What is Growth?
Many believe there is one path to personal growth and they have to meet rigid milestones to validate their journey. If what I’m doing doesn’t look like what she’s doing over there then I must be doing it wrong, right? Watching others post their best moments prompt us to compare our lowest internal moments. But what happens when you have trauma? It can make those comparisons feel even harder and get stuck on your journey.
What if I asked you to explore the possibility of multiple paths? Each one is just as valid as the next. What if I told you none of those paths are linear; that at times while it may seem as though no progress is being made, but it very much is? Nothing is perfect in life (and that’s okay!), and that most certainly includes our journey in life. Comparing our internal lives with the carefully curated, public images that are so freely available to us makes it easy to assume there is only one “right” path in life. If our growth doesn’t look exactly like our peers that we are doing something wrong, but are we?
Nobody’s journey is linear. Nobody’s life is perfect; even the most prolific social media influencers have struggles and traumas we know nothing about. Rather than climbing up a smooth incline, growth looks more like a set of hills and valleys trending upwards. Setbacks will happen, but so will achievements and successes.
Determining your values, what you hold as most important in your life, can be a constructive first step when determining what growth looks like for you. What kind of partner or parent do you want to be? What core values guide you in your day-to-day life? Asking questions like these can help determine what is important, and what is extra.
Once you’ve determined a few of your values, look at the behaviors in which you engage and the activities you involve yourself in. How do they align with your values? What actions bring you closer to your values, and which ones take you further away? Allow yourself to answer these questions with honesty and a non-judgmental approach.
Growth and Trauma
Something many people don’t realize is that we all have trauma. We have all experienced moments in our lives that affect how we see the world around us and how we respond to it. Nobody has the exact same experience as you, so nobody is going to grow the exact same way you do. How do you evaluate yourself in the context of your past experiences? When faced with difficulty, what do you tell yourself and where does that voice come from? Is it your own or somebody you know (parents, significant others, etc.)?
It is important to recognize that our trauma can have a real impact on our ability to thrive. Recognizing it and speaking with a professional counselor is very important in processing and resolving issues that present themselves along our life journey and interfere with our ability to grow.
Nourishment is Required for Growth
Just as a garden bed needs rich soil to feed nutrients to each plant, so do you need to nourish your mind and body as you grow. A big part of this is rest: rest is a requirement, not a reward. It is not realistic or feasible to expect yourself to constantly improve, constantly achieve. Life operates on a continuous cycle, one that you are very much a part of. Periods of life ebb and flow; leaves change and fall in Autumn, only to make way for new bright growth in the Spring.
How do you give yourself nourishment? Not just food and water, but nourishment for your soul, for personal well-being. Give yourself permission to engage in activities that you find enjoyable, simply for the sake of enjoying them. Engaging in a hobby is just as valid and important as a side hustle. Allow yourself to let go of thoughts of making your hobbies profitable or “productive” - this can lead to stress and pressure to keep up with others.
How do We Measure Growth?
Many people compare themselves to others in an attempt to gauge where they’re at in life and where they should be. Very rarely do we consider comparing ourselves to ourselves. What were you like three months ago? What about six months? If you look back on your past behaviors and actions and cringe, congratulations, you’ve grown! It may be uncomfortable but you can prove to yourself that growth is possible. Your growth may not look like everyone else’s - it may not look like anyone else’s journey - that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. It means you are traveling your own path.
Always remember that you are not alone in your journey, and that your journey is valid because it is yours. Speaking with a professional counselor can help process trauma and clarify parts of your journey. Where do you want to grow? For more information about how we can help or to schedule an appointment, please use our contact form or call (443) 574-4295.