Growth is a painful and elaborate process. That much is clear.
But have you ever wondered if there’s a good way to measure how far you’ve come? I mean, external accomplishments, skills, or even habits can be tracked quite easily in Excel, but the same can’t be said for personal development.
How can you be sure you’ve made progress if there’s no way to tell?
Luckily – and unsurprisingly, since the title of this article already has already given it away – there *is* a way to keep track. It lies in specific experiences that all people who’ve genuinely improved can relate to.
If you can relate to these 9 experiences, you’ve truly grown as a person.
1) You’ve outgrown your friends or partner
Let’s rip the band-aid off and get the most painful experience out of the way first – outgrowing people you used to be very close with.
Yeah, that one stings.
But there’s a silver lining! Sitting opposite your old friend from high school in a pub and having nothing to say to each other is also a major sign that you’ve grown in new directions.
The changing nature of your relationships is the unfortunate side-effect. No matter if your friend stayed the same while you evolved or if you’ve simply both taken completely different roads in life, the fact that you no longer click means you’ve come incredibly far in all those years you spent apart.
Of course, then there are the more painful cases, such as outgrowing your partner whilst you’re still in a relationship with them.
Thus the price you sometimes pay for personal development.
2) You look at your past self with compassion (and cringe)
Have you ever seen that meme that portrays the cringe that comes with retrospection?
Every two years or so, the old version of you feels more and more distant, and you can’t help but cringe at the choices they’ve made.
Oh, how little you knew! Oh, how silly you were!
But now, you know better. Now, you’re as near perfect as can be. Surely, your future self won’t feel the same way about you…
Wrong. The cringe will still be there. And that’s because cringe is one of the biggest markers of growth.
But what separates aging from true personal development is whether your cringe comes from a place of judgment or whether it’s accompanied by self-compassion.
When my 20-year-old self looked at how I’d acted at 15, she wanted nothing to do with her. She was embarrassed.
Four years later, and I now look at my past versions with amused detachment. I understand that they did what they knew best at the time, and that’s going to have to be enough – no matter how ridiculous their choices were.
3) You feel proud of how far you’ve come
One of the beautiful things about retrospection is that it allows you to look at your past challenges and realize just how much progress you’ve made since then.
Just five years ago, I was terrible at setting boundaries. I didn’t know how to say “no” without feeling guilty, I let myself get pushed around, I suffered from terrible social anxiety, and I lived in my head 24/7.
But now? I don’t need to deal with any of those issues anywhere near as often. I can feel within my bones that I’ve found my footing, that I’ve grown in confidence, and that I’m not going to tip over like a house of cards if someone gives me a push.
Oh, and that reminds me…
4) You can handle life’s challenges better than ever before
If you used to be terrified of public speaking, you no longer feel that gnawing terror. Nervous butterflies are as bad as it gets.
If you used to avoid all conflict like a plague, you are now capable of facing it head-on.
I could go on and on.
Things that would have completely rattled you just a few years ago don’t pose an issue anymore, and as a result, you feel stronger than ever.
Sometimes when you rise up to meet a challenge particularly well, you might even think to yourself, “Wow. I’m so much more resilient now. It’s like life is just…easier.”
That’s all that self-development working its charm, my friend. You sowed your seeds, and now you get to reap the fruits.
5) You move with more confidence
The most obvious consequence of self-growth is confidence. Your self-assuredness is as clear as the sky on a warm summer day – you just believe in yourself more, and so you automatically exude that energy as you go on about your day.
Personally, I’ve noticed that I no longer hunch or avoid all social interactions as if they could bite me at any moment.
The way I carry myself has changed over time, and when I walk down the street now, I feel confident, sure of myself, and what I can only describe as grounded.
And this is largely because I’ve gotten to know myself so well that I’m now in sync with all parts of me. Life might throw challenges in my face and I might get scared, but at the end of the day, I know I’ll be okay.
So I just keep on vibing.
6) You know yourself on a brand new level
That brings us to self-awareness, a vital component of self-development. The more you evolve, the more you know about who you are deep down – including your strengths, weaknesses, triggers, and things that still need some work.
What does this look like in practice, though?
Well, look at it this way. Four years ago, I didn’t know anything much about attachment theory, inner child healing, spiritual awakenings that would go on to change my life, or the science of habits and learning.
But as I discovered more of that knowledge, I had more and more lightbulb moments. “A-ha! So that’s why X makes me act in such a way and why Y triggers a spiral of overthinking!”
Those psychological concepts helped me get to know myself on a more subconscious level, and as I dug deeper, I was able to heal many wounds I hadn’t even realized I had before.
And once you feel the peace of closure in your bones…you know that you’ve grown immensely.
7) You feel like your whole life has completely changed in just a few years
When you grow, your life circumstances grow alongside you. I’ve come very far from living in student accommodation, eating noodles, and complaining about my life every day, and the change I can see around me clearly reflects the transformation that’s occurred within.
Your personal development isn’t cut off from all other aspects of life. On the contrary, it influences every area you can think of, from eating habits and fitness to relationships, material possessions, and career goals.
If you look back on what your life looked like two years ago and feel like the external changes that have happened since then are kind of incredible…it means you’ve also grown as a person.
8) Your standards keep getting higher and higher
Recently, I’ve become very aware that my inner circle keeps getting smaller, and one of the reasons is that my standards simply aren’t what they used to be.
I no longer try to carry entire relationships on my shoulders while the other person puts in zero effort. I don’t become friends with people just out of convenience and I cherish my time because I know how much of a precious resource it is.
Well, I’ve got great news – the fact that your standards are higher is a good sign. It means you know your worth and have come a long way since the good old days of toxic friendships and one-sided relationships.
9) You look in the mirror and see a best friend
Finally, here comes the best one…
(Imagine the 20th Century Fox intro song here.)
You actually like yourself now!
And not only that, but you feel like you’re your very best friend – if you feel sad, you do something nice for yourself, if you’re happy, you let yourself feel that joy in its entirety, and if you’re angry, you know just the right self-soothing strategies to help you calm down.
Now that you’ve accepted and embraced all aspects of who you are, it’s like your mind is in a nice state of flow – there is no self-hatred to cling on to, no self-deprecating jokes to hide behind, no sarcasm to use as a shield.
You are fully yourself, and you’re glad of it.
And if that’s not the best feeling ever, I don’t know what is.