Monday, 8 September 2014
Self-Love September: Deathbed Perspective, Mapping the Versions of Yourself and Embracing Change
I occasionally find the need to encourage my clients to release the 'old' version of themselves and make way for the new one. This can be incredibly difficult and poses many challenges. A huge internal evolution creates massive shifts in your perceptions and beliefs. Embracing that kind of shift and accepting it completely can feel risky. If you continue to pretend that you are the same old you, you will labour under a lie but you won't 'rock the boat'. If you embrace the change, you may risk losing people, upsetting people or finding that your goals and desires have completely changed which may lead you into chaotic upheaval. You may even find that you want to leave your relationship, move to another country or leave your high-flying job to become a children's book illustrator. You can't possibly make those kinds of decisions, can you?!
The truth is that you can, and taking that kind of control over your own life can only lead to good things.
One exercise which I sometimes encourage clients to engage in is mapping the versions of themselves. Throughout our lives, we change. It is inevitable. As you look back over your own life, you will see certain key points of alteration which symbolise the moments when one version of you was overtaken by another. I have personally mapped my own versions and I can confirm that I am currently on my sixth. But what does this exercise really mean? What is it for?
I urge clients to do this work because it releases the fear of change and encourages them to see change as normal, expected, natural, permitted.. maybe even (shock horror) exciting!
We are entitled to change. We are allowed to shift. Evolution is our birthright. We were not born to stay in the same place doing the same thing and having the same thoughts whilst surrounded by the same people.
When you start to see the world through new eyes or find that you've changed your mind about something big, you may worry about making waves or letting people down. You may try to suppress the deep shift in your perspective, swallowing it down so that you can continue on the path which you originally set out for yourself. If you are currently suppressing deep internal change, I would ask you to do something else that I occasionally ask clients to do: adopt deathbed perspective.
Ask yourself if, from your own deathbed, you will be able to justify and understand your reasons for resisting change. Will you lie there telling yourself that it was worth it because you didn't upset your parents? Will you be able to tell yourself that you didn't have the right to live the life you wanted. Will you bypass regret and die happy, knowing that you ignored the deepest desires and most potent convictions inside of you? Will you be able to comfortably leave this life knowing that you didn't follow that road which seemed to call you so often?
Sobering, right? And it doesn't work for everyone, but sometimes it jolts you back into reality. There is an urgency to this stuff. It's your life, after all.
Self-love involves giving yourself internal permission to change. Don't look outside of yourself for that permission - it must come from within. If you can get behind your choice, it doesn't matter who riles against it.
An inability to be authentic doesn't always come from a place of conscious deception. Actually, it mostly comes from fear and doubt. We fear that we will not be accepted or approved of if we embrace the deep change which wishes to surface. We doubt that we are permitted to have that much autonomy over our lives.
Try these five journalling exercises and let's embrace change together from a place of self-love and self-respect..
1. Describe a time in your life when you pretended to be something you weren't. Explore your reasons for doing this and address the key lessons you've learned as a result.
2. Do some brainstorming to establish how many different versions of yourself to have been so far. Notice the key internal and external triggers which led to each change. Write about the ups and downs of each change. Finally, write about the version you are now. How's that going for you?
3. What kind of advice would you give to someone who was going through a massive internal shift but felt scared to take their life into their own hands?
4. When was the last time you pushed your comfort zone? How did it feel? What did you learn as a result?
5. Write your manifesto of empowered change. This will include a list of statements of intention and beliefs based around your inalienable right to change as you see fit.