Not everything that says it’s growth is actually growth.
A lot of what looks like growth is actually just narcissism in disguise.
I’ve learned that most of the time, when I feel like I’m growing, I’m not. I’ve been trying to make myself better.
Table of Contents
It’s hard to tell the difference between real growth and fake growth because of the landscape. I sometimes feel like I’m getting better, and I know for sure that I am. Then I notice a sneaky undercurrent, and when I look into it more, I find that what seemed like an honest effort wasn’t one at all. I didn’t start out as a whole person and then grow from there. I was trying to get rid of an illness I couldn’t see: the feeling that I wasn’t good enough.
This feeling of not being good enough is a lie that comes from the ego and has nothing to do with real growth.
We don’t need anything else. It’s done already. You don’t have to chase after meaningless achievements to prove that to yourself. Growth has nothing to do with getting better at something. The goal is to get more out of what’s already there.
Real growth has nothing to do with…
- Improvement (you don’t set out to make things better, even if you do so by accident).
- Only things that help you.
- Being more popular.
- Adding things to your resume or list of things you’ve done.
- Having an inflated sense of what you deserve.
- Making more money (though it might have something to do with creating more value).
On the other hand, fake growth is all about…
- A never-ending quest for [fleeting] fulfilment.
- Trying to do nothing but fail.
- Trying out new things so they can be “experienced.”
- Trying something new to see what will happen.
- Every little thing is being measured and counted.
- For a short time, giving you more confidence.
- What to do next.
(As an aside, there seem to be many connections between fake growth and “good ideas.”)
It’s not simple. You might think you’ve gotten rid of all the weeds of inauthenticity, but then you realise you’re doing something for “growth” that doesn’t really matter. Most of the time, fake growth is hidden in parts of your mind that are hard to find. It comes in ways that aren’t always clear.
Too many times, I’ve seen myself do this.
- I’m trying to get into a new habit, like getting up early, because it’s a “rite of passage” for growing as a person. But it doesn’t bother me too much.
- I’m reading a book and I realise I don’t give a shit about it. I thought it would help me learn more about X, so I bought it.
- I’m making myself learn something I’m not really interested in, like a new language, because it’s seen as a socially important thing to do.
- To “expand my horizons,” I’m listening to music I can’t stand.
- I try to start a business because I think it would be a good idea, but I find out later that I’m not really interested in it.
I could keep going on and on.
When you put it all together like this, it seems pretty crazy. When you think about it after the fact, it is. But when you’re in the middle of it, it’s often much harder than that.
The prolificacy of comfort
I’ve also noticed that people often think they’re getting better when they’re just fooling themselves. You feel good in some way. You’ve made a nice little pattern that makes you feel good and keeps you safe.
So you break some rules and take a little bit of a chance. You feel good and tell yourself you’re getting better.
But you know that true growth hurts a lot more. It would get rid of the pattern and make room for more options.
Then there are people who are hooked on fake growth.
You know how you always want to move on to the “next level”? That’s the person who pretends to get bigger.
Real growth isn’t about getting to the next level. It’s not about always trying to find something outside of yourself. Changes on the inside are what lead to real growth. It means realising that you have everything you need already. Everything has already been done. You already have way more power than you can imagine.
Accept your power and use it without fear if you want to grow.
When you fake growth, you are always looking for something new to add to your list of accomplishments. Another point higher on a graph that keeps going and going. Another fake ID you can give to a random person at a random party. You tell yourself that getting another merit badge will really make you feel “accomplished,” and then you can enjoy your growth and be happy.
But you never do get satisfied, do you? The number one sign of fake growth is that the person keeps looking.
The key to real growth is that it doesn’t matter much in and of itself.
The truth is that real growth doesn’t need to be proven. It doesn’t matter if you like it or don’t like it. It doesn’t need an official stamp or a letter of recommendation. It doesn’t need to be approved by a list of goals that everyone agrees on.
Also, it doesn’t matter if YOU call something growth or not.
It has no ego. It has no way to tell if it’s right from the inside or from the outside.
This is because real growth goes further than growth.
Growth that lasts comes from…
- Getting to know life better and caring more about it.
- A new level of understanding; moving past a plateau.
- Liberation, not confinement.
- Smoothness, intuition, naturalness, and an organic feel.
- The now and here.
- Starting from a place of wholeness.
- Getting used to the way things are.
- Not being too hopeful (denial) or too downbeat (nihilistic).
- With all of its flaws, scars, and warts, real life is what it is.
- Accepting the things you don’t like and then facing them when you decide you want to change them.
- Not just taking a sugar pill that says “think positive” (denial).
- Community. Growth does not happen in a hoover. People around you support it, and your growth is good for you, your community, and the whole world.
False growth is what causes tumours. People don’t always notice when they’re getting bigger. It makes sense. It doesn’t get in the way of itself. It doesn’t try to keep track of how fast or slow it is growing.
Real growth knows that you don’t have to do something all the time.
People get suffocated, bubbles pop, and there are too many people when there is too much growth. It is impossible to keep up with rapid growth that never stops.
The real kind of growth knows when to stop growing. Growth and decline are like two sides of the same pole. Sometimes you have to let go, move on, or even say “no.” You can’t have one without the other.
People who have grown know that it doesn’t matter in the end. It’s not enough to just get taller or wider on the sides. Real growth knows that what goes up must come down, and what gets bigger must get smaller.
True growth leads to stillness most of the time. And sometimes the best way to grow is to not grow at all.