Fresh starts don’t exist, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change

How many times have you started something or somewhere new and told yourself “This is going to be different”?

I went to university determined to reinvent myself but found myself feeling out of place downing shots in nightclubs, desperately lonely and wondering why.

I switched to more interesting jobs, only to slip back into the same patterns of procrastination.

I started new relationships promising myself that this time I will be the perfect girlfriend, that I won’t let the crazy show. Only to find myself binge eating cookies whilst crying my eyes out.

Despite this, part of me believed that coaching was going to “fix” me. That now I know that most of my suffering is caused by my own thoughts, I’ll be able to coach myself out of having a crisis. I’ll be completely in control all of the time.

How wrong I was

The other week, I turned up at the salon to find that my hairdresser had forgotten I had made an appointment and already gone home. I started to panic: I needed a hair cut before the weekend, my hair looked awful. I cycled frantically between other salons, asking in desperation if anyone had a walk in appointment. When nobody did, I went to Primark and bought some cheap hair accessories. I spent almost half an hour in a public bathroom, compulsively doing and re-doing my hair. It still looked awful but I was already very late meeting my husband and his friend for drinks so I eventually managed to make myself leave. When I got to the bar, I couldn’t walk in. I stood outside for ten minutes, tears streaming down my face, my heart racing.

I couldn’t understand it. I thought I was “better”. But here I was, having a panic attack because I couldn’t get a hair cut. It’s all hopeless. I’ll always be a crazy person.

My life is not a movie

Sas Petherick calls bullshit on the hero’s saga. I too, agree that in real life we don’t get to defeat our enemies in a massive showdown. There is no moment when I step forward as a transformed person, leaving behind my anxiety and “crazy” behaviour.

For the last quarter of a century I have told myself, in a fit of hysterical crying over something trivial, that this is the last time. That I will get my shit together and start operating as a different person.

In the days that followed The No Haircut Crisis I told myself that I should have been able to interrupt my thoughts and stopped myself panicking. I was angry at myself, demanding to know why I was unable to control my emotions.

Now I am learning that this isn’t helpful. I need to be kind to myself. Instead of demanding why I am acting irrationally I should just acknowledge the urge to. And BREATHE.

Coaching didn’t fix me. CBT didn’t fix me. Moving to a new job or a new home or a new relationship didn’t fix me.

Nothing is going to “fix” me because that isn’t how change works.

Change happens in baby steps. We can’t expect to be transformed in an instant, and for things to be magically different “next time”. We have to put in the work every time things get difficult.

Or as Sas says:

How and where real change happens is completely at odds with the hero’s saga:

  • Instead of being in perpetual forward motion, allow yourself to be fully present to what is true right now.
  • Instead of constantly overcoming obstacles, be willing to allow your awareness to deepen at critical moments.
  • Instead of a long drawn-out adventure, change can happen in a heart-beat when you see yourself show up in a new way.

Responding to a critical moment with presence is the key to making a different choice > doing something differently creates evidence that are other ways to be > when we show up in new ways that feel aligned with who we really are and what we really want, we create momentum that is ease-filled > stringing critical moments together creates a fundamental shift in who we are now.

We buy into the transformation myth because we want to believe that there is an easy fix to our problems. But 27 years of life has taught me that there is rarely an easy solution to something worth doing. I couldn’t run a half marathon because I woke up one day thinking that I would be a long distance runner. I went running four times a week for eight months, putting one foot in front of the other for greater and greater distances. It was bloody hard work.

Now it’s time to start putting that much effort into my mental landscape. Taking each day at a time, practicing being in each moment at a time, recognising how my thoughts impact my feelings and being kind to myself. I suspect it might be much harder than marathon training, but even more worthwhile.

Fresh starts don’t exist, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change

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