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The tragedy of cosmetic transformation

“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women are merely players; they have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts…” is the phrase that begins a monologue from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, spoken by the melancholy Jaques in Act II Scene VII. This is one of Shakespeare’s most frequently quoted passages wherein the speech compares the world to a stage and life to a play, cataloguing the seven stages of a man’s life.

Reminiscing on this passage and observing life in the 21st century, I realise just how so much easier it is in life to play parts of what the world expects of us at the expense of becoming and living out our true authentic selves. It is very possible to deceive ourselves that we are becoming better each day when in actual fact, we are developing and creating facades that will make us acceptable and appear as though we have everything together. When we say we are changing for the better, what is motivating that change and on what level is that change taking place?

Changing deep from the core

As an organisational and personal development practitioner, I have realised that personal transformation means different things to different people. My role is to help people achieve what they view as a personal transformation — whether it’s moving in a completely new direction in their career, improving confidence, changing strategy, or simply wanting to have a more positive outlook on life as it stands. Whatever the change or transformation that a client wants to achieve, it will not happen unless there is a shift in the way they think. In the absence of this transformation, they can either carry on in the same way as they were before, or take on what I call a “cosmetic transformation”.

In my own definition, cosmetic transformation occurs when an individual or organisation adopts some mere surface changes of their image for purposes of appearing a certain way to the people or audience that they seek to attract or find favour with. This level and motive of change is extremely dangerous and quite tragic because it is not sustainable and causes the “pretender” to pursue a fictional identity at the expense of embracing their natural authentic identity.

I refer to this cosmetic transformation as being dangerous and tragic because in my practice, the objective is to get individuals and organisations to develop strategies and structures that will enable them to enjoy systematic and sustainable growth over time. This type of growth should be able to outlive the individual and in the case of an organisation, it should be able to outlive the current management and board of directors.

What is motivating you to change?

I tend to watch with intrigue and curiosity the television programmes where individuals undergo total wardrobe and appearance make-overs. The results are obviously stunning and commendable when you measure the “before and after image.” While these efforts are a step in the right direction, I get anxious and curious about whether these individuals will have what it takes in their inner core to match this “new look” with their authentic personality. I realise and acknowledge that people pursue changes in their lives for different kinds of reasons. For some, it is a quest to stay ahead of their competition; for others, it is to prove a point that they can do it. For others, they undergo a change process in order to attract the attention of an individual of the opposite sex or to conform to a particular tribe or network that they would like to be recognised with. Sometimes individuals choose to change in an attempt to erase their background, past or a certain negative reputation that they have built over time. Regardless of what is motivating the change, the most important thing is to be honest with yourself regarding why you want to pursue transformation in your life. Many people struggle with personal transformation because it involves an internal power struggle between the deep yearning for growth within and the seemingly unsurmountable forces that desire to keep you where you are.

Why we need genuine transformation

When transformation takes place on a cosmetic level, it cannot even be dignified or referred to as transformation because it is only skin deep. Changes on such a surface level are not sustainable because they are very difficult to reproduce in others, they do not bear lasting benefits and the efforts done in that state cannot have a significant, lasting impact. Genuine transformation on the other hand, helps to positively impact families, organisations, businesses and the world. Everyone has a profound impact on the world. Personal transformation is a life-long journey that begins in the innermost parts of the soul. When people are transformed, the world becomes better because of that contribution. Service with humility, authenticity and appeal to the human side in all situations can make a difference in the home, on the job and in the world. By first transforming the self, one can contribute to changing the world.

lCynthia Hakutangwi is a communications and personal development consultant, life coach, author and strategist. She is the managing consultant of Wholeness Incorporated. Her newly published book is entitled Destination Wholeness – Going Beyond Brokenness. Previously published titles include The Whole You – Vital Keys for Balanced Living and Intelligent Conversations: A Mindset Shift Towards a Developed Africa. She is co-author of Success Within Reach. E-mail: Facebook: Wholeness Incorporated. Website:

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