He has changed.” “I thought things would get better as we went along.” “Why didn’t someone tell me about her from the start?”
How many times have we heard such lamentations from people we know? I must admit that I myself have uttered similar words in a few of my past relationships. But mostly, you hear these from young people.
Experience is the best teacher, and this is what makes parents and other adults such credible sources of advice. Whether or not we have lived life to the fullest, we can advise the youth with wisdom learned from years of experience.
I have learned quite a few things through almost 50 years of living, especially including my shortcomings.
One of the biggest revelations is that many of the things my own parents and other adults told me when I was younger have actually proven to be correct. How much time, effort and even heartache I would have saved, if my teen brain had been open to actually listening to “old people’s advice.”
So now I listen and get whatever information I can from my seniors. In turn, I also share the knowledge with my kids and other youngsters when I can (if they are willing to listen).
I have been a father for 20 years and an actor for 24 years. Many young actors have played my children on television and in the movies, and they have asked for my advice on the acting craft and related matters.
But they have also sought my opinion on their complicated relationships. I repeat to them the advice that my grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts gave me—with the addition of my own experiences.
Here’s some of those words of wisdom:
See people as they really are, not how they could become somebody else in the future. You may not like them for who they are today. Take a good, honest look at them, and then accept that that is how they are now. We eat, breathe, live and love in the present, not in the future.
The big mistake we usually make at the start of a relationship is to unrealistically see others as how we hope they will become someday.
Our view of the other person is through the notorious rose-tinted glasses, where we see and magnify their good traits and miss or minimize things that may not be to our liking. We see only what we want to see, and are blind to what we do not want to see.
This is the reason most of us go into a relationship with the wrong partners, and our friends wonder how it happened. Then one day (hopefully, after not too much pain and heartache), we wake up and see the reality of who our partners really are and what they do to us. We wonder how they changed so much, when they may have been that way the whole time.
This is the time when your friends say, “I wanted to tell you but could not” or “I wonder what you saw in him/her.” Often we end up saying, “Mom was right, after all.”
Personality development trainer Marina Benipayo has often advised her students not to like a person just because of physical attraction. A person may like you or even love you, but that does not mean he/she is right for you.
Your friends may think that you and the one you like are “bagay,” but that may hold true only visually. If your personality and upbringing clash, that is a red flag.
You end up in trouble when you have unrealistic expectations of others. You cannot make a person a winner by being the most supportive cheerleader.
The University of the Philippines cheerleading team has won multiple championships, but its basketball team has not snagged a title in a long time. One’s effort does not directly affect the other’s success.
Trust your intuition. You often get to know other people through this. The truth is the truth.
I have realized that my initial impression about people is usually right. Whenever I second-guessed my intuition and gave people the benefit of the doubt, I ended up suffering.
Do not make the mistake of thinking you can help a person change. This is the puppy dog syndrome, where we think we can take the poor misunderstood individual and help them reach full actualization. It is not your job to reform other people. That is their job. If you make it your responsibility, your efforts are doomed to fail.
Do not measure your own worth as a person based on how much you can improve other people. If they do not meet your standards, you may end up resenting these people, when they are just being themselves. They will also resent that they have to make the changes you want.
The only person you can actually change is yourself. If you want a good life, you should work on yourself, to be the best that you can be. Studies show that you can change someone else by just 5 percent but you can change yourself by 50 percent.
Encourage and love others, but let them work on their own improvement. Other people will learn to be better when they are ready to learn.
You are free to believe in people’s potentials to become their best—but see and accept them as they really are.