Welcome back, my loves. Today, I want to talk about all the ways we often get the idea of “growth” wrong.
This came about thanks to a client call I had recently. This client and I have been working together for quite a long time—almost two years! I love her so much; we’ve been through a lot together, and I’ve seen her go through so many transitions in her life.
But recently, we were talking about the growth I’ve seen in her recently, and she mentioned how different it felt compared to what she expected…
Obviously I’m not going to share the specifics of what she’s gone through, because that’s confidential. But I recently told her, “I’ve really felt something shift within you. Something really landed, and there’s a new maturity to you.”
Not that she was immature before, but I’ve seen a whole new level of maturity and groundedness and an awareness of who she is. and really knowing who she is. And that opened up a conversation around personal growth and how she expected it to feel.
She said, “I thought that it would look different. I thought that it would be this big AHA! moment. I thought that was always what personal growth looked like, so I was comparing myself to other people and thinking I wasn’t growing at all. Other people were moving faster than me; it was taking me a long time to transcend things. I kept falling back into old habits and patterns, so I thought I wasn’t making any progress, but honestly…for me, I feel like the changes are so subtle that sometimes I don’t even notice them.”
And you know what? That is fucking growth. But we so rarely talk about the importance of the subtle shifts, don’t we?
In personal development as a whole—and I’m generalizing here, so take it with a grain of salt—we’re so addicted to catharsis, to these big highs, that we lose sight of the power of gradual growth.
Where I see people go wrong is that they’re so addicted to the experience of catharsis that all personal growth needs to be this big huge event. “Oh my God, I’ve fully transcended insecurity. I’m never going to feel insecure again. Oh my God, I’ve transcended anger. I’m never going to feel that again. I’ve completely blown past jealousy. I will never feel jealous again,” or, “I’ve integrated all my shadows.”
We’re so addicted to huge leaps that we actually miss the subtle shifts on a day-to-day basis. And the danger in being addicted to that catharsis is that when we have a really big high or a really big expansion, it’s usually followed by a big contraction.
Now, I don’t necessarily believe that always has to be true, because that belief system could be pretty limiting. It can result in situations where, for example, you have a really high cash month, and then you go, “Well, now I know that next month is going to be way lower.”
I don’t buy into that, but I still think that when we’re addicted to the idea that we have to have huge breakthroughs, we actually miss the breakthroughs that are happening in our lives every day.
For instance, a client asked me a few months ago in Voxer, “What breakthroughs did you have this week?”
And you know what? I didn’t have any to discuss, because I’m not constantly looking for the next breakthrough or tracking down my next blind spot.
I often see people looking for their next blind spot as a distraction for the thing that’s actually right fucking in front of them. You may see something that’s directly in front of your face that you know needs to be dealt with, but instead of tackling it, you try to dive deeper and go, “Hmm, what shadows are playing out?”
Bitch, we don’t need to fucking talk about shadows. Let’s talk about the thing that’s directly in front of your face right now.
So, let’s go back to my client. She was reflecting that her personal growth is often so subtle that she doesn’t even notice it unless she becomes super aware, and I told her that’s what personal growth actually looks like.
Personal growth often looks like responding differently to situations than you would have in the past, which is an important but definitely subtle shift.
For example, if your pattern is to get really defensive when someone gives you feedback, and then one day someone gives you feedback and you don’t get defensive, that’s proof of growth.
Instead of playing out a reactivity pattern of defense, you react from a state of curiosity.
That’s growth, but we don’t see it, because we haven’t had this huge obvious breakthrough moment.
The thing about personal growth—sustainable, day-to-day growth—is that it’s kind of boring.
I’ll just be fucking honest. It’s boring. It’s not exactly newsworthy, but it’s still important, because when personal growth happens on a daily basis, it becomes how you do life. That means you’re always evolving, not staying stagnant between big leaps.
My point is, it’s time to stop looking for the fucking high of growth where you have these big breakthroughs and that’s all.
Not that you can’t have those, because those moments are amazing and fun and exciting. But also, don’t undermine the little moments of growth that you have on a day-to-day basis.
Think about it: when was the last time you actually sat down and reflected on how much you’ve grown in the past six months?
Let’s stop glorifying catharsis and big highs and start actually being aware of the growth that we’re having on a day-to-day basis.
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I get it, girl. I’ve been there too. For years, I was going through the same experiences with men over and over again that left me feeling confused, anxious and pissed off.
I silenced myself in dating and relationships because I was terrified of being judged, rejected and abandoned. It all changed when I went through a break-up and thought “enough is enough. I cannot continue to repeat the same relationships with different men! Something HAS to change!”