Most people, at some point in life, think of reinventing themselves. Whether it is tweaking your style or a complete life overhaul, we often strive to make ourselves better – or at least different – than before. But the age-old question is; How does one go about this metamorphosis? Change is a frightening exercise. When it is forced upon us, we have to go through the steps of re-learning and acceptance. But what happens when we force it upon ourselves? It can be a magical process once we see the other side.
I was wickedly shy as a child and tween. I was afraid to raise my hand in school, even though I knew the answer to the questions. I remember the outgoing, confident kids being awarded the big parts in the school plays and being chosen first on the kickball team. Not necessarily because they were the most talented, but because they were self-assured. Growing into a dorky teenager with braces added to my awkwardness, pulling me deeper into this introverted self. The thought of going up to a stranger and introducing myself to them was terrifying.
However, on the inside, I was playful and humorous and even a bit of a rebel. My circle of friends and family knew about those characteristics. However, no one on the outside did. At that time, I was desperate to reinvent myself from the geeky duckling into the proverbial confident swan. But how does one go about doing THAT?
In this particular case, I made a big decision to reinvent myself at approximately age 14. I was tired of being shy and I knew that I had more to offer to the world than being a human taking up space. Rather than loathe myself for not living the existence I desired, I decided to reinvent myself. My pathway to confidence started in an unusual way….
I had fallen in love with a kiddy band from Scotland called the Bay City Rollers. They were the epitome of sappy sugary teeny-bop music…and I adored them. Their core fan base of predominantly prepubescent girls came with a pen-pal club of like-minded international fans donning their tartan.
That’s right, before the internet and social media, people actually wrote physical letters to one another on paper and mailed them inside an envelope with a stamp! At one point I had pen-pals in 30+ US states and a dozen countries. I tell you this story because it was the beginning of a metamorphosis. Writing those letters became an outlet where I found my creative self. The playful, humorous self.
I had a pen-pal in a far-away suburban Chicago location. Actually, it was not far away at all in the grand scope of distances (an hour drive?). But it seemed FAR away back then. My friend (whom I had never met – sounds a little like Facebook, doesn’t it?) invited me to visit for a weekend slumber party. My mother, I presume, phoned her mother and everything checked out in Mom-world.
I sat at my little writing-table before that weekend and I vowed not to be shy. I wanted to be the cool girl from out-of-town. I visualized being the one who would bust into a Bay City Roller tune on cue and the one who instigated a rousing game of “truth or dare”. What did I have to lose? No one knew me. There was no history between us. I did not run the risk of being typecast. Remarkably, I WAS that girl….and the magic happened. I loved the energy of the “alternative me” and saw my new gang of friends a few more times that summer.
The metamorphosis happened seemingly overnight. However, I know it was a process. I went back to school in the fall ditching my old ways, looking prettier without my braces, and a sporting a new level of confidence. And so on and so on, strides were made into adulthood to keep improving. Do I still feel awkward in a roomful of total strangers? You bet. Do I power through and leave with new contacts or friends? Often. Of course, a bar on premise does help the situation.
Having tackled reinvention several times in my life, I began to wonder how I could help people with ideas for reinventing themselves. Here are my Top Ten (okay, top nine):
Change careers: Are you stuck in a dead-end job you thought would be more rewarding? Possibly no room for advancement? A dying industry? The longer you stay there the more that job becomes a part of you. And if it is a negative influence, it can eventually take over your entire outlook on life. After all, most of us do spend the majority of our awake hours working. Know that even after decades, it is never too late to change your career. Work for yourself by starting your own company. Get a degree online. Take the first step. The rest will follow.
Move to a new city or country: Sounds scary, right? And often #1 on the list goes hand-in-hand with this one. But I know of no better way to reinvent yourself. In this case, no one knows you. Can you leave much of your past behind and work on the person you wish to be – revealing only what you wish to reveal from your former self.
Take up a new hobby or sport: You don’t want to do anything drastic but you always wanted to learn to ____. Fill in the blank. Paint? Write? Surf? Dance? Act? Skydive? Ski? Speak French? Now is a perfect time to learn. Take a class, join a group. Tap into that creative or competitive side and watch a different kind of metamorphosis emerge. And chances are you will make a whole new group of like-minded friends.
Change your style or your hair: Go from conservative to wild! Get some ink (just remember that idea is pretty permanent) or try a temporary tattoo to see if you like it. Or tone down your punk rock goth look to the professional you want to be. Dye your hair pink, buy a wig, cut it all off. When you dress the part, you begin to feel the part. And once you feel the part, you have replaced the old with the new.
Mend Fences: We all have fences to mend and messes to clean. Some are tiny and some may consume us. Whether it is family issues or legal messes or work mate/manager muck, they exist. Some people hold a grudge for life. Why? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could reawaken into a new person during your clean up? Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness. Reaching out to commence the process of clean-up eliminates some of your distractions and emotional stress. And it will most likely change you into a more magnanimous person in the process.
Take a spiritual journey: No, you do not even have to be religious to be spiritual. It is something you can do right in your hometown at a spiritual retreat or something grand and life changing like bathing in the River Ganges in India or walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Regardless, you will discover something new in your inner-self and you will return reinvented in some way.
Volunteer: Some of the most generous, nurturing people I have met in the world have worked to help other humans/animals/our earth/less fortunate. Volunteering can be amazingly easy – in your own community for a couple hours a week. Anything from delivering meals to the elderly to being a role model for kids or simply walking dogs at your local animal shelter. Or you can go on exotic voluntourism trips anywhere in the world, such as building wells in Kenya, helping orphans in India or working at an animal sanctuary in Costa Rica.
Spend less – save more: This really touches on financial reinvention. But hey, let’s face it, that is a big part of life too. Some people feel they live paycheck to paycheck and simply cannot get ahead. But take a long hard look at your finances. Do you spend money on things you do not need? New technology when the old stuff worked just fine? A new car when you could have replaced something in the old one for a lot less? A $1000 pair of shoes??? The list probably goes on. We are simply caught up in the mass consumerism of “keeping up with the Joneses”. Or drunk buying on Amazon. What if you cut a few things out of your monthly budget and put that money away for something to help you make more money? Perhaps a property investment or a fund for your early retirement. Financial success can certainly be reinvention.
Some of the most successful people in the world have reinvented themselves time and time again. Don’t be afraid to try it yourself. It might be the best thing you ever did for yourself! Enjoy your journey!