I’m in it right now. A transformation, that is. Like, smack dab in the middle of a major personal and spiritual upheaval — and it is equal parts exhilarating, terrifying, overwhelming, and surprising.
And that was just in the last 10 minutes.
My Patron Saint, Cheryl Strayed, once said (wrote):
“Transformation doesn’t ask that you stop being you. It demands that you find a way back to the authenticity and strength that’s already inside of you. You only have to bloom.”
Oh, Cheryl. Doesn’t she have a way of making the shittiest things sound beautiful? And she’s right of course. For as much as transformation feels like changing into an entirely new human, it usually isn’t. It’s usually waking up to the fact that you haven’t truly been living as yourself, and now you’re doing the work to get back there. To get back to you.
And she’s right of course. For as much as transformation feels like changing into an entirely new human, it usually isn’t. It’s usually waking up to the fact that you haven’t truly been living as yourself, and now you’re doing the work to get back there. To get back to you.
Honestly, the word “transformation” does seem to have a really positive connotation — at least, it always has to me. Whenever I’d hear it, I’d think of 30-day extreme fitness plans, stories told on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and daytime talk show audience member makeovers. It was all fun and exciting and you were a shiny new person at the end!
But I’m finding, as I’m in the midst of my own personal transformation, that it’s not so shiny. And I’m not really becoming new. As Cheryl said, I’m doing the work of becoming who I already am, who I’ve always been — I’m chipping away at the crap that has built up around who I really am: the years of childhood wounds, peer pressure, and societal expectations that I have allowed to mold me; to dictate how I show up in the world.
And here’s the thing with chipping away at anything — particularly the walls you’ve built up around yourself — it’s kind of painful. Honestly, there are some days I’d much rather get a makeover on a daytime talk show.
Because here’s the thing about true transformation: you can’t just slap on some lipstick and try on a few new pairs of clothes and call it real change. You’re just dressing up the same you because the heart and soul of you hasn’t changed. And if you’re looking for true transformation, you have to start there. With heart. And soul.
So, why would anyone even want to “transform” if it’s so damn painful, inconvenient, and altogether exhausting — and you don’t even get a new outfit?!
I can’t speak for everyone else, of course, but in my own experience, the alternative option — not transforming and staying stuck in a life that wasn’t really serving me — was actually beginning to feel more painful, more inconvenient, and more exhausting. Many people don’t need to wait that long to wake up and realize that it’s time to do the hard work of becoming themselves; many wait even longer. No matter when or why you decide it’s your turn for a transformation, it can be tough to navigate.
Here’s how I’ve managed so far:
OK, you know I love meditation already, so I promise not to harp on this, but there’s so, so much value in remaining present — especially when you’re experiencing the monumental shifts that accompany personal transformation.
It can be very easy to slip into thinking patterns where you replay the past or try to control the future, which only further adds to the anxiety that accompanies change.
Instead, make time to remember exactly who you are, exactly as you are, exactly where you are. Are you breathing? Great. That’s good enough. Let your mind focus on what actually is, so that it can see that you’re okay in this moment.
ASK FOR SUPPORT
I’m a bit of a loner — and by choice. I’ll go out to dinner or to the movies or to a local museum on my own because I love the opportunity it gives me to sit with my own thoughts. I’m also hyper-independent, and not very good at asking for help.
But transformation of any variety can be scary, anxiety-inducing, and confusing. It’s so important to seek help and guidance from someone who can properly support you through this transition.
And that last part’s important — there are likely a lot of well-meaning people in your life (as there are in mine) that might not be the best at supporting you through this period of your life. Carefully consider who you turn to and lean on (personally, I’ve benefited immensely from hiring a coach) during a time when you need more support than ever!
FIND NEW “RUNNING BUDDIES”
I was at a Gabby Bernstein event earlier this year, where someone in the audience asked her: “How do you maintain your meditation practice?” Gabby quickly replied: “I lean on my spiritual running buddies.”
Spiritual running buddies.
How genius is that?
Of course, this doesn’t just apply to spiritual support. Whether your transformation is physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual, you’ll likely need to surround yourself with new “running buddies” — those people who get it, who are on the same journey, who are best able to guide and support you and keep you on the straight and narrow, during and after this big change.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
This looks different for everybody. For me, it’s getting enough sleep, drinking a lot of water, and writing down what I’m feeling and experiencing. It’s essential to give your physical body the food, movement, and sleep that it needs to survive.
Transformations of any kind can be arduous and overwhelming. It’s easy to forget about the simple things you might have previously done without fail every day to take care of yourself. Be conscious of what your body needs to keep moving, steadily and healthily, and commit to providing yourself with that.
GIVE CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
Okay, I know this kind of goes against my other tip to “be present”, but this is one instance where I’ll encourage you to look to the past.
I started working with my life coach in August of 2015. After three months, I was feeling a little frustrated that I wasn’t “fixed” — that I wasn’t this completely loving, spiritually-enlightened being of light after THREE WHOLE MONTHS.
Can you guess what my homework was? To list all of the ways in which I had grown (in mind, body, and spirit) in the three months since we had begun working together. You guys, the list was LONG. (#humblebrag)
In all seriousness, I say this not to pat myself on the back, but to prove that we don’t tend to give ourselves the credit we deserve for the strides we DO make. It may not look like much when you’re in it, but when you take a look back, you may be surprised by just how far you’ve come.
* * *
I wish I could tell you that it will all be okay. That one day, you will wake up and feel completely transformed. But I can’t. I’m still in it myself! But I do think it will be okay — if history is any example, we all turn out a lot better when we surrender to the change.
It seems that if we’re willing to do the work — and take care of ourselves during the process — we actually do tend to become newer, better, shinier versions of ourselves in the end…with or without the daytime talk show makeover.
Photo by Timo Vijn