May 19, 2020
How to Become the Phoenix
We under-live our lives because we don’t believe we are capable of anything else.
I was sitting in front of the window in my new city apartment after spending a lifetime in the suburbs. I looked out my window, over a run-down parking garage, and thought,
“Wasn’t it supposed to be more beautiful than this?”
I wasn’t just referring to my view.
I was referring to my divorce. To my lack of success as a writer. To life in general.
I felt like a little kid who just found out the tooth fairy wasn’t real. I thought it was all supposed to be more beautiful than this.
But then I realized I wasn’t just talking about the outside world.
“I’m talking about in here,” I thought as I closed my eyes, “Wasn’t I supposed to be more beautiful than this?”
I thought I was going to rise to the occasion better. I thought I was going to learn another language and have a better body. I thought I was going to have a book published.
It’s an uncomfortable feeling to be face to face with how I’ve under lived my life. But it is the pain of this awareness that breaks the chains — that is the catalyst to my own evolution.
The truth is, life is more beautiful than I can imagine. I am more beautiful than I can imagine. But I will never experience this if I stay the same.
I must be brave enough to evolve the opinion I have of myself and become a better person.
Here’s how I’m doing that.
Becoming the Phoenix
I was doing cardio and about halfway through I entered a full-on war with myself over quitting the exercise early.
But quitting this cardio was more than just quitting the cardio. It was quitting myself. It was giving in to my self-made limitations. It was settling for the view of the run-down parking garage, instead of working to create a view worthy of the life of my dreams.
Then I had a vision of big, firey wings unfolding from my back. My eyes glowed red and I grew majestic feathers of fire.
I was a phoenix. I was powerful. I finished the workout.
At my core, I am as powerful and beautiful as a phoenix bird. Who I really am is someone worthy of living the life of my dreams. Who I really am is someone better than the current opinion I have of myself.
But sometimes, I forget.
Becoming The Phoenix is what it means for me to become a better person. Because becoming a better person is less about becoming someone different and more about embodying more of who I really am.
In order to become a better person and truly change your opinion of yourself, your motivation has to come from within.
My will to finish the workout that day wasn’t fueled by what anybody else in the gym looked like. It wasn’t even fueled by what I thought I was “supposed” to look like.
I was able to finish that workout because I was struck with the awareness that I am far more powerful than the life I’ve been living. I am far more capable than I think I am. I have this Phoenix in me — this power in me — and it is my job to show up and do the work to uncover her and to bring her to life.
My old opinion of myself has to die and be reduced to ashes over and over again so my new self can be reborn.
I’ve been working out consistently for about nine months now and sometimes I don’t recognize myself. I look at old photos and I can’t believe how much I’ve changed. I look in the mirror and am like, “Holy sh*t, this is what I look like now?”
Seeing this physical change helps me change my opinion of myself in other areas of my life, too. Now that I’m realizing I can actually become a better person physically, what more power do I have inside of myself to tap into?
What more am I capable of?
This is where it starts to get exciting.
Create Habits Worthy of Who You Want to Become
Gyms shut down during COVID-19 and I was afraid I wouldn’t keep up with my fitness. I was afraid I would go back to the old opinion of myself — the opinion I go back to when I forget I am The Phoenix.
My boyfriend has a friend with a home gym and invited me to come work out with them. They are bodybuilders. I am…not.
I felt a strong urge to decline the offer, convincing myself I could do yoga and home workouts by myself and not have to experience the shame of feeling so weak around people so strong.
But what would The Phoenix do?
She would be capable of handling the shame of feeling weak in a constructive way — with self-compassion and grace. She would push herself regardless.
She would work out with the boys.
So, that’s what I did, over and over, whenever they offered. Even though I’m not super-duper fit yet, I’m acting like it.
I’m not working out with the bodybuilder boys because I “should.” I’m working out with them because it is just what I do. It is what is required of me to fully embody The Phoenix — to fully embody my power.
And I’m much, much stronger because of it.
Becoming a better person isn’t about creating habits that are a staircase to the person you want to be. It’s about realizing you already are the person at the top of the staircase, and then creating the habits you’d have at the top.
Want to be a writer? Well, what do professional writers do? They write. And they share their writing publicly.
Want to be fit? What do fit people do? They work out and eat clean. Live like you are already a fit person.
This is how we upgrade our opinion of ourselves on a deep level.
This is how we become better people.
Self-Sabotage and Re-Commitment
Becoming a better person happens in cycles of progress and self-sabotage.
