Do you feel like you haven’t been growing as a person?
You haven’t traveled the world, come up with some revolutionary invention, or found your happy-ever-after.
Well, you’re being too hard on yourself.
What if I tell you that there are many markers for growth aside from those obvious life milestones?
If you really want to know if you’re growing as a person, here are 8 signs you should look for, according to psychology.
1) You get yourself in stressful situations
Being outside of your comfort zone forces you to grow as a person.
And of course, being outside of your comfort zone inevitably leads to you feeling a little stressed and anxious.
Think back on the times in your life where you experienced the most growth—like when you first went on a trip all by yourself or went to Uni—and you’ll find that all those moments were stressful in their own way.
That’s because change, growth, and stress go hand-in-hand.
It’s like “breaking in” a new pair of shoes.
Your feet are going to hurt for a while, but eventually it’ll become comfortable again.
So…are you “breaking in” on new life experiences lately?
Then you’re definitely growing as a person!
2) You no longer hold grudges
You used to feel bitter whenever you think of the people who’ve hurt you.
In fact, you used to fantasize about getting even with them—about “teaching them a lesson” for hurting you.
But that’s no longer the case!
If anything, you now find it silly that you used to even hold grudges in the first place.
According to psychology, the best way to let go of grudges is to let go of the perception that you’ve been “wronged,” that you’re the victim.
And it takes a lot of personal growth and maturity to change the narrative of your life—to grasp that you aren’t the center of the world, and that sometimes you might even be the person in the wrong.
3) You’re not ashamed of your past self
You might think real growth is about looking at your past and going “Oh gosh, that wasn’t me! I’m so different now!” *cringe*
But real growth is about looking back and thinking “Wow, I was different back then huh. But I’m proud of that girl for trying her best.”
You can acknowledge that you had changed and had made mistakes without denying the fact that it was YOU who had done all of that.
A study on our perception of our past selves shows that if we look down on our past selves, it’s likely because we’re not happy with who we are in the present.
The kind of self-compassion you need to look kindly upon your past self—flaws and all—can only be achieved once you’ve grown as a person.
4) You’re now emotionally stronger
Just as stress is a sign that you’re growing as a person, stressful circumstances—given that they’re not so severe that they’ll break you outright—can help you grow.
According to Tedeschi and Calhoun, psychological growth is associated with the need to accommodate a major stressor that may be experienced as transformative.
Their research says that stressful events can help us:
- develop a new appreciation of life
- develop newfound personal strength
- see an improvement in their relationships
- see new possibilities in life
- undergo spiritual changes
You might not feel like you’re growing on the outside when you’re juggling two extra jobs just to pay your bills on time.
And you might not feel like there’s much growth at all when your partner decides to break up with you out of nowhere.
5) You’re taking full responsibility of your actions
Researchers distinguish responsibility as an important criterion of human psychological maturity.
If we never take responsibility for ourselves and always rely on—or blame—other people for the things we do, then we’ll never grow.
When I was much younger, I used to think that the people who love me are responsible for helping me until I get successful in life… and that when something goes wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault.
Not only did my relationships become toxic, I stagnated.
I didn’t really start growing until I took a hard look at my life and went “Wait, this isn’t right. My life is my life, and I should take full responsibility for it.”
So I stopped waiting for life to hand out to me what’s “rightfully” mine.
Instead I took charge and chased after the things that I wanted.
- Do you feel like you’re taking charge of your life now?
- Have you stopped pointing fingers when things go wrong?
- Do you hold yourself accountable for your actions?
Then you’re definitely growing as a person.
6) Your relationships are much healthier
Gone are the days when you were always neck-deep in some kind of conflict with the people around you.
Sure, you still argue with your siblings every now and then, and you might still disagree with your friends and your neighbors.
But you now know how to resolve things peacefully.
The big reason for this big improvement is related to my last point above—it’s emotional responsibility. And it starts with awareness.
According to Dr. Lindsay Gibson, a big part of becoming more emotionally mature is recognizing when you’re acting immaturely.
- Do you start asking yourself “Okay, where did I go wrong?”
- Do you not see yourself as the victim all the time?
- Do you start acknowledging that you play a big role in all of your interactions?
And do you go beyond self-awareness and accountability?
Do you stop yourself from resorting to immature behavior and instead communicate, negotiate, and stay positive with your interactions?
Then that’s one helluva growth right there!
7) You’re striving to live a more authentic life
Psychologists believe that in order to have a good life, one requires an authentic expression of self, a sense of well-being, and active engagement in life and work.
And authenticity is more than just trying to be ourselves. It requires us to KNOW and OWN who we are (Joseph, 2019).
Think about it!
- Do you now engage less in “fake” interactions?
- Do you have less f*cks to give?
- Do you actively try to get to know your real self?
- Do you strive to find and pursue your life purpose instead of following what others want you to do?
If you, as a person, are more concerned with being true to yourself than you are about pleasing the people around you, then congratulations—you’re growing as a person!
This isn’t easy.
Many of us are so afraid of being judged badly by the people around us that we hide our genuine selves well into our eighties. So if you’re working on this now, you’re actually quite advanced.
8) You have developed self-love and self-compassion
It’s close to impossible to move forward if you punish yourself every time you “fail” or make “stupid” decisions.
This is why self-compassion is one of the most important skills you can ever have if you want to grow as a person.
According to a research by Serena Chen, Chair for Innovative Teaching and Research at the University of California, Berkeley, self-compassion triggers people to adopt a growth mindset, and to become more optimistic and more authentic.
- Have you stopped beating yourself up every time you mess up?
- Have you replaced “You’re so stupid!” with “That was a good start!” and “At least we learned something”?
- Do you congratulate yourself for your wins as well as your “failures”?
- Are you proud of yourself for always trying?
- Do you now see yourself as your best friend?
Then you’re definitely growing as a person!
Personal growth isn’t always immediately obvious.
In fact, most growth is slow and invisible.
We all change a little day by day, and those changes add up over the course of months and years.
So don’t be too hard on yourself—if you can see at least half of these signs, you’re definitely growing as a person.
In fact, you might be growing more than your multimillionaire neighbor who just got married and bought a brand new house!
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