Not all that claims to be growth is real growth.
Much of what masquerades as growth is a narcissistic pursuit in a shrewd disguise.
What I’ve come to realise is that much of the time, when I think I’ve been growing, I haven’t really been growing. I’ve been trying to fix or improve myself.
The line between authentic growth on the one hand, and fake growth on the other, is an obscured landscape. Sometimes I think that I’m growing, and I really believe wholeheartedly that I am. Then I notice an undercurrent of duplicity, and when I dig deeper, I find that what was perpetrating as an authentic endeavour was really not. I wasn’t starting from a place of wholeness and expanding from there. I was trying to cure an invisible illness: my perceived inadequacy.
That inadequacy is a myth driven by the ego, and has nothing to do with real growth.
We’re already whole. Already complete. You don’t need to prove that to yourself by chasing hollow achievements. Real growth has nothing to do with fixing anything. It’s about expanding what already is.
Real growth has nothing to do with…
- Improvement (although you may inadvertently improve things, you don’t start from a place of trying to improve).
- Solely ego-based pursuits.
- Being more popular.
- Adding things to your resume, or your list of accomplishments.
- Inflating your self of entitlement.
- 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] fulfillment.
- Chasing empty pursuits.
- Doing new things for the “experience.”
- Changing for the sake of changing.
- Counting and measuring everything.
- Temporarily boosting your self-esteem.
- The future.
(On a side note: fake growth and “good ideas” seem to have a lot to do with each other.)
It’s a tricky business. You can think you’ve pulled all the weeds of in-authenticity and the next thing you know, you’re realising you’re doing something for the sake of “growth” that doesn’t really matter. The prolificacy of fake growth often hides in hard-to-find corners of your mind. It often arrives in unassuming forms.
I’ve seen this happen too many time with myself.
- I’m trying to create a new habit (like early rising) because it’s a “rite of passage” for personal growth. But I don’t really care about it.
- I’m reading a book and I realise that I don’t give a shit about it. I bought it because I thought it would a good idea for me to learn about X topic.
- I’m pushing myself to learn something that I’m not really passionate about — like a new language for instance — because it’s a socially prestigious pursuit.
- I’m listening to music that I can’t stand to “expand my horizons.”
- I’m pursuing a business opportunity because I think it’s a good idea, and I later realise I’m not really passionate about it.
And the list goes on.
All of this stuff sounds pretty ridiculous when it’s laid out there. And when you think about it in hindsight, it is. But it tends to be much trickier than that when you’re up close and in the trenches.
The prolificacy of comfort
The other problem I’ve found is that often you think you’re really growing, but you’re just lying to yourself. Some part of you is comfortable. You’ve developed a nice little pattern that cushions you and keeps you safe.
So you rebel against the pattern a little, and you take a little bit of risk. This makes you feel good and you tell yourself you’re growing.
But you know that real growth would be much more uncomfortable. It would kill the pattern, and in its place would be an expansion of possibility.
Then there’s the fake growth addict
You know that part of you that wants to always reach the “next level”? That’s the fake growth addict.
Real growth isn’t about reaching another level. It’s not about constantly seeking something outside yourself. Real growth is about internal transformation. It’s about the realisation that you are already whole. You are already complete. You are already more powerful than you can dare to imagine.
Real growth is about embracing that power and doing it fearlessly.
Fake growth consists of constantly chasing another bullet point to put on your life resume. Another higher data point on a never ending graph. Another fake credential you can spew off to an unimportant stranger at an unimportant party. Another merit badge that you tell yourself will really make you feel “accomplished.” Then you can finally cash in on your growth and be satisfied.
But you never do get satisfied, do you? The number one sign of fake growth is: continual seeking.
The hidden secret of real growth: it doesn’t matter that much to itself
The truth about real growth is that real growth doesn’t need validation. It doesn’t need for you to approve or disapprove. It doesn’t need a stamp of validation or a letter of recommendation. It doesn’t need to be sanctioned by a regulated list of socially approved goals.
And here’s something else… Real growth doesn’t care that YOU call it growth.
It has no ego. It has no internal or external validation system.
That’s because real growth is beyond growth.
Real growth is about…
- Experiencing a greater intimacy with life and a deeper passion for it.
- A new level of understanding; moving past a plateau.
- Liberation, not confinement.
- Fluidity, intuition, organicness, naturalness.
- The present moment.
- Starting from a place of wholeness.
- Accepting the reality of the situation as-it-is.
- Not being overly positive (denial) or overly negative (nihilistic).
- Real life, including all the warts, imperfections, blemishes, and scars.
- Accepting the things you don’t like; and upon realising that you want to change them, facing them head on.
- Not simply swallowing a “think positive” placebo (denial).
- Community. Growth does not happen in a vacuum. It is supported by those around you, and your growth has a positive impact on your immediate circle, your community, and the world.
Fake growth leads to tumors. Real growth often does not notice it’s there. It’s integrated. It gets out of the way of itself. It doesn’t try to count and measure how fast or slow it is growing.
Real growth accepts that sometimes it’s not necessary
Too much growth leads to suffocation, bursted bubbles, and overpopulation. Radical, never-ending growth is not sustainable.
Real growth knows that sometimes it’s time to stop growing. Sometimes it’s time to let go, to move on, and yes, to decline. Growth and decline are two sides of the same pole. Without one, the other can’t exist.
In the end, real growth knows that it doesn’t really matter. It’s not just about rising vertically, or expanding horizontally. Real growth knows that what goes up, must come down, and what expands, must contract.
True growth often leads to stillness. And sometimes the most formidable growth… is none at all.
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