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A Good Lesson About Change…from a Snake

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Let me start by saying that I am not a big fan of snakes. For some reason, they scare me. Who knows—maybe I had a bad encounter with one in a prior life. However, a few weeks ago, I was at the pet store looking for some new fish to join my already established fish family of Diamond Dave, Gloria, Houdini and Carl, and I saw a snake that had just shed its skin. The super-knowledgeable person at the store explained how that works. And I was fascinated.

Fun fact: Snakes don’t shed their skin overnight.

This intriguing process takes several days, and as it was described to me, it didn’t exactly sound like a pleasant experience. In the day or two leading up to the release of the old layer of skin, protective fluid builds up around the snake’s eyes, blurring its vision. It may become nervous or irritable, and choose to hide or even stop eating. Once the skin begins to separate, the snake will rub its head on a jagged rock or piece of bark, tearing the skin enough to start wiggling loose from it. Over the course of several days, the snake will go about its business as the old, crumbly layer slowly releases, exposing the new, vibrant layer underneath. With its old covering finally shed, the snake will rest in the sun while its fresh and tender skin adjusts to the air.

The connections to humans—we shed our skins, too.

Think about this metaphor with me, will you?

Like snakes, humans shed their skin every so often. We grow and change, releasing our old selves and shaping and adapting to our new selves. Sometimes we feel excited about it, and sometimes we dread it, but there is almost always a bit of clumsiness and mess involved. At the onset, we may feel resistant, nervous and irritable; in the midst of the change itself, we might be so uncomfortable that we’ll do whatever we can to hurry it up—or at least not think about it. Once we’ve come through to the other side, our new self perhaps feels a bit raw, vulnerable and wary of how it will be received in the world, until we have finally healed enough to let our new and true colors shine.

For us humans, this process is known as creating a higher consciousness, and it’s part of our desire to evolve and become a better version of ourselves. We are hardwired for this process.

So, we’re kind of like snakes. In a good way. 

Shedding your old self isn’t just good for you. It’s necessary.

A snake’s skin will automatically begin to slough off as its body underneath grows and develops. The same is true for humans from a metaphoric standpoint. However, we don’t always see it that way, or even understand why it’s happening.

The catalyst for our “skin-shedding” is sometimes traumatic. Something horrible happens—like, I don’t know, say, a global pandemic, or in my case, the death of my wife 12 years ago—and you are forced to adapt and grow into your new circumstances or remain unchanged at your own peril. Other times, the catalyst is much more subtle. It could be simply a nagging feeling that something isn’t right, that you’re stuck in a funk, completely lost on a path that feels suddenly unfamiliar—or perhaps too familiar. It could be a burning desire to chase a dream.

Whatever the catalyst is, it will require you to grow whether you want to or not. And many of us flat-out refuse to do this. Our bodies and minds try over and over to send us signals that it’s time, but we don’t slow ourselves down enough to heed them. So, the universe intervenes, sometimes through the use of excessive force.

It’s like there’s a door in front of you, with your new and evolved self waiting on the other side. If you don’t open the door on your own, life will come along and flatten you like a pancake and squeeze you right through the crack underneath the door. It will probably hurt, and you’ll shake your fist at the ether, wondering why we live in such a cruel and unusual world. But one way or the other, you’re going through that door, damn it.

You might as well embrace it.

We just need a little more grace.

What we can learn most from a snake shedding its skin is how to shed ours willingly, and without feeling like we have to punish ourselves in the process. Change is hard enough but, boy, we are just masters at making it even harder for ourselves. The snake, on the other hand, knows how to take care of itself. It slows down to prepare for its big change; then as the change is happening, the snake lives its happy little snake life for several days with skin that’s half-attached. It is half old, half new, maybe a little confused and disheveled, but out in the world just the same. Our snake friend accepts what’s happening and goes about its business, no matter how long it takes or how uncomfortable it might be.

The snake gives itself some grace. So can you.

Be patient and considerate with yourself.

Remember that change is a process—there’s rarely any instant gratification. It takes time, and if you try to rush through it, you’ll diminish your growth, as well as your joy and peace along the way. Learn to be content in the transition, in the journey, even when (and especially when) you’re not quite certain what the other side looks like.

Big changes are a big f—king deal, and even the smaller changes can be rough. So don’t be hard on yourself. This is true even when the change is something you’ve wanted, like learning a new skill or starting a new job. Criticizing and diminishing YOU because the process is challenging only makes it harder. 

Let go of your expectations, and just let change happen.

The difficult part of navigating a change is not necessarily the acceptance of growth into something new, but the mourning of the old thing—or in some cases, what we thought the new thing was going to be. We don’t always know what our new consciousness is going to look like until the old part of ourselves completely falls away. Your new circumstance, your new self, might not be what you thought it would be, but that doesn’t mean that the change isn’t good—and that it’s not right for you. It’s just not how you imagined it would be. And that’s okay.

If you find yourself resisting change, take that opportunity to examine your programming. What beliefs are you holding onto that are making that change feel impossible? What beliefs do you need to adopt instead to see yourself through to the other side?

Change is inevitable. To give yourself grace and get through a tricky period of growth, you have to let go of your expectations and your control and allow whatever is meant to happen, happen.

Be like a snake..

Set your intention to be always open to adapt and grow, to shed that old skin. You are a human being, and adapting and growing is what you’re meant to do. Decide to love and be kind to yourself through change. Indulging in nasty self-talk only makes it more challenging. Commit to the belief that no matter what happens along the way, the change will be worth it, because your new self is going to emerge into the world whether you like it or not. The only way forward is forward, so you might as well raise your hand and participate.

…but appreciate that you are not a snake.

Unlike other creatures on Earth, humans are blessed with the ability to cultivate and drive our own changes; we can act proactively instead of exclusively in response to our environment. We have big, beautiful brains that allow us to achieve extraordinary things. We get to revel in the joy and warmth of community, and indulge in things like Netflix binges and cashmere sweaters and homemade chocolate cake. While we can’t control everything, we can control our attitude and our effort toward our own growth, and that’s actually really powerful.

Even if you believe it’s time to make a change in your life, it can be overwhelming to know where and how to start. I am here to support you! Book a free discovery session, and let’s talk about what changes excite and scare you, and how we can get through them together. Until then, be like a snake and grant yourself a little grace. Your beautiful new skin awaits! 

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