New City, New Me: The art of reinventing yourself
Deep within the coastal oceans, there is a critter known as the decorator crab. This fellow scurries across the Caribbean seabed, collecting debris to place upon the back of its shell. Its gangly orange legs and unblinking, black eyes peeking out from behind a tactful arrangement of seaweed, corals, and shell fragments — the decorator crab is trying to camouflage itself from potential predators. It tries to design a shell representative of its own personal style; a perfect display of ‘who’ that crab really is. In that way, the decorator crab is not unlike a human up above, designing a self-image for the rest of the world to interpret.
There are infinite labels and institutions that humans use to describe who they are. We begin collecting these from birth and grow to be painstakingly decisive about which of our innate qualities we nurture and which we try to quiet. From our education and career to the food we eat and the establishments we frequent, every elective decision we make for ourselves is a statement of who we are and the person we wish to be. We advertise this personal brand through our clothes, our body language, and our hair cuts, the music we listen to, the way we speak, how we conduct our lives, and all things in-between. These all weave together to create a person that we try to appear proud of.
So what happens when you’re in a new city and suddenly have the opportunity to refresh and reinvent yourself in a new direction? Without your past to contextualize you can redefine yourself in so many ways. It’s suddenly new and exciting, but undeniably frightening. The decision to align who you feel you are with who you want to be (or know yourself to be) is a big one, possibly the biggest decision you can ever make, so congratulations on taking control of life’s many variables.
No matter why or how you found yourself in a new city, consider it a gift. It’s an incredible opportunity to determine who you are — or, at least, who you would want to be if you had absolutely no limitations. That’s no hyperbole: by moving, you did what so many people are paralyzingly fearful of. Draw strength from this and know you are, truthfully, limitless! With this energy and opportunity before you, think about your ideal self, and then think about the barriers that keep you from becoming that person. It’s fully within your power. But how?
Every choice you make has the power to push you down an alternative career path, into a new relationship, or around a different group of people, which is an appealing idea to some. Making the decision is easy, but the reality can be much more difficult. Reinventing yourself also means learning to embrace discomfort because there are many more parts of our lives that we cannot control. Moving to a new city exposes you to new situations, which then reveals parts of yourself that you have never seen. You can’t control the people you meet or the things that happen to you, and it’s not always a comfortable experience — but if discomfort is the cause, then personal growth is the effect. But, as we know, it’s not all totally random.
Finding your ideal self
Go back to picturing your ideal self, but now define the changes you’d like to see and build a roadmap to get to those goals. Some people have a difficult time picturing their goals, and simply feel lost. They know they need a change, but they don’t know where and they don’t know how. Yoga and meditation are great tools for this. These practices are designed to strip a person of their egos and labels so that they can become comfortable with the person they are underneath. Learning to love solitude, functions the same way, by forcing you to answer the question “Who am I when no one is around?” When you become comfortable with yourself, the ‘real’ you are more easily recognized and expressed to others.
It’s also possible to find yourself while getting lost. Literally, lost! If you are unfamiliar with your new home, go out into the streets and try to figure it out. This does not have to be stressful; in fact, it can be totally fun when done safely. Follow your pleasures and the things that resonate with you. Wander down the unique streets that call your name, and find all of your new favorite places, from parks to cafes and even grocery stores. These are the things that make an area unique and allows you to form a connection — and identity— with the place.
Once you fall in love with your city, then develop habits and create routines. Do the things you enjoy as often as possible and become a ‘regular’ at all your new favorite places. Best selling Author Charles Duhigg once said that moving is the best time to create new habits, so identify what you want and then make a habit of earning it every single day.
Recognizing your potential
There’s an unfortunate misconception that the thing that changes you about moving is, well, moving. Even though your city changes, it doesn’t mean that you will also change automatically — after all, habits do die hard. You can’t run away from your problems or the parts of you that you wish you change, but you can discover new parts of yourself. That’s exactly what moving is: an opportunity, not an answer. It’s an opportunity to learn about your new potential, but it is not your potential itself. In order to do this, you must make the change.
Changes that only exist in your mind are simply ideas, and ideas don’t hold value when it comes to self-worth. Here are a few mind-expanding things you can do today to help you move in the direction of your new life: Enter a job in a new niche. Spend time with people who are different from you. Try new things that scare you. Learn a new language. Go see something new every day. Explore your city like a tourist. Some people even like to pick out a new nickname and request that their peers use it, even though it might feel strange at first.
One of the key factors to successfully reinventing yourself is finding a community. Though your new life will certainly be busy with all the responsibilities of moving and most likely beginning a new job, keep some time available for recreation and friendship. By spending time in the places you enjoy (or at work), you will build rapport with those around you — at first, you will likely be approaching semi-strangers, which can seem invasive, but people are generally flattered that you want to be their friend. Not everyone will be a winner, so just refine as you go. Invite your new friends to invite their friends, and hopefully, you’ll find a person with whom you have a lot in common.
“The person you're becoming will cost you people, relationships, spaces, and material things. Choose you over everything.” — Unknown
When The Past Isn’t The Past
When focusing on long-term changes, it’s a fun idea to track your progress. Some people like to write themselves an email about their motivations, and delay it to send 6 months in the future. Instagram is a very visual way to record how your life and personal brand shift over time, and some people prefer the traditional paper-and-pen diary. When you regularly keep track of the changes in your life, no matter how big or small, it’s astonishing to go back and see how different you have become… often without even noticing. You’ll also realize that you’re always in the midst of some type of change, that throughout life you are interminably flowing and improving and growing stronger.