Given that spring is rapidly approaching, I have been thinking about what I might need to clean out of my life of in order to make room for whatever is around the corner. To me, this type of clearing out comes in two forms. The one I think we are most familiar with is the getting rid of unwanted physical possessions – I love nothing better than the feeling I get after I have donated a few pieces of old clothing to my local charity shop, for example. The other form, however, is something I believe we contemplate less - mental release. As Pamela Mitchell, founder of The Reinvention Institute says, it is like pruning a garden, we need to release the unhelpful thoughts and beliefs we are holding on to so that we can continue to thrive and grow.
As an illustration, I want to share my own story with you. As most of my friends and family know, I have been struggling with alopecia areata, otherwise known as spot baldness, for close to 30 years. My form, however, goes beyond the normal type in that I periodically lose most of my hair and sometimes even my eyebrows. How have I dealt with this? By wearing scarves, hats and various types of wigs and, much to my amusement, sometimes even buying ridiculously expensive little shaker bottles of real hair to fill in the spots.
‘What does this have to do with spring cleaning?’ you might be asking. Last spring, in a large part as the result of the work I did during my coaching training, I decided that I wanted to be as authentically ‘me’ as I could be. I finally realised that I couldn’t do that if I kept covering myself up, or in effect hiding who I really am. So, I took the first step. I went into Jack The Clipper, a barber I had always liked the look of in east London, I took off my wig and I asked to have my head shaved. I still smile when I remember how great it felt sitting there watching the barber shave my head for the first time. I also remember how lovely the almond oil that was put on my head afterwards smelled. And yet, as great as it felt, I still put on my wig at the end of it and went on my merry way.
Stage two of my story came a week or so later. By then my wig had actually begun to feel like chainmail, and, at one point when I couldn’t stand it anymore, I took it off and literally threw it across the room. I can honestly say that the feeling of release was amazing. The big question, though, is release from what? There was obviously the physical pleasure of taking off the wig (kind of like taking off a ski boot at the end of a long day’s skiing). The greater release, however, was the mental one – I had to let go of the belief that I needed to look and behave in certain way in order to fit in, in order to be taken seriously, and in order for people to like me. In the end, the big lesson for me was that it was only when I shed the metaphoric armour and really let myself be seen that I could I get rid of the physical one.
Now we are halfway through March and I am asking myself the question – what do I need to release this year in order to continue to grow? And you, dear readers – what do you need to let go of, both physically and mentally, in order to live the life you really desire? Who do you want to be as 2018 unfolds? Trust me, these questions aren’t always easy to answer but they are well worth asking!