Transforming Fear to Joy

Personal Change–From the Outside-in or Inside-out?


When we choose to create change in our lives, our tendency is to begin outside of ourselves with what we can see with our eyes.  One of my ‘early warning’ signs of coming change is I find myself tidying up, sorting through and getting rid of what I no longer use, wear, read, etc.  Literally and metaphorically, I am creating more space in my surroundings for the emerging new changes.

This preparatory external phase sets the stage for an inner “housecleaning” or purging of behavioral patterns and beliefs that inhibit our potential for growth and fulfillment.  During one of my own internal purges, I wrote the following poem to capture my experience and remind me that old patterns die hard.  Although I may know a better way, it takes time and practice before the old beliefs and then behaviors fade away.

Believe Then Behave

I wage an inner war
between beliefs and behavior,
between humility and arrogance.
I have worn the cloak of the chameleon
adapting to please and protect,
a smile of acceptance masking the scales of judgment.

Today, I drape myself with a different coat,
still colourful and cooperative but uniquely me.
And I remember who I am and ask, how can I be me?
So, this is mindfulness — to be awake within oneself
in every moment of every day.

I am daunted by the enormity of this requirement.
My awkwardness is apparent.
This new garment with its gentler fit is not yet a part of me.
Like a new game of sport I haven’t quite bested,
I sometimes forget and play by old rules.

Impulsive, I leap and fall into the old familiar mindsets.
Shame and judgment weigh heavily upon me.
My first lesson of humility is knowing
I confused confidence with arrogance.
My throat tightens from the sour sting of recognition.

Imbalanced, I come face-to-face
With my ego’s scorching breath
I wait for behavior to catch up with beliefs.
Impatient, I agonize over two steps forward and one back.

February 2004

It is very helpful for me to understand the (unconscious) steps or process I engage in when change confronts me.  Firstly, by becoming conscious of these steps, I recognize coming change instead of feeling as though the rug has been pulled out from under me.  Secondly, I decide if these steps are helpful or do I need other ‘early warning’ signs instead.

What is your change process?  Do you notice yourself beginning to first change things in your external environment and then find yourself in the midst of internal release and change?  Are you an outside-in or an inside-out when it comes to change?

Picture of Author: Helen Maupin

Author: Helen Maupin

Helen is passionate about transforming fear into love — from her, for her, for all. She expresses her commitment to transformation through writing poetry, self-awareness and yoga books, co-designing organizations into adaptive enterprises and deepening her daily meditation and yoga practices.


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