a better person is suggesting you can change your spots. True, there are some bad leopards out there but by in large, I believe most people have the spots they have through a product of their genetics and the environment which shaped them. You can still change your environment and change some of your behaviours but your spots will remain the same. Maybe if we accept the things about us that are unchangeable and work to improve the bad habits and occasional bad behaviours that we don’t like about ourselves, we can become a more content leopard.
It is easy to get caught up in the idea that you can “change yourself” and “become a better person”. The media is full of messages to make us think we should all be a certain kind of person and with some discipline, we can change ourselves. I think this hokum creates feelings of frustration and disappointment when we realize that we are who we are. Maybe it is time to embrace your spots. Make the most out of being who you are. Change the things that are changeable – if you wish but don’t get caught-up in the idea that you need to change who you are. Embrace your spots and celebrate your unique contribution to the jungle.