Stop and smell the roses.
When you think about your growth, perhaps you’re tempted to compare yourself to others. I have something very important to say about that: Don’t.
I know. The poignant wisdom is just oozing out of that advice, and you probably don’t need to read any further. However, before leaving you with that life-changing knowledge, let’s unpack why comparing yourself to others isn’t the answer.
Growth happens differently for everyone.
If growth happens differently for everyone, how do you know whether you have or not? Whether you’re embarking on a time of intentional growth, or you just need to find some proof of progress for your own reference, here are a few checkpoints to help you out.
Acceptance isn’t easy, but it’s a solid place to start.
We all feel shame about something in our lives. No one is immune to the feeling, and it can seriously stifle growth even when we don’t realize it—and we often don’t. Shame is sneaky because it often feels comfortable, but as shame researcher and expert Brené Brown notes:
“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”
If that’s the case, what happens to that same part of us when we accept our story for what it is? What growth can we make room for when we look at our past and say, “That’s a chapter that I’m not proud of, but that’s what got me to this part of the plot?”
Show yourself compassion for where you’ve been. You were likely doing the best you could for where you were, and you survived, and now you’re here. “Here” still may not be a place you want to be, but it is a starting point.
Your next step doesn’t have to be a grand gesture—and one might even argue that to make a big change, it shouldn’t be. Acceptance of your story gives you a more firm foundation to start making your small steps toward significant growth.
Do you feel safe enough to grow?
Growth means that you are learning. Personal growth takes up space and requires some grace from yourself and often from others. Things can get messy when you’re learning. You make mistakes, you let someone down or maybe you fell short in some other way. Feeling safe means you have some wiggle room to be imperfect as you go.
Some people have a great support system of friends or family, giving them more emotional wiggle room than others. Others may need to seek out and cultivate that support system through treatment, therapy or support groups, and that’s okay. More often than not, finding a safe space is a combination of various systems.
To grow, you’ll need to stretch yourself a bit to figure out what feels safe to you. It’s likely going to feel weird and maybe a little scary, but take up your space inch by inch. Before you know it, you’ll have at least a foot of margin in which to grow. And then keep going!
You’re kind of like a plant.
Plants remind me that, like humans, each one has a set of needs to be met so they can thrive. Environment and care affect the way it grows and if it grows at all. And there are a ton of variables to consider—sunlight, fertilizer, watering patterns. It doesn’t all have to be spot-on perfect, but if enough of our conditions don’t encourage growth, we struggle to bloom.
Did it ever occur to you that maybe you’ve grown and you haven’t even noticed? Stop reading for about 30 seconds, and think about who you were a year ago emotionally, physically and spiritually. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Now compare that to who you are today. How have you changed? What have you learned since then? Even the most minuscule change shows signs of growth, so don’t diminish it.
Maybe you haven’t made an outward transformation or taken action yet, but you’ve been contemplating changes you want to make. That’s growth. Even when we’re feeling dormant, we must remember that our roots are still digging and stretching into the soil, trying to stabilize us. It’s innate to our being.
Keep going! You’re growing!
Growth happens in so many different areas and at various stages of our lives. Next time you find yourself comparing your growth to someone else’s, reflect on where you’ve come from. Assess your own acceptance of your story, evaluate your level of safety and remember that your growth is inevitable—even when it’s moving at a snail’s pace. I promise you’re doing so much better than you may realize.
By Kelli Falconberry
Copy Editor and Content Writer for Promises Behavioral Health