Someone Else Entirely / by Michelle Cowan

I once laughed at a suggestion I read in a self-help book: For one day, pretend you do not have an eating disorder. Imagine a person other than yourself, who can be anything except eating disordered, and be her for a single day.

It’s not that this seemed ludicrous—just a bit silly. Ah, those were back in the days before I realized the immense fun of being silly and ridiculous. Now, I’ve set ridiculousness as a daily goal (mostly because it’s one I know that I can easily achieve).

Anyway, I have never completely done this (pretend to be an entirely different person for a day). I have followed this practice for a few hours at a time, especially for activities I may not be too excited about. Imagining myself as someone different can certainly spice things up. And when necessary errands seem unbearably dull, I’ll sometimes apply eccentric make-up and saunter through the aisles at Wal-mart as a person who does things I never would.

Those are all very short-term applications, though. Today, I discovered the power of asserting myself as a different person for an entire day.

I did not create a whole new persona; I simply decided to pretend that a couple of my values had shifted. I decided that, just for today, I am not going to be a person who cares about exercising. Instead, I’m a person who cares passionately about music. I didn’t specify how I related to my eating disorder or how I would spend my time. I just decided to behave as I felt I would if I truly cared about music much more than exercising or maintaining a perfect body.

Freedom. Freedom is the experience. And you know what I also found? This person who values music above exercise—she is the real me. I am my dreams. I do value music. It’s no wonder that I resent the times when I force myself to exercise when I would rather play music. I know what I would prefer; I know what is truly important to me.

This isn’t to say I should stop exercising entirely. For today, however, I did practice a song instead of working out before heading to the office. I also came home and spent a good deal of time working on some other music, practicing and finishing up a new song, instead of doing anything else. Valuing music highly also changed my orientation toward all the to-dos that often nag me when I get home. Today, I was able to say, “No, I do not value those things right now. I value music, and that is what I’m going to do. There is time for you later.” Deciding to maintain this mentality for an entire day helped me face any obstacle that got in my way. I knew my primary value and acted on it each time I was faced with a choice between acting out of love for music or a preoccupation with appearances.

Life, ideally, balances itself out between the tasks we have to do to survive in the world, good health, relationships, and self-expression. Sometimes, I get all out of whack. It isn’t that I shouldn't value exercise. Biking and walking are fun. I enjoy activity, no doubt. But I never want to think that one enjoyable (or unenjoyable) thing defines me. If I define myself according to a single measure, life becomes pure drudgery, and I become an awfully boring specimen.

I proved to myself that I can live a day without exercise as a crutch. I let myself flow and shifted my priorities. This shift didn’t change most of my activity for the day, but the mental realignment echoed through me. I felt powerful and true to myself. I took care of myself and my true desires. There have been plenty of stretches in my life when exercise didn’t concern me, and this day reminded me of what it feels like to live without that burden. This is certainly something I thought I would have down pat by now, but today revealed that I still have a huge potential to learn and grow in this area. Struggles ebb and flow.

I highly suggest pretending to be someone else for a day. You may discover new ways of approaching the world or learn that you can do things you fear and not crumble. Or, in being someone else, you may come face to face with who you really are.