“I think I’m done with therapy!” I told my therapist, outpouring my pent-up frustration. “It seems that all this talking and introspection is useless. Four years of continuous work and I’m still unsatisfied and constantly disappointed!”
And so I kept on rambling. “What’s the point of it all? I’m finally married to someone I love, after getting out of an unhappy marriage. I shifted to a career that I’m actually passionate about. I moved to another country, particularly to a paradisiacal city which most people would be thrilled to even just visit. I dropped over 25 pounds and feel very comfortable (even proud!) with my physical appearance. I’ve even discovered new hobbies that have shown me a different way of living. And all for what?”
There was a minute of silence. And then my therapist, after having told me so a million times before, once again calmly said: “Remember that: Change happens from the inside out. Not the other way around.”
Oh how I hated that she was right! I had managed to radically change my outside world completely, yet I still felt the same. Everything around me looked so different and so similar at the same time. Because even though my external world had changed, I had not.
It seems that despite my therapist’s words of wisdom, all along I chose to believe that if I created that perfect life I had always dreamed of I would finally be who I wanted to be.
So I spent all my energy and effort in changing everything about my circumstances that did not make me happy. Much needed changes that I don’t regret. But that time showed me were not enough for a true transformation.
As much as I wanted it to, changing the outside did not change the inside.
You can move to the other side of the world. Start a relationship with the partner of your dreams. Or even accomplish the professional goals you desire the most. But what I learned is that: Wherever you go, whoever you’re with, or whatever you do, you take yourself with you.
And if despite your choices, you still remain the same person you were before, your life won’t be much different.
Only real personal change, the change that comes from within, can turn your life around.
So here are 6 tips to keep in mind during this journey toward personal transformation:
1. Nothing ever changes, until you do. If you have external circumstances that are making you unhappy, by all means change them. Change them in an intelligent and unwavering way. But keep in mind, that whatever role you are playing in that unhappiness will continue, unless you change too.
2. If you want true change, face yourself. There’s no running or hiding. You have to look at your biggest fears straight in the eye. You have to dig deep into your old hurts and wounds. And you have to challenge your self-limiting beliefs and toxic ways of thinking.
3. Believe you can change, then persevere. Don’t hope you can change. Believe that you will. The right mindset is critical for this mission. Because defying your lifetime habits will not be easy. It will feel like swimming against the tide. And it’ll be your faith and determination what will give you the courage to carry on.
4. Watch out for your unconscious along the way. Challenging yourself will feel so threatening that you may rely on defense mechanisms such as denial to avoid facing your reality. This will “protect” you from the anxiety of confronting some ugly truths about yourself. But will only delay, or even sabotage, your road to transformation.
5. Avoid a real self vs. ideal self war. Fighting against your (not-so-desirable) actual self is not only pointless, but steals away the energy you need to transform into your ideal self. That person you aspire to be. The more you fight who you are now the harder it’ll be to let go of it. You need to accept yourself just as you are so you can then start working towards transforming into that person worthy of your admiration.
6. Take it day-by-day. Step-by-step. Transformational change is created through daily individual actions. There’s no milestone to be reached. Because it is a process that lasts a lifetime. All you can do is take a step every day to get closer to the person you wish to be. And every now and then, stop to reflect on who you are today, and compare it with who you were yesterday.
We can all undergo a process of personal transformation or “metamorphosis” (as I like to call it), if we’re willing to let go of who we are to become who we truly want to be. And just like the caterpillar completely rearranges its form to emerge into something so beautiful, we too can emerge from our cocoon to transform into the best version of our unique wonderful self.
It is not the beauty of the butterfly what makes it so remarkable. It’s the changes it has gone through to achieve such beauty.