Shedding Skin

The snake is the ancient sacred symbol for transformation. In order to grow, it must shed its skin. This process is painful, dangerous, and necessary for growth. The snake’s insides are literally outgrowing its outsides, and it must remove its restrictive, outermost layer. 

The snake rubs and scratches, feeling that something’s not quite right. During the process, its coloring sometimes shifts to an indigo blue hue. If for some reason the snake cannot shed its skin, over time it will become malnourished, possibly even blind, and it will die from its inability to grow. 

But when it successfully completes the process, the snake emerges stronger and healthier–a new incarnation. 

This shape-shifting life cycle represents rebirth and renewal, the enigmatic power of life to thwart death. 

– Elle Luna, The Crossroads Between Should and Must

You probably know this feeling as well, that “something’s not quite right”. In my own life I at times feel antsy, bored, or pushed along by obligation. That’s when it feels like something needs to change. 

Sometimes shedding skin means saying “no”. I really like Rob Bell’s mantra, “everything for a reason, for a season” when evaluating the various projects and commitments I’m involved in. Just because a certain commitment was right 10 years ago doesn’t mean that it’s a good fit anymore. Saying “no” (a lot) enables you to say “yes” to the new.

Sometimes, though, shedding skin is more of an internal process, where you choose to tackle the same problem in a different way, or re-define your role in a team. Like changing the workout to strengthen different muscles, re-drawing the boundaries accommodates growth. 

In speaking about work, Hugh McCloud says, “the only way to keep it interesting is to keep on taking it to new levels.”

The next level is hard and uncomfortable. It’s much easier to stay where you are, in a cocoon of domain expertise and established routines. Change and learning can be painful. 

That’s why I love this metaphor of the snake. Sure, shedding skin is painful. It hurts. But staying in its current skin, slowly dying of malnutrition also isn’t an option. So the snake goes through the discomfort because that’s the only way forward. 

In what way do you need to “shed your skin” in order to grow?