A few weeks ago, while driving my car, I had a life-changing moment sparked by my hands.
There they were, minding their business, helping me out by holding the steering wheel, when I casually glanced at them and noticed their wrinkled and weathered skin. My immediate response was one of disgust and to quickly look away. I have noticed the changes in the skin on my hands for a number of years now and this response to quickly look away out of disgust was not new… in fact, it was habitual.
Somewhere in the journey I had decided that the look of wrinkly, weathered skin on MY hands was an embarrassment to ME and something to be concealed…hidden from my own eyes and from the eyes of those around me. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious train of thought—this hiding of my hands—but subconsciously the sense of shame that I felt about the skin on my hands had led me to stealthily find ways to conceal them around others… so much so, that when I glanced at them on the steering wheel that day my habitual response was to quickly look away to pretend that what I was seeing wasn’t there.
But this day, something else happened…something that has created quite the disruption in how I interact not only with my hands, but with other parts of my life as well. Right after I anxiously shifted my eyes from my hands came another thought…one that quite suddenly popped into my head: What if?
What if in this moment I didn’t judge my hands? What if I was a person who looked at my hands and appreciated them for all of their usefulness and for everything I get to experience with them and the stories that these wrinkles have to tell? What if I looked at my hands and just saw them…my hands…without that accompanying feeling of disgust? What if?
And something shifted for me. I looked at my hands. I really looked at them. I made myself look at all of the wrinkles and how worn they appeared; I felt that familiar feeling of disgust come, but I didn’t turn away. I kept on looking. Because, ‘what if?’
The magic of ‘what if’ came in that moment. The simple. The profound. The shift. I saw for the first time how limiting the belief about my hands was. How sad. How unfair. ‘What if?’ pushed against this belief and called it into question. ‘What if?’ called me into question. It called me into my evolution—to be stronger, kinder, more compassionate, more loving. And then, in that moment, I was.
I looked at my hands…kept looking at them…felt the disgust…and then felt it disintegrate. That strong feeling of disgust that I have spent so much time avoiding with all kinds of ridiculousness just kind of fizzled out. And there they were. My hands—in all of their wrinkly beauty—just being hands.
I was so changed by ‘what if’ that I started applying it to other areas of my life. I would catch myself in the act of judging, or hiding, or manipulating and then ‘what if’ would march into my mind and start blowing things up. What if I didn’t have to worry about that? What if I wasn’t embarrassed by that? What if I could really enjoy that? And a weight lifted. I felt myself more free. Less bound. I found myself giddy with this new awareness, charged up with a sense of power.
The magic of ‘what if’ is that something simple yet profound happens when we allow it to flutter into our consciousness. It stirs a shift…a shift in thinking…a disruption in the normal storyline. When we question, ‘what if’, we stop to notice what has been—the thoughts and patterns that we have lived with on autopilot.
‘What if’ causes us to become aware of them, to catch ourselves in the act. From this place of awareness, ‘what if’ does more. It asks us to question what has been, to really examine and see how well it is working in our life. ‘What if’ causes us to push back. It feels bold and sassy, strong and empowering, flirtatious and daring. ‘What if’ causes us to dream, hope and believe that we are capable of so much more.
For me, the power of ‘what if’ comes in its unabashed boldness. It just shows up, almost taunting, “What if? I dare you.” And as I even simply contemplate the dare, I touch deeper places within myself that yearn for more. The touching of these deeper places is the magic. ‘What if’ leads me more deeply into my truest self and here anything is possible—even magic!
Author: Erica McLaughlin is a mindbody therapist specializing in embodiment. She strongly believes in the healing power that comes when we provide ourselves a quiet space to connect the body and mind. In this space our true essence has a chance to emerge, offering the greatest gift of healing: self-acceptance.