Do you struggle to see yourself growing? In-the-moment growth used to be almost impossible for me to detect in myself. In fact, it wasn’t until I was talking with a friend about how she feels like she never sees herself growing and it was then that I realized how I’ve really gone after growing and changing to become the woman I am. Part of that growth includes how aware I am of my growth on a weekly (sometimes even daily) basis.
One of the biggest pieces of that has been gentle reflection of my feelings, actions, strengths, weaknesses, and mainly my goals (both when I’ve met them and when I haven’t).
Hearing this battle my friend is currently dealing with—and knowing it used to be such a huge source of discouragement for me—I suddenly became so excited. It dawned on me that I get to be a little beacon of hope for this woman (and the many other people that feel so stuck in their murk). Because guess what my friend: there is HOPE!
This realization made me get curious and I began to ask myself: what caused the shift for me? I wanted to dig deeper and understand why feeling like despite all my effort I would never grow, to where I am now where I can notice a new thought or response and be amazed and so grateful.
This is what I discovered: in the past, I was soooo good at finding the ways in which I was stuck—where am I falling short? How am I struggling? Why is life so hard? Why can’t I change x, y, z?! How come her life looks so much better? Why hasn’t this thing healed already?
I was a total pro at looking for, and easily finding, the proof for staying trapped in my world of discouragement and despair.
So if you find yourself asking “why doesn’t this ‘work’ for me?!” notice that you are asking a question that can only have a negative answer. And when you’re actively looking for ways that you’re failing, seeing your growth is impossible.
How can you begin to shift out of this place and into both growing and seeing that growth? As I reflect on my present day growth (even the small things I do now on a daily basis that are actually a HUGE deal for me), I feel so amazed to think about how discouraging it was for months feeling like I would always stay stuck and never get better.
I want to tell you a completely related story about when my boyfriend and I broke up when I was 22 and I thought it would be a great idea to cut my own bangs. I walked into work the next day and my friend told me I looked like I was 14. So then I bulked them up a little, you know, the “heavy bangs” trend. Honestly, not the best look for me. I have a cowlick, my hair is naturally pretty wavy, and by wavy I mean frizzy. So I decided okay maybe I should grow them out. Let me tell you...even worse than the bangs. I bought 5 thick headbands, tried endless braids, had a lot of bobby pins on-hand at all times. That growing-out period was beyond awkward, I felt so uncomfortable with that weird in-between phase. OKAY THIS IS HOW IT RELATES: growing is awkward. You really can’t avoid it. Letting go of your old identity and shedding being the “depressed one” or “the one who never really has it together” to being the successful, fun-loving, long-haired queen you were meant to be, can feel so so so uncomfortable.
I’m here to offer a really helpful perspective that helped me shift at the beginning: consistency will always lead to growth. Step 1: shift the aim from “healed” to “healing”. This new aim becomes consistency in whatever it is you’re working on instead of mastery. So many of us want to go from bed-ridden sick to jumping around and feeling AMAZING. Or being super stressed and anxious to feeling completely at peace. Or from having no boundaries at all to super healthy and gracious boundaries.
Why is that kind of goal destined for failure? Because when you try to go from 0 to 100 you’re going to feel like a total loser. You’ll find yourself in the loop of “why doesn’t this ‘work’ for me?!”or “Why can’t I get better?!”or “Why doesn’t God love me enough to fix this?!”or “Why isn’t life easier for me?!” day after painful day. And nobody really wants that.
Here’s the thing: when you try to skip the beginner level—and keep going through the plateau-like medium/moderate—and go right for advanced, you will never be able to see the growth. No one becomes a master overnight. You must get comfortable with the awkward period of healing. Just like those bangs, the grow-in period is rough. Lots of headbands and weird braids. You must accept being “bad” at it at the beginning. But I promise you, this willingness to be the worst one in the room will ALWAYS lead to instant growth, which will then lead to encouragement and hope for more growth, so you’ll want to grow even more, and you inevitably will, and the beautiful cycle continues.
To wrap up: here are my two biggest tips for actually being able to see your growth in real-time.
1. Set one big goal for yourself (get a new job, begin a meditation practice, begin a journaling practice, buy your dream car) and then break that down into as many baby steps as possible. I mean it—as many as possible. Ex: Begin a meditation practice⠀ Baby step 1: find a guided meditation (an app, a YouTube video, etc)⠀ Baby step 2: set an alarm for 15 minutes earlier for the next month⠀ Baby step 3: text someone everyday to confirm you meditated (accountability is always helpful!)
2.Use your gratitude journal to track & affirm your growth. Let one of your gratitudes be something like “thank you for the ways I’m growing and changing” or “thank you that I didn’t say that thing that I really wanted to but knew I’d regret”.
Ignoring your growth (which is truly what it is) is detrimental to your mental health. You have to see yourself grow in order to feel gratitude, be proud of yourself, feel hopeful about your future, and tap into new ideas.Growth might take longer than you expect, but if you let yourself be proud of the little ways you’re taking steps towards “big” things, you’ll feel yourself being propelled forward.