Hi, I’m Ellen. I am a Master Life Coach. I help teens get emotionally ready for college. But what I really do is have deep conversations with really cool people who are ready to create a life they love.
If you watch reality television on TLC, you have been getting a sneak peek into people’s personal transformations for years. And I’m not talking just stripping their clothes off. They strip them of their beliefs about themselves and the thoughts behind the decisions they make. Stacy and Clinton, the hosts of What Not to Wear take their subjects through change and transformation with frank but kind guidance. And here I was thinking it was just a lesson in how to pronounce empire waistline. (It’s ahm-peer.)
Their tools? For your consideration…
They take someone who does not dress in a way that brings out their best features. (Let’s cut to the chase – friends and family are embarrassed to be seen with them.) They select someone who is going to look vastly different in their before and after shots. After all, it makes for better television.
They start their journey on day one when they are given a few rules, but essentially left to their own devices to shop for a new wardrobe. And like usual, even with the new rules, shopping is a disaster. They make the same bad choices they always have. (Oh, the metaphors are just screaming at this point.)
They are put in the position to think: How do you feel when you think the thought, “I look bad in clothes” ?
Then Stacy and Clinton swoop in on day 2 and ask, Who would you be if you didn’t have the thought, “I look bad in clothes?” (OK – they don’t actually say those words, but that’s what I hear.) They show the disheartened woman all of the wonderful clothes that will make her look like the best version of herself. (The viewers cheer.)
And they turn it around. The subject looks good in the opposite of what they thought they looked good in. Baggy clothes only accentuate your big tummy, not hide it. Thigh high patent leather boots only make a 50-year-old woman look older rather than younger.
So here is what I have noticed from these TV shows: there is the same struggle just before the breakthrough. There are a lot of beliefs that are behind how they present themselves to the world. Beliefs based on assumptions or incorrect information. (Like that only Grandmas wear dresses, and our family’s hips just don’t look good in an A-line skirt.)
Change is more gentle and kind if you take it in turtle steps. But, that’s not what get ratings.
If you are up to a brutal look in the mirror, you will have some wickedly awesome dynamic change. The problem is, unless you know that the internal struggle you feel is the sign that a great change is about to take place, your normal human reaction is to avoid it at all costs. Run from an uncomfortable feeling. Skirt it, ignore it, suppress it by eating an entire cheesecake.
Ah, but it’s that struggle that let’s you know that a breakthrough is imminent.
It makes sense. There is always a struggle before a big shift in thinking. Frustration is often the feeling. Like the frustration of trying to learn something new, like riding a bike, or hitting a ping pong ball. It’s a struggle until finally one day, you get it. You go sailing down the hill on your big girl bike, and you pedal back up the other side. And back down again! Because you made the transformation. As of that day, you were a bike rider! Or you think you are ugly, so you wear loud prints and dress like a character to distract people from the fact that you aren’t movie star beautiful. Until a TV show comes a long and holds you up to the mirror, and makes you struggle until you see your beauty and how to present it.
So here’s the thing:
You need to be looking for the signs. Not about what to wear, but the struggle in any area of your life. If you feel anxiety and struggle, it’s awesome. You could be on the brink of figuring out something great. Relax into the anxiety, and know that the struggle is just your brain trying to stay on the same neural pathway.
You are challenging your brain to think a new way.
See things from a new direction.
Create new neural pathways.
Open yourself up. And often, once that breakthrough happens, the floodgate opens and a whole new and wonderful way of doing things comes your way.
You see it on the show every week. The women realize that they really are beautiful, they just haven’t been showing off their best attributes. They struggle to keep their favorite old stained sweatpants from the 60’s. But once they realize how crappy they look in their old worn out clothes, and how fabulous they look in their new flattering outfits, hair and makeup, there is no stopping them. They are addicted to fashion and their new image.
There have been a few episodes where women get all the way through the process and haven’t really changed. They went through the motions and got the new wardrobe, but you can tell that when they go back home, they are going back to their gaucho pants and leopard print halter tops. I would be totally fine with this if I thought it was what they truly wanted. But what I saw in their eyes was fear. Fear of being bullied by a TV show, fear of seeing themselves as someone different, and most of all fear of change. They got to the edge of the cliff but were too afraid to make the jump to the other side.
So keep watch. Look for times of struggle in your life. Make the realization that your brain is fighting this change, and go ahead.
Take the leap.
The other day, one of my clients told me she didn’t want to be so busy.
That wasn’t true.
You are always as busy as you choose to be.
We have all seen babies. (Or been a baby.) Or had a baby.
When there is something they don’t want to do, there is no way you are getting that baby to do it.
Take another bite of food? Back out it comes in fun squirts.
Keep their socks on? Not if they don’t want to.
Babies are the role models for how to only do what you choose to do.
As we get older, society, parents, and friends, tell us what we need to be doing.
And you may have a very good story about how you are different… you have an invalid mother, learning disabled child and a business to run.
But you are still CHOOSING to help those people you love.
It’s a choice.
You want to take care of them and support them more than you want the alternative of not taking those actions.
You could lay down and scream and cry and throw a tantrum. Oh, baby.
You could wither away into a gray shell of your former self.
Or you can choose where you want to be on the continuum between the two.
All I’m saying, is you have all of the power over your time. You are making the choices.
Play with your “have to ” list.
You will find almost nothing is a “have to”.
You are doing a lot of things because you are avoiding what you think the consequences will be.
Because you think someone else won’t do it as well as you.
Because you think you will miss something.
Because you think someone will suffer.
Because you think you will suffer.
But what these all have in common is that YOU THINK something is going to occur.
Nothing has even happened, and you have worked yourself into a frazzled, tired woman.
And you have chosen everything on that list.
I don’t think someone is handing you that list. I am looking over your shoulder, and I’m pretty sure that’s your handwriting.
I’m not saying to shirk all responsibilities.
I’m just saying sometimes think WWBD (what would a baby do?) Sometimes doing nothing is just what is needed in a situation.
You choose how busy you are.
Now you just have to believe it, and take your power back.