Finance & Money
How I Reinvented Myself By Not Changing a Thing
Simply looking at your life differently — what brings you joy, what drags you down — can help you completely reinvent yourself
I find societal pressure to be better and live larger to be exhausting. Every day, magazines, television shows, advertisers, and social media influencers all shout at us to lose that weight, stick to that exercise plan, see the world, learn a new hobby, minimize our carbon footprint, or take steps to secure that promotion, all without offering a shred of proof that any of this so-called self-improvement will bring genuine, lasting happiness. Making any change — let alone a giant one (or 10) — takes an enormous amount of mental energy.
I’ve been thinner at points in my life. I’ve traveled widely. I’ve taken guitar and painting lessons and have gone through periods of organization before devolving back into my standard state of disarray. All in all, none of those things delivered authentic, sustained happiness. If anything, my inability to maintain all those changes often made me feel like a failure.
And yet, I can still offer hope for a path to completely reinventing yourself and finding true happiness, thanks to my own discovery, which came about in an unlikely way.
How To Completely Reinvent Yourself: Embrace Life’s Unexpected Twists and Turns
It all began in 2020, a rough year for everyone because of COVID-19. Like many of you, I muddled through the extreme circumstances telling myself that, if I could hang on until it ended, all would eventually be well.
Then, just as COVID relief arrived in the form of vaccines and lower hospitalization rates, I received an unexpected and alarming diagnosis of tumors on my thyroid. Soon after a thyroidectomy, I broke my right arm in a freak fall on our patio. Within this same 14-month stretch, I also needed a hysterectomy thanks to a series of concerning pap smears. The worst part? That surgery went poorly, resulting in a perforated bowel and sepsis that nearly killed me.
One bowel resection and a lengthy recovery later, my health and energy levels appeared to be back to normal. My mental and emotional well-being, however, were forever altered by how those fretful days in the hospital facing my mortality brought the fragility and beauty of everything into razor-sharp focus.
In the immediate aftermath of that final surgery, when my blood was tested daily, an NG tube hung from my nose, and I had six IVs connecting me to a machine that became my shadow, I learned a secret that advertisers and influencers don’t want you to believe:
…Happiness is not a destination, nor is it to be found in any product. Will you get a temporary dopamine hit from reaching that weight goal or clearing your office of clutter? Absolutely. But I’ve since come to realize that lasting happiness is achieved by using deliberate self-reflection and self-awareness to make more good choices than bad ones.
The Key To Completely Reinventing Yourself: Make Good Choices
Naturally, this begs the question: What’s a good choice?
That will vary from person to person based on one’s unique values and priorities.
First, you must slow down and identify the things that fire you up, that make you warm inside and out, that get your brain engaged. In my case, that included creating good fiction, connecting with community both professionally and personally, reading, enjoying good food, and physical affection. Next, take stock of activities and people that detract from your joy. For me, this list included alcohol, social media, professional comparison, and my tendency to dwell on things that make me anxious.
Once I became mindful about the influences in my life, it became much easier to minimize exposure to the things that sap joy from me, and to focus more intentionally (and with gratitude) on the things that bring pleasure and contentment.
I’m not convinced this insight would’ve come to me without my scary wake-up call, but a health crisis is not a prerequisite to taking stock of one’s life and choices.
These days, I spend less time on social media despite working in an industry that emphasizes online omnipresence. I’m okay if my decision means fewer book sales, because my happiness is not derived solely from my career.
I’m in therapy to manage my anxiety, which, in my case, stems from the inability to control outcomes. I nurture relationships with friends who understand and accept me (flaws and all) and spend less time with folks who harp on the things they think I should change. Cutting out people who don’t value me exactly as I am has been key.
I’m also more honest with my kids and spouse about my needs and challenges, and I ask for help — something I was previously loath to do. And finally, I’m loving myself more and giving myself grace by accepting my body and my peccadilloes as they are.
In other words, I’ve done the opposite of changing myself. I managed to completely reinvent myself without changing a thing. And, I’m happy to report that it’s much easier and more freeing to pay attention to one’s inner voice and then make choices based on that information than to try to become someone you are not. Or worse, to become someone others think you should be.
Jamie Beck is a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of 18 novels, which have collectively sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. Her latest release, The Beauty of Rain, is inspired by her personal journey and work-in-progress mindset.