What making my son's Halloween costume taught me about inner transformation.
My son has become mildly obsessed with Transformers over the past two years. We now own a ridiculous number of "bots," watch all the cartoons, regularly pretend we are “robots in disguise” when we’re out in public, and make up nightly bedtime stories involving the characters.
Thus, it came as no surprise when he announced he wanted to be a Transformer for Halloween. However, when he requested a costume that actually transformed instead of one easily purchased at Target, I knew I was in trouble! Thanks to YouTube, Etsy, and wine I was able to honor his request, and despite my initial grumblings (I'm not very crafty so this really stretched me!), I learned a lot in the process about myself and the process of transforming more broadly. A few observations:
Lesson #1 - Real beauty lies in imperfections.
If you're paying attention you’ll start to notice that everyone is held together with their own version of duct tape, hot glue, popsicle sticks, and elastic. Some people work their entire lives to hide it because they'd rather you see their "perfect" exterior, but when someone is vulnerable enough to share their insecurities and/or imperfections doesn't it help you feel less alone? How differently might you walk into a room if you knew everyone would accept you just as you are? What would you do/not do if you were truly comfortable in your own skin? My new goal is to accept and discuss my imperfections more and judge myself and others a whole lot less. Just thinking of doing this feels so hard because I've always struggled with being a perfectionist! And I also know there's a big payoff waiting on the other side.
Lesson #2 - Laugh at your mistakes.
When your four-year-old tells you that you’ve glued a piece of his costume upside down, try hard not to dismiss the feedback because he's likely right despite his young age. And instead of beating yourself up about it or totally stressing out because you have to start over (see #3), try hard to laugh. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could give ourselves more grace when we mess up, especially at work? What if, when we made a mistake, we chuckled to ourselves and then simply asked, “What did I learn just now?” or even shared our goof with a colleague to help normalize making mistakes as a team? And what if we celebrated when we successfully fixed our mistakes as my son did with me? "Mom, I'm so proud of you for figuring out how to fix what you messed up!" Thanks, buddy. I needed that.
Lesson #3 - Expect the unexpected.
I thought I had four days before Halloween to finish my son's costume, but then had to drop everything due to the unexpected death of a family friend which meant traveling out of town for the funeral and returning just two hours before trick-or-treating started. After initially freaking out, I tried to tune out the distractions and stay focused on finishing the costume with the remaining time I had. When you’re in a period of transformation there are lots of things that may feel unpredictable, unsettled, or too hard. However, if you had a 100% guarantee that those things would help you achieve your end goal would you be willing to endure them? What might be possible if you simply decided to enjoy the ride and embrace the detours you encountered along the way?
Lesson #4 - Have fun and don’t take yourself so seriously!
Sometimes it’s ok to select the sparkly glitter glue instead of the clear glue. One may help you look more polished and put together but the other will make you smile every time you see it. I spent twenty years working at a large law firm and I regret not picking the "sparkly glue" more often because I was worried about how other people would judge me. But as my son shared with me when I hesitated using the sparkly glue on his costume, "But mom, sparkles are so much more fun! Let's do it!"
"Change is inevitable, but transformation is by conscious choice." – Heather Ash Amara
Lesson #5 - Transforming is a slow, iterative process and will likely require you to get messy.
Our house was a mess for several weeks while our kitchen served as the Transformers costume shop. I hated the mess but had nowhere else to go so I learned to live with it and reminded myself it was temporary. Personal transformation also takes time and requires a great deal of patience, persistence, forgiveness, and grace. Writer Elizabeth Gilbert challenges us to, "Embrace the glorious mess that you are." This is especially hard because we live in a world that expects and rewards instant gratification and perfection. Your own inner excavation may require you to open some long-closed boxes in your heart and leave things a bit messy as you sort through them. Get comfortable with the mess! It certainly isn't permanent and you may discover some cool new things about yourself in the process. What a gift!
What needs transforming in your life?
What kind of personal or professional transformation have you wanted to undertake but have been too afraid to start? What is that choice costing you? Consider one small step you might be able to take today to help you get a little closer to the person you want to become. And know that I’m here to support you when you’re ready to take another step, unless you want me to make you a Transformers costume, and then you're on your own!