Becoming a better person is the most uncomfortable thing I’ve done in my entire life. Self-sabotage is here to protect me from this discomfort.
It’s like I get altitude sickness when I upgrade myself too fast and self-sabotage brings me back down the mountain a bit to where I am used to breathing.
This is normal. If it were a straight trek to the top, everyone would be doing it.
The people who really become their best selves don’t do it because they’ve rallied right on up to the top of the mountain without a hitch. That’s not a real thing.
The difference between the person who becomes better and the person who doesn’t is the first re-commits after a bout of self-sabotage, and the other doesn’t.
Many times, the re-commitments are more powerful and life-changing than the original commitment to begin with.
Case in point: I’m writing this to you right now on the other side of my three-day birthday binge. I’m a constipated, lethargic mess that just watched way too much Tiger King. I don’t feel like The Phoenix.
But I have the wisdom not to freak out about it.
I may not feel like The Phoenix, but I still am her. I know all it takes is for me to start implementing her habits again and I’ll feel her power and beauty in no time.
In fact, this little bout of self-sabotage has me itching to make up for lost time.
In this way, re-committing after self-sabotage can have a slingshot effect where the pain of awareness of under living my life, even if just for a little while, leapfrogs me into more consistent habits that ground this upgraded opinion of myself even deeper.
Don’t be discouraged by self-sabotage. Instead, use it as a slingshot to a deeper re-commitment.
How to Find Your Phoenix
The reason I’ve under-lived most of my life is because I didn’t believe I was capable of anything else.
I didn’t know who I was.
I didn’t realize I am already The Phoenix.
Becoming a better person is hard because we can only imagine so far beyond the limited opinion of ourselves we’ve been given.
The cages we put ourselves in limit our capacity to imagine anything beyond them.
This is why it must happen a step at a time.
First, we must find the bravery to open our cage. We must ask if we are willing to change the opinion we have of ourselves.
Answering “no” to this question is sometimes more powerful than answering “yes.” This is because admitting we aren’t willing to upgrade the opinion we have of ourselves gets us curious as to why. It gets us looking inward. It points us to our previously invisible cages.
Once we are honestly willing to upgrade the opinion we have of ourselves — even if we don’t know what that opinion is exactly — the lock flings off of our internal cage, and we can move on to the next step.
The next step is to get clear about who your inner phoenix actually is. Create your own version of “The Phoenix” based around your gifts and talents and power and beauty.
If you’ve ever had the thought that life is supposed to be more beautiful than this — that you were supposed to be more beautiful than this —then tell me, how exactly did you hope for it to be? What is the most beautiful life you can imagine? What does your most beautiful self look like?
Imagine who you want to become. What sorts of habits do they have? What sorts of thoughts do they think? What do they look like? Write this down.
Visualize something other-worldly like I did or something practical if that suits you better. Give them a name. Let who you want to become come alive in your imagination.
Once you’re clear on who you want to be, it’s time to act like them. It’s time to act like the person you’ve been all along.
It’s time to realize you are far more beautiful than the life you’ve been living.
The final step in finding your Phoenix is to practice embodying them.
This requires you to take your first steps out of your self-limiting cage, which will feel like you’re leaping off a cliff.
This step is about creating the habits your inner phoenix would do. It’s about working out with the boys. It’s about doing that thing that makes you feel terrified and alive all at the same time. Sign up for a gym membership. Launch a blog. Talk to that pretty girl.
When we exercise our inner beauty and power consistently, our whole world starts to open up.
We start living the life of our dreams.
Tips to Remember Who You Are
It is hard to coach ourselves out of our own limiting beliefs because we are so used to them. I’m not doing it alone, and neither should you. Here are a few things helping me.
- Surround yourself with people who live beautiful lives. You’re an average of the five people you’re closest with. Surround yourself with people who aren’t under-living their life and you’ll stop under-living yours. Let other people’s light remind you of your own.
- Consume content other than the thoughts in your head. Consume content from people who have already made it out of their cages. Read books that remind you of who you really are. Listen to podcasts that teach you more about the habits aligning with the person you want to become.
- Go to therapy or hire a coach. It is literally their job to remind you of the phoenix inside of you — to remind you of who you really are — when you want to quit. They will coach you through your own self-sabotage and help you refine your habits. The person you want to become invests in themselves, this is a great way to do it.
You are more capable than you think you are.
You are already the person you’d like to become.
Act like it.