How To Tell if You’ve Grown as a Person
Even though it doesn’t feel like it
Oh boy is self-transformation is messy and confusing. There's no linear growth and often no real markers along the way. It’s a process of faith as much as anything.
That's why it’s important to be able to reflect on how far you’ve come.
The human brain is a funny old thing. Once you learn something new, it’s impossible to imagine not knowing it. We can’t look back accurately, only through the lens of everything we know now and that can make it feel like there hasn’t been growth at all.
This article is to remind you there has been growth. Lots of growth. You have grown.
Here are four signs you’ve changed for the better.
Sign 1: You’re less angry
A mindset coach told me we lean into anger because it provides a false sense of certainty. When we get angry, we create a pretend level of control over a situation. We all know how to feel and react in anger.
If you’re walking around angry at the world, it’s because you’re overwhelmed, scared and most likely angry at yourself.
All anger is self-anger.
I was an angry 20-something man. I wanted to fight everyone (but didn’t), I wanted to fight the system (but didn’t), I shouted at the TV, politics made me furious, my opinions were binary and anyhow who disagreed with me was an idiot.
Look back at how you were 5-10 years ago. Did you rage about politics or get angry when you drank or had outbursts of rage at work? And now, is it different?
Anger is an accurate barometer for how at odds we feel with our lives. If you’re less angry today than a few years ago, you’ve undoubtedly done some inner work to tackle your demons. Congratulations.
Sign 2: You’ve stopped dwelling on the past
We’re all fucked up because of trauma, past events, our upbringing, the letdowns, embarrassments, how we were treated at school.
These things hang over us every time we walk into a room. We are made up of our past, like the food we eat, the past becomes building blocks of who we are now.
I had a tumultuous family life growing up and when I went to therapy in 2014, I told my therapist it felt like the past was “bearing down on me.”
Today I don’t feel that at all.
There are no easy steps to letting go and forgiving. It doesn’t come naturally, but if you’ve stopped identifying with the past, with things that happened 10 or 20 years ago, if those events no longer define your character, you’ve done a great deal of growing.
Sign 3: Drink and drug consumption is down
Russell Brand said the only gateway drug is trauma. Drink and drugs are escapism. The more at ease we are with ourselves, the less we need to escape.
My father was a traumatised man and it was no surprise he was an alcoholic. He’d drink to escape but it would merely plunged him further into his woe.
This is a common story. Getting blasted every few days isn’t about fun it’s about escaping reality. If you’ve found you’re no longer waking up hungover for work on a regular basis, it’s probably because you have more peace than before.
You might reframe it as simply getting older and living a quieter life, but I’ve seen addiction ramp up in middle age for numerous people, not reduce.
If you’ve slowed down or stopped drink and drug consumption, you’ve not got boring, you’ve grown and healed as a person.
Sign 4: You’re excited about the future
Just before I went to therapy, I saw a photo of a window seat overlooking the ocean on Tumblr. It was a beautiful scene but it brought tears to my eyes because I knew if I was there, if that was my coastal house, I couldn’t enjoy it because I’d still be me.
Can you relate to the feeling of not being able to escape your neurosis?
You can’t be excited about the future if you feel you’re carrying around a heavy bag of emotional crap. It’s difficult to have hope when every future scenario represents struggle.
I no longer look at beautiful holidays or scenery and have those same hopeless feelings.
If you feel hope for your future, if you get excited about places you can go or who you might one day become, then you’ve grown.
Hope is a barometer of mental health. If the future seems bright, it’s because you feel brighter. You have likely developed a good sense of faith in who you are and what’s possible.
Conclusions and all that jazz
The greatest trick the mind ever pulled was to be able to spot everyone else’s problems but not our own.
Trying to get perspective on your life is like trying to get perspective on a 2D drawing. It ain’t happening.
Instead, like a pilot flying in the dark, we have to read the instruments. Levels of anger, the amount of hope, the frequency of boozing and so forth all tell a story. If the instruments read better than they did a few years ago – even a few months ago – you’ve come a long way.
Recognising and celebrating your efforts to heal and grow is essential. Self-help can seem like fluffy nonsense to those who don’t try it, but it’s real in the trenches stuff when you give it a go.
If you’ve improved, congratulations. You’re undertaking scary and noble work.
Take a moment to be proud of what you’ve achieved.
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