From the moment of conception, our bodies begin to grow, and according to some scientists, 80% of our height is based on our genetic makeup. The remaining 20% of what determines our stature is affected by nutrition, medical conditions, and other environmental factors. Generally, people grow until the age of 18 and remain that height until the aging process begins to intervene.
Thankfully, our emotional growth is not limited to the same time constraints to which our bodies must abide. There is nothing to stop us from developing mentally, psychologically, or spiritually other than our own lack of interest or concern. We can choose the rate at which we grow as well as the amount. With this being the case, why would it not be in everyone’s best interest to make personal growth one of life’s greatest priorities?
A growing need
When I was a child, on every birthday for both me and my siblings, my mother memorialized it by penciling a line on a designated door jamb. Through the years, it was a thrill to see how those marks got higher indicating our growth. These marks were a visual proof all of us were getting taller and there was no denying its occurrence. However, personal growth does not always provide evidence and without any certain confirmation, some may question if their progress ever occurred.
Fortunately, there are several ways to evaluate personal development, and recognizing them can further increase your ability to grow.
One of the most unforgettable sentences I ever read in a book was this: “We grow when we get out of our comfort zone.” At first, I was taken aback by this statement, and for a few days, ran different scenarios through my head hoping to disprove those words. Eventually, I could only amend the statement to say “we grow best when we are out of our comfort zone” because the one exception I could find was when others validate our growth. Validation increases self-confidence substantially enhancing and complementing our growth.
Stepping outside of where our comforts lie can be extremely difficult. While some enjoy and even thrive on nerve-racking situations, many, including myself, would prefer to avoid confrontation and keep the peace as best as possible. Realizing how critical getting outside my comfort zone was to personal development, forced me to push back against the anguish knowing it was ultimately for my own good.
It would be nice if we could gain awareness while remaining in a comfortable place, but when you really think about it, most of our growth occurs while discovering something erroneous or incorrect about our beliefs or behaviors. Because our natural inclinations are to believe we are doing what is right, when something or someone points out our faulty actions or viewpoints, the awareness can be exceedingly “uncomfortable” to admit.
The remedy for these discomforting feelings is to embrace them and recognize what they are truly signifying is growth.
Overcoming shame was the biggest hurdle I had to surmount to propel my personal growth. At one point, my own shame not only impeded my development, I had no indication it was truly an issue. Feelings of unworthiness had been such a part of my self-identity it felt normal to put myself down and discount any compliments or positive comments hurled in my direction. So how does one take this kind of self-destructive attitude and conquer it? By taking that weakness and turning it into a strength. Allow me to explain.
For decades of my life, it was easy to look down on myself. In a warped and negative reinforcement kind of way, my own demeaning outlook of myself could essentially feel comforting. Overcoming that now means during times of introspection, it’s relatively easy to judge my actions may possibly be incorrect, making change a much easier possibility.
What is different now is I do not allow those feelings to devastate me and linger as shame. I no longer deem myself as unworthy, disgraceful, and unchangeable, and see these flaws as fixable. The once overwhelming and debilitating feelings of shame in that way, have now been transformed into tools of greater self-awareness and instruments of better understanding.
Always keep in mind personal growth is a distinct journey for each person. We all have our own mistakes and idiosyncrasies which continually need revision and improvement.
In most cases, stepping outside of our comfort zone uncovers traits which will likely expose selfish or self-serving attitudes, or conversely, highlight self-destructive or damaging tendencies.
Achieving growth does not dictate all your beliefs require change or a little “tweaking.” It’s important to maintain certain values which we hold dear. Ideals which are held in such high regard we are willing to sacrifice nearly anything for them. Nonetheless, if there is a hint of consideration to reflect upon them, typically this will only strengthen our resolve and urgency to protect them.
I believe most of these kinds of values reflect our character and actions toward others, not our own advancement. No one will ever convince me principles such as honesty, integrity, and kindness, need to be rethought. Generosity and good intentions should only change if it means they become stronger and more prevalent in your daily life.
Personal growth shines a light in dark areas of our lives revealing questionable behavior toward others or against ourselves. It is completely normal to feel uneasy after becoming aware of these issues and realizing change must happen. Unfortunately, some will respond by immediately searching for excuses why such behaviors are appropriate and succumb to those justifications, only making it easier to repeat in the future.
It’s not easy
Developing as a human is difficult. Thankfully, this difficulty is a sign of our progress. As much as we’d prefer to be someplace else, learning to embrace these moments of change and welcome them as personal growth will remind us of our progress and how we overcame those situations formerly thought of as trying and vexing.
Getting out of our comfort zone is not the only way we can grow but it certainly is an effective means to enhance and accelerate it. Even when it reveals things about us we never previously imagined, accepting it as a positive step will encourage us on this lifelong journey.