*Part of the Identity series*
People often only care about or recognise big, obvious growth. Like that person who has a six-pack now, or a degree from a credible university, or someone who has travelled alone to Asia. These of visible, easy to understand and big areas of growth and so they’re socially recognised and acceptable.
But what about the smaller areas of growth? What about the growth and self-exploration that you’re going through that is less visible or less socially accepted? Does it count? Is it worth it? Is it important?
The thing is, with any personal growth or self-exploration, the keywords there are PERSONAL and SELF. They are for you, no one else. Some people won’t understand or care at all, and that’s OK. It’s not for them. Some people may get it, but still not truly understand what it means for you and your life.
I’m 100% in a place of personal growth and self-exploration right now (anyone who reads my content knows that by now!), but I don’t feel that the people around me understand that very much.
Like if I were to catch up with a friend or family member, I don’t feel like I could say, “Things are amazing right now because I’m growing and looking within and exploring myself and my creativity every day.”
Let’s be honest, it sounds kind of hippie-like! It makes most people eye-roll or laugh or just look at you as if you’re mad. They’d sooner hear about growth in the areas of work or sales or followers and likes or money or relationships or achievements of a visible or tangible nature.
But those who go through growth knowingly will understand the importance of it and what it means. Most go through this unknowingly or don’t allow themselves to go through it at all because they resist change, growth, and newness. Big mistake!
It is healthy to grow and explore yourself.
If you feel lost, angry, tired, jealous, bored, frustrated, or other, you may be in need of some growth and exploration.
I like Elizabeth Gilbert’s advocation for curiosity. I think we become less curious as we get older, which this means we begin to limit ourselves. We say “I am this” or “I do that” and then disregard anything that doesn’t fit into that self-narrative or self-image.
But this is so wrong. So limiting.
By saying to yourself that you can’t or won’t do something because it doesn’t fit neatly into who you think you are, is a fast track to a very restricted life and mindset.
The Need for Growth and Exploration
Why do we need growth? Why do we need to explore ourselves? Well, think about it. Not only is it boring to stay the same forever, but it’s also impractical. By all means, have values and beliefs and ideals, but never once shifting or changing these things means you do not have an open mind.
Open-mindedness is beautiful. It means you can be open enough to see other points of view and perspectives, whether you agree or not; and it also means you are strong enough to say, “yes, I see what you mean” when the time comes.
But this is so infrequent, isn’t it? Where two opposing parties come to a discussion and have mutual respect and open-mindedness enough to share ideas and not let it lead to aggression or argument. Crazy!
But I digress…
The point is, we need growth in order to adapt. Adapt to new situations, new people, new environments, new ideas, new forms, new abilities, new likes and dislikes, and new experiences. If you wish to be resilient and strong, you must be willing to grow.
Think of it like a snake shedding its skin or a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. You must be willing to go through tough times, hard internal junk, and pain in order to grow anew. In order to grow stronger and healthier and to become a self-actualised individual.
How to grow
There is no growth without vulnerability. Vulnerability is a superpower, not a weakness, as many may think. Vulnerable means being brave enough to be naked, be You, and show up for yourself.
Being vulnerable means facing fears. It means facing the possibility of failure, rejection, judgement, shame, and pain, but doing so bravely so that you can achieve something better.
This is important for growth because we grow stronger, healthier, and happier when we are our true selves. When we confront our fears. When we dare to chase our dreams and do what’s scary. When we can fail but stand back up and try again.
As I said, vulnerability isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength. It gives us a personal power because it is brave to be vulnerable. This means that courage is also needed for growth. The courage to face our fears (like I said before), but also the courage to be honest with ourselves. To find where growth is needed.
We also need courage to try new things. The courage to be bad at something while we’re trying new things. The courage to look at the long road ahead and take that step anyway.
Growth will often happen naturally. When we are in education, new jobs, or meet new people. But growth should also be a choice.
Choose to grow by:
- Reading regularly and widely
- Learning new skills
- Trying new hobbies
- Conversing with new people
- Sharing yourself and your talents
- Being open to constructive criticism and advice
- Choosing a spiritual practice
How to Explore Yourself
You must be curious if you want to explore yourself. You need to be aware of interests or ideas that pop up for you, and then you need to be curious enough to follow them. You may try it out and see that it goes nowhere, but that’s ok. It means you learned something regardless!
But you might just find something spectacular if you give yourself a chance to explore new ideas or interests with curiosity and open-mindedness.
In order to explore yourself, it’s a good start to remove your labels. Or at least, don’t tie yourself to labels.
These are things like: your sexuality, gender norms, personality traits, abilities and talents, ethnicity and cultural norms or stereotypes, religious beliefs, education and status, class, or other.
Freeing yourself from labels is liberating and it gives you the space to create a life and image for yourself that is without boundaries, expectations, norms, or social influence.
Be less serious
We can’t take ourselves too seriously if we hope to self-explore. It’s a fun, freeing experience or space of time in our lives, and so it can’t be forced, scheduled, or planned. It must come from a place of possibility, willingness, spontaneity, openness, and excitement first and foremost.
We explore ourselves by:
- Trying new things
- Trying foods or experiences that we once didn’t like, giving them another try (perhaps in a new or more personal way)
- Watching or reading out of our normal genres
- Looking within and digging around: meditation, journaling, mindful walking etc. all help with this
- Being more creative (in any way that works for you)
- Trying new looks: hair, makeup, clothes
Our identities should always be up for exploration and growth. Never fully formed or fixed or final.
Making time for growth and self-exploration is important. It is a means of self-reflection and truth. It is adaption and strength. It leads to knowing the Self, loving the Self, and trusting the Self. It makes for an abundant, limitless life.
It is a means of self-love and self-care, too. It is a pathway for better confidence and self-esteem. It will improve your self-worth.
Doesn’t all of that sound great?
If any of these things have sounded interesting or important to you, great! If you feel you need this but you’re unsure, then don’t fear. You’re not alone. Make time for growth and self-exploration on a personal level. It needn’t be anyone else’s business – unless you want it to be.
Look within, quiet the noise, and let the chrysalis form.
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