There are many words that capture the essence of personal growth, like, personal development, self-awareness or enlightenment. The problem with these explanations are they are just words, a combination of letters (symbols) that have to be interpreted in a certain way to give them a meaning and for each person it will mean something different.
If you ask people who want to emotionally grow what they want, the answer is nearly always « I want to feel more xyz……. » They describe the feelings and emotions they want to experience or to let go of and these feelings can’t fully be expressed with words.
Words can’t truly express the sound of a symphony; words can’t describe colours or the beauty of a rainbow, words tend to express the event, but not the feelings and emotions experienced by our inner self.
Our education tends to play a trick on us; we are taught that if we learn about everything, if we amass lots of knowledge, then we will know the truth, we will know right from wrong, of course knowledge helps us in our life, but not necessarily with our emotional calmness and happiness.
The reality is « what is truth » are words the truth? Are feelings the truth? Just because a person has knowledge does it mean that what they do and say is the truth? I don’t think so.
We all live in our own little dream bubbles of what we think is true about us, what we believe is true about others and on the whole this is done with words « she is cleverer than me, he is taller than me » yet the reaction to those words are feelings and emotions – are the very thing that we want to change.
Perhaps you will have noticed that whenever something beautiful happens many people just say « I was speechless, I was just emotionally overwhelmed » be it from a sunset, the birth of a child, a poem.
In that moment there was no truth, no internal dialogue, no racing mind, just a pure connectedness with your emotions and that of life around you, a quiet mind and an overwhelmed heart. To me, this is what personal growth is all about.
Being able to let go of being right or wrong, being able to silence the racing mind, being able to recognise that each person (via their knowledge) thinks they know the truth, however, truth is a way of being not a state of opinion.
Once you can see this the whole world looks like a completely different place; you can see all the masks that everyone is wearing to protect themselves from emotional harm, the facades that hide their doubts about themselves, the way their egos compensate for their feared insecurities and how they search for truth in books, through words that they call knowledge, when, all the while, what they truly crave is a quiet mind and emotional freedom.
Take humour for example, we don’t need to analyse it cerebrally; we just feel that it is funny, it just connects with us emotionally and we naturally express our emotions and it feels good. I use a lot of humour in my work as I believe it to be one of the keys to freedom, especially when you can laugh at yourself.
The personalities that I see each day through my therapy practice fall into 3 distinct groups; those who make the rules and feel good by achieving (and experience stress), those who follow the rules and feel good by helping others (they get anxious) and those who feel that rules don’t apply to them and are looking for gratification (these get stressed if not enough is happening).
Which group do you fall into? Realise that what is truth is for one set of people, will not make sense for participants in another group, to them it will be false, yet that doesn’t make it wrong (or right). Adopting more flexibility is the key to moving forward; allowing yourself to move to new points of view, perhaps even try living in one of the other groups for a while to broaden your horizons, expand your emotional bandwidth.
Regardless of which group you feel you belong to if what you are looking for is calmness and more emotional connection with life, more self-love and more self-respect then it starts with a few simple rules.
Stop judging yourself and stop judging others, what are you hoping to achieve by doing this except placing yourself in the paradigm of « I am less than them » or « I am more than them » this is just setting yourself up to experience emotions driven by external factors, rather than being in a position to just be able to choose your own emotion at any specific time, just because you want to.
Start hunting for the beliefs you have about yourself that are no longer serving you well, they are not easy to find yet very worthwhile to recognise and then let go of. I recently recognised one of my own strong beliefs; I broke my foot whilst out walking with friends and whilst everyone fussed around me trying to help (with the absolute best intentions) I just wanted them all to leave me alone, to let me just get on with it – I had a strong belief that I didn’t need help, that my independence was hugely important to me, that I was strong enough to handle anything on my own.
When I explored my beliefs I was amazed about how many there were, I told a few of my friends about them because I was so amazed and they all laughed and said « we know that, didn’t you? » in the main I didn’t! Now I can see them I can let them go, I can let my guard down and move on with my life not having to play these silly games.
By recognising old out of date beliefs and dropping the mental story of self-importance, allows you to move towards humility which is another golden key on the self-awareness journey.
Humility is a funny word and means many different things to each individual, to me, it means that we are all equal, no one is more important than me and I am not more important than anyone else. I don’t need to judge anyone and I don’t need to judge myself. I don’t need to put my agenda before anyone else’s, I don’t need to be right or wrong, I can just listen without needing to talk.
I can love and respect myself and I can love and respect others despite differing opinions, cultures or points of view, I recognise that I live in my dream bubble and they live in their dream bubble and we are both right when observed from that perspective.
Humility allows you to refrain from needing to advise or correct people, or point out their flaws, they are competent to live their own lives and experience the consequences of their decisions and actions. This also allows you to step back from worrying about them, let them live their lives, just be there for when they need you, love them, love yourself.