Ok, so this one is SUPER helpful... and I can say that with authority because I just completed all 3 steps and WOW!!
This is a special assignment that I dreamed up for a Brand Therapy client who thereafter, very astutely, pointed out that I could probably benefit from completing it myself... because she is also a friend and she is super smart and basically always right. And I knew from the MOMENT she said it, that yes... she was right again and I did NEED this.
And having talked about it NON-STOP for weeks, as I processed through all of the emotions that the various steps brought up and helped me sort out, I realized that, really, everyone needs this assignment for something. We all have things that we are holding on to. Previous versions of ourselves that we feel defined by. Dreams that we still feel connected to and, somehow, obligated to even though they don't fit who we are now. We hold on to things so tightly that we don't realize that they are slowly poisoning all of the new things that we DO want and all the ways in which we COULD be growing beyond and without those shame/guilt triggers holding us back...
Here's my story. I have been running inKind Design as a graphic design and creative marketing agency for almost a decade. What my business is NOW (empathetic brand building and creative encouragement) is SO different from what it used to be, even just 6 months ago. And all that growth has been AMAZING and SO fulfilling... but also scary. In all the years of my running inKind, I've had so many ideas. So many aspirations and SO many Pinterest boards of things I wanted to build for my future. Things that just don't... fit anymore... but are still stuck in the back of my brain saying "maybe someday". And then there was the OTHER business I tried to build with a friend just after giving birth to my daughter.... in the middle of the pandemic.... with limited communication, no structure, and totally different visions.... so THAT didn't work. And the thing is, my brain knows that I'm SO MUCH better off here, right here and right now, doing EXACTLY what I'm doing. But my heart...? My heart is VERY MUCH still being pulled at by all of the what-ifs. What if I'd been different. What if I'd made different choices or done things better. BLAH. BLAH. FRICKIN. BLAH. Because it doesn't matter! I did what I did. Things happened the way they happened and if I'm HAPPIER on the other side, then why can't I let it all go...?
So here's where the exercise comes in:
Step 1: Gather
This is where we start. Gathering up bits and pieces. Bits that feel connected to those previous or possible versions of you that no longer serve who you are becoming. Pieces of what you thought you wanted for yourself, but don't anymore. Things that you are grateful for and proud of and have held hope for. Things that have meant something important to you, for any reason, but that your head knows it's time to let go of, even if your heart isn't 100% ready...
For me, I started by printing out all of my most cherished and held-on-to things from those Pinterest boards. Collections of things I THOUGHT I wanted. Wished for. Waited to achieve... Inspirational tidbits that I have both LOVED and felt shame for not accomplishing or wanting anymore... (ie pictures of plans I'd had for decorating a brick and mortar office space for, you know, when I had staff and interns and conferences and scholarships and on and on and on.... because that's what I'm SUPPOSED to be working toward, right?). And I also knew I wanted to include all of my most cherished and painful pieces that I'd created for that loved and passion driven, and doomed-from-the-start, OTHER business venture. They are all tangled up in post-partum, personal strife, but I really did love them, at the time.
Gathering is helpful. And hard... But exciting. Give yourself time to think through what and how you want to gather. This is where it all begins.
Step 2: Portrait of a Different Me
Collage.... Collage is a super funny thing... For me, at least, there's a little less fear in collage than there would be in, say, painting. Because once you put paint down, you're stuck with it. But collage is something where you can lay pieces down and move them around and there's safety in that. In a LOT of the creative work we do together, I'm going to help you work through the hesitation and make mistakes and turn them into something beautiful. But here, you are absolutely allowed to second guess yourself and make changes. Because that's what this WHOLE assignment is about. It's about giving yourself the grace to do things wrong and then change them.
So in step 2, you'll use all of the bits and pieces you've gathered (plus poster board and glue) to build a collage portrait of ALL of those things you've loved and held on to that don't serve you anymore. Be generous with what you include. Anything and everything that you feel connected to or injured by or grateful for can be in this. Think of this as a self-portrait of who you have been, or could have been, if you'd made different choices. The end result should be something that feels like you... but also like a friend who you used to know... who you are SUPER grateful for, but don't need anymore. This is a bittersweet experience. Which means it's still a little sweet.
My portrait of a different me is all structure and perfectionism. It's bright and colorful, but SO controlled and micromanaged and overthought... See for yourself.
Step 3: Who am I Now??
Step 3 Part 1 - Gathering again...
The first part of step 3 is... to take a pair of scissors... and start cutting up that beautiful, bittersweet self-portrait that you've just put so much thought and care into... Because the point of building was to honor the things that you are getting ready to let go of... and the point of cutting it up is to actually do the letting go.
Now here's where it gets interesting. We're not cutting things up purely for the sake of destruction and catharsis. We're still building. This is sort of a second round of gathering... just with scissors this time. Take a look at all the bits and pieces you've collaged together and think about what, if any, of those pieces still DO feel like you. Because in the mess of it all, the fact remains that it all did come from you. And things that come from you don't really disappear. They reshape, reform, grow, shed... they evolve. So as you're cutting, keep the things that you want to carry with you into this bright and beautiful new future. I was SHOCKED that there were pieces on the "failed business" side of my collage that I ended up keeping. I thought it was all so mired in self-loathing and failure that I was going to straight up amputate that corner of poster board and be done with it. But I was wrong. And pleasantly (and gratefully) so. What I took was words. Tiny pieces.
This is also a good time to look around and gather up any additional bits and pieces that represent who you want to show up as, moving forward.
Step 3 Part 2 - Building a NEW Me!
This is THE BEST PART!!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously, throughout the whole process I was so nervous and curious and confused and hesitant... but when it came time for this step that ALL went out the window and I was just EXCITED!!!!
This is where you take those little bits and pieces you saved from that first self-portrait, and whatever inspirational NEW bits you've collected, to build something totally new. Something that feels like YOU. NOW. REALLY. The you who you are becoming. The you that isn't held down or held back by any previous notions of who you COULD have been or SHOULD have been... Because you are something new. Today. Right now. You are beautiful and strong and FREE to be whoever, whatever, and however you WANT. And isn't that just the BEST THING!!!!
I had an idea in my head as soon as I realized where my experience of this exercise was going. I took a huge pile of sticky notes that I'd used to build the framework of my new direction for inKind Design, I bought some super colorful and fun acrylic paints that SHOULDN'T work together but that I LOVE, and a BIG picture of me that I'd been afraid to use for TOO long... And I built this:
It's FREE. It's MOVING. It's VIBRANT. It's FUN. It's MESSY.
Fully and un-apologetically ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!