The last few years have been a time of intense transformation for me, and I’ve been paying some attention lately to some of the ways this period has changed me and the ways that I approach and interact with life.
There are, of course, many ways in which I am the same person I’ve always been, with all of the same faults and quirks, but there are other ways in which I am profoundly different from the person I once was. Most of these changes are helpful ones that have improved my life in significant ways.
As grateful as I am for these changes, the process of getting here was excruciatingly hard. Even in places where I long to be transformed because I know the way that I’m currently engaging with life is not helpful, I also resist the transformation I long for. Why do I do this?
I’ve come to think of transformation as something that causes a change to our self-identity. Other changes, painful and challenging as they may be at times, leave our self-identity unaltered.
For example, the sprouting of a seed into a plant is a process of transformation. A seed and a plant are identifiably different things. Pruning a plant (even major pruning that leaves the plant looking significantly different) is a change, but not a transformation. The plant is still the same kind of plant it was before; it just looks different.
Viewing transformation this way has helped me understand and better work with my internal resistance over the last few years. Our self-identity is the bedrock on which we build our lives. It is the very foundation of who we are. Allowing that self-identity to die (as a seed) in order to be re-born as something new (the plant) is profoundly unsettling.
It involves grief, loss, fear, anxiety, and often a sense of failure all at a time when we are unusually vulnerable and insecure. It is often a very lonely process as well. Those close to us either resist our transformation because our changes will create changes for them or they are unable to support us because they can’t understand what is happening since so much of this is happening internally.
It took several years of walking through the death of the old self-identity in my case before a clear indication of a new self-identity began to clearly sprout. Those years felt like a wasteland of death and destruction as my self-identity fell apart on multiple fronts all at once. Even now, this new sprout often feels so small and tender that I don’t know whether it will survive or what it will grow into.
It’s no wonder we resist this process even when we long for the results! It’s not easy to walk willingly into the death of one’s self-identity with no promise of what might emerge on the other side.
And yet, as painful and traumatic as this process has been, I am grateful for the outcome. Of all the benefits I’ve gained from this time, the greatest has been learning that I can survive the death of my self-identity.
Next time, I’ll need less trauma to force me into letting go because I won’t need to cling so hard to who I know myself to be. (Or at least, I hope that will be the case!) The more easily I can let go of the self I have known, the easier the process will be.
In the meantime, I continue to nurture these tender new sprouts and wait eagerly to see what they will grow into. I’ve slowly shifted from a place of grieving the losses and am starting to celebrate the new life that is taking shape.
I have not only survived, I am determined to be better for having gone through the process.
Have you ever experienced a season of major transformation in your life? If so, does this image of a seed dying so that a new sprout can form fit with your experience also? If not, what was the experience of transformation like for you?
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