The first time I shaved my legs, I was 11 years old.
As a first generation, full blooded Persian-American, body hair is something I am in no shortage of. As a kid, this was a huge emotional trigger for me; I was 11 and I had hairy legs that made me feel extremely insecure. Of all the things I got teased about in the 6th grade, this seemed like one I could tackle and shave off the list.
Sadly, my mom wasn’t around to help me with this kind of stuff, and I was way too embarrassed to ask my dad. So I took it upon myself to take this very major step in the life of a budding woman. But, for whatever reason, I found myself irrationally freaked out after shaving one leg…so I didn’t shave the other.
For a full week, while I waited for the leg to grow back it’s protective fur, I wouldn’t dare bare my legs at school. Because I attended a private school, I wore a uniform for the first 9 years of my structured education–which usually meant plaid skirts and collared shirts. This was a bit of a dilemma for a girl trying to hide her legs. So, I donned navy nylons underneath my uniform skirt, despite the characteristic SoCal warmth.
Eventually the hair grew back and eventually I figured out how to shave my legs without feeling the need to leave the job unfinished. Since then, I’ve shaved my legs almost every day for over 20 years. So you can imagine my surprise last week when I CUT MYSELF SHAVING.
As the blade grazed my left knee, taking a sizable chunk of skin, I couldn’t help but laugh; what am I, 12?! Is it 1994? But when I got out of the shower, something interesting happened: I knew exactly what to do.
It’s been at least 15 years, probably more, since I’ve cut myself shaving, yet I still knew exactly how to handle it. I toweled off and quickly placed a small piece of tissue on the cut to help it clot. While the bleeding slowed, I took care of the rest of post-shower duties, later removing the tissue at the exact right time, and replacing it with a bandaid.
I didn’t even have to think about how to handle a shaving cut, and it’s been over a decade since I’ve done so.
But, even though it’s been years and years, there was a solid period of time when I suffered from shaving cuts almost weekly. I was young and shaving was foreign and I have the scars to prove it. So yes, quite some time has passed, but the experience I built up all those years ago was so deeply ingrained in me that it was easy to manage.
This is what I like to call the default mode.
People often ask me, Neg, how do you get to the point where you…
- Don’t take things personally
- Are able to handle change without freaking out
- Don’t let your body fat define you
- Can miss a training session or eat a cookie without hating yourself for it
- Don’t react out of an emotionally heightened state
- Can handle emotional stress without falling apart.
And so on. And the answer is always the same: we change the default mode. We practice and practice and practice, and after tons of consistent and focused practice, we change our default mode. It doesn’t happen overnight; I had great difficulty with shaving cuts for probably the first few years I shaved my legs. But over time, with diligence, your default mode molds to your behavior.
So by the time the shit hits the fan (or you cut yourself shaving), you’ve put in hours-maybe even years-of practice. Suddenly you know exactly what to do, and it all falls into place. That’s why we do this work, why we practice gratitude, why we journal and read, why we work on developing authenticity, vulnerability, and courage in every day scenarios–to change the default mode.
It might not seem like anything is happening, but I guarantee you it is. It’s subtle and cumulative, but the default mode is growing and transforming with each moment of practice. If you’re on this journey of self-development and exploration, hang in there and the trust the process–one day you’ll cut yourself shaving and think, “Damn, all that work paid off!”
The default mode is changing every second, as long as we commit to the work with trust and authenticity. All we have to do is remain consistent and trust the process.