HomeSelf-careThe secret to change: take it minute by minute

MAMATA SUBRAMANYAM reflects on her own processes of change, and realizes that there is an easier way to move forward-one that doesn’t involve self-recrimination and instant gratification. She explores incremental change, minute by minute, embracing the messy process that goes with it, and sets herself a brighter vision for how to live her life.


I have big, lofty dreams of whom I believe I can be.

I constantly envision myself as a bright, confident, perfectly-coiffed woman in imaginary high heels (I’m only 5’2) who walks with intention and speaks with humility, who has no flaws and no insecurities, and is loved by everyone.

In my head, I am the ideal career woman who works her behind off, who aces every project, who never runs out of steam. In my head, I will be a boss lady like my mother, make witty jokes like my brother, get stuff done at the same pace my dad does. In my head, I am the perfect wife my husband will never regret choosing, the one who is always balanced and never stressed, the one who makes him laugh and makes all of his hard moments easy. The one who does everything so perfectly that he can’t help but brag as I sit on the pedestal we built together.

In my head, I am the best, best friend; the one who always says the right thing, sends the right gifts, makes everyone feel the most seen, valued, and appreciated. I imagine myself as the light everyone gravitates to, the one who can be everyone’s everything, the one who never makes a single mistake, the one who can do no wrong.

But that bubble of a fantasy easily bursts when I see the dozens of unread emails with unmet deadlines sitting in my inbox, the blue notifications of text messages I have yet to respond to from friends, who are probably wondering if they did something to make me mad (you didn’t).

I have saved lists of recipes I tell myself I’m going to make, only to lose steam and yet again press “order” on my staple Chipotle meal. I don’t hold my own like my mother, I don’t make witty jokes like my brother, and I certainly don’t work the way my dad does. I have cried three times this week to my husband about my insecurities. Those insecurities put voices in my head that make me question if he is happy that he chose me.

And I see her so clearly, the woman I know I can be. If only I could break the cycles of bad habits that hold me back, if only I could stop being complacent, if only I could stop being a ridiculously outdated version of me. My twenties are coming to an end, and every day I feel I have nothing to show for them.

Like any good, reliable mirror, the
answer was right there in my
reflection, just waiting for me to
look close enough to find it: change
is not a leap.

As I make the same mistakes over and over again, as I watch in furious envy as other people grow and change and accomplish and succeed, as I leave yet another to-do list unchecked, and though I know the ability to change is only in me, what do I find myself doing? I anxiously worry if I am well past my prime, if my thirties will be a knock-off version of my twenties, in which any success won’t be taken as seriously because I’m not as young anymore, if it’s actually too late for me to be anyone, anything.

I keep making the same mistake of wanting to get from point A to point Now by trying to bypass the in-between. When it comes to bringing those dreams out of my head and into reality, I freeze. I get excited about doing the work, but become daunted about diving in, letting all my insecurities and complacencies get the better of me and talking me out of moving forward. I freeze.




And then I sit in a large self-made pool of self-pity and self-aware shame, mentally hurling envious anger at the people who have the courage to create their own destinies while being perfectly aware that I am fully capable of making my own dreams a reality, if only I weren’t so fearful or lazy. 
If only I weren’t in my own way.

Today, as I shamefully walked away from another dream I knew I could have achieved, if only I had put in the work, I put a metaphorical mirror up to my heart and asked myself two hard, hard questions:

What is stopping me from changing? 
And what can stop me from ever asking myself this question again?

Like any good, reliable mirror, the answer was right there in my reflection, just waiting for me to look close enough to find it: change is not a leap. It cannot be a leap. Over time, change can be measured in leaps and bounds. But to get to that leap, to get to that bound, you first have to take it step-by-step.

Change must happen minute by minute, otherwise I am setting myself up for failure. I can no longer expect that by simply making a thought suddenly I’ll change. I can no longer waste a single second. I have to be willing to put in the work to make it happen. Every self-encouraging thought, every forward action, every plugged-nose-closed-eyes deep dive in between point A and point Now must be done with the clear, firm intention of never going back. It must be done with the full bravery to see myself, flaws and all, with a determined acceptance that while those flaws will take time to fill and smooth, the result will be worth it.

And it’s time that I recognize my strengths. If I really own the bright parts of me that shine brighter than my flaws, I can let the beauty of those bright parts fill and smooth out the cracks.

To create change—real, hard, messy, good, positive, ever-evolving change—I have to be willing to wade through the in-between. I understand that now. I realize I have to do that work to unwind and rewind the in-between, otherwise I’m not really aiming for change: it’s a rustier, burned-out version of who I am now.

We are complicated, creative,
incredible, messy, broken, fixable,
wonderful canvases that are subject
to change, if we allow that change.

Change is minute by minute.

We are complicated, creative, incredible, messy, broken, fixable, wonderful canvases that are subject to change, if we allow that change. It can be a hard ride, but I’m learning that change can be a fun rollercoaster.

If we are willing to let it be.



Mamata Subramanyam

Mamata Subramanyam

Mamata couples mental health and meditation with her passion for storytelling, using Instagram as a space to build community. Her