There is so much beauty in becoming.
The glow that softly illuminates from your deepest center, flows its way through you until it’s pink in your cheeks, glistening in your eyes. The sturdiness in your feet, as you stand firm in your values, and walk tall towards the unknown. The sudden realization of possibility, real, bountiful possibility— in all areas of your life. The grounding clarity of who you are and what you truly need and desire. The fiery awakening of what you aspire to change in the world, and uplift in others.
These wonderful effects of self elevation are magical, and they make each shade and season of life worthwhile. But they come only with deliberate efforts of sacrifice and courage, that might feel frightening, unfamiliar, or lonesome.
There are “side effects” to self growth— there are gains that only come after loss, the long seasons of waiting, the shedding of familiarity and connections you once relied on for comfort, self validation and identity. I feel as though this side of evolving isn’t acknowledged as often— maybe because they don’t feed into that same glowing idea and appeal. But these growing pains are sometimes the very parts of the journey that leave us questioning if we are even doing this right, or tempting us back into less evolved versions of ourselves. Know that they are still good and necessary, (kind of like bitter vegetables.)
So, what’s on the menu? Here is what I’ve found while on my own ongoing journey.
1. You will realize which connections in your life depended on your self sacrificing and self depreciation.
Whether that connection is to a friend— whether a close one or not, jobs, relationships, etc., as you begin to back and big yourself up, you might not see genuine support come from certain spaces in your life. You may begin to see that certain connections were sustained on your always meeting their needs and never having your own. You may catch backhanded responses to your displays of gratitude, optimism and outward confidence that are aimed to take you down a few notches, or back into a negative perspective about yourself. These connections benefit the receiver only and not you. Some of these connections will not survive the change, and you might be surprised by what or who doesn’t prefer a more self loving you. Don’t recede yourself back to a lower place to maintain these connections.
2. You will stop over explaining, overcompensating, apologizing out of turn and stepping aside for others.
This sounds like a great thing, and as I said, ultimately it is. Except, when you’ve built your life around doing these things for others, when you suddenly stop— not everyone takes to that change well. This one may actually affect those very close to you, whom you see often. New boundaries can feel offensive to someone who always thought they had an all access pass to you, your time, your emotions, and your labor. There may be an awkward pause when you finish stating your availability, or what you’re able to do for them, or your stance on a disagreement that took place. A pause where they are thinking loudly enough for you both to hear, “…and what else?” You will be tempted to add— to over explain, to overcompensate, to even apologize or offer more. Don’t. Let them take responsibility for their feelings, and let the cards fall as they may. Caution: they will either get used to it and give you the respect you need, or they’ll go. (Moral of these first two items is, you will lose people.)
3. You will stop choosing your interests and representing yourself based on popular opinion.
Story time: Something I went through last year was a big, messy grapple with my self image. My instagram had a growth spurt, and I had lots of new eyes on me. This was exciting, frightening, and forced me to acknowledge what I wanted my platform to represent. I felt a lot of pressure to give this growing audience the show, to be what is considered ideally beautiful, interesting and popular. I felt the need to become a guru of aesthetic, makeup, hair, and fashion. (I’m a girl’s girl, and I do like these things, but I don’t necessarily consider them MY thing, or my ONLY thing.) I felt pressure to have a more exciting life, a curvier body and a trendier way of existing. Overall, just follow suit with what was clearly celebrated and expected of women in this space.
I hated this feeling, and I hated how every time I gave into it and tried to post or behave in this way, it was rewarded. Even so, I could not ignore the inner conflict it was creating. I knew that if I wanted to be known for anything, I wanted it to be for this; my writing, my artistic expression, and my desire to heal and elevate alongside others— Even though it would be less celebrated. I risked that online growth to stay true to my personal growth. And surprise, surprise– some people unfollowed me. This was the reality of that decision. I anticipated this, but I made myself quit fearing it. Seeing the follower count drop directly after posting my artwork or writings did admittedly sting at first, but I resisted the urge to take that as a reflection of the quality of my work, or even “correct” it by posting more superficially to bury that side of myself. I had to just cut my losses, (which I no longer view as losses,) and respect others’ preferences.
Now, I can genuinely say I don’t mind when I am unfollowed, even, and especially when I post artwork, writing, blog pieces. This is a side of myself, a fairly dominant side of myself, that aligns me most with genuine joy, self expression and fulfillment, that I am unwilling to hide or compromise it for the sake of sustaining outward support and validation. The more I pursue what is true to me, I continue to trust that whatever/whoever leaves me was not meant to come with me. I have to be authentic to myself, however it’s met by others, because that’s the only way I will find my own tribe. (They won’t find you if you hide behind a mirage.)
4. The empty spaces may not feel like peace at first.
There is a lot of shedding. You may pull yourself away from activities that were taking your energy away, or bringing your energy down. The things you pull away from might very well be things you are used to pouring a lot of time into. When you really put your phone down and disconnect, stop running yourself ragged with overcommitments and/or unhealthy social circles, stop finishing your day with a drink (or insert other unhealthy coping habit of choice here,) or however you may have been coping or distracting yourself— it can feel lonely or empty at first. The first feeling you get might not be serenity. Maybe you are used to being in conflict, maybe you are used to being numbed out or completely focused on anything other than being present and in tune with yourself. You might search for ways to fill the space. Try not to. Try to allow the peace to come in. But you have to create and hold the space for it.
5. Opportunities will come that will challenge you.
The universe listens. Once you say you are done behaving a certain way, it will bring you a perfect situation where you need to choose whether to continue the old behavior, or be made uncomfortable or inconvenienced in responding differently.
If you say you’re ready for a certain type of opportunity, it will come. And you will feel unqualified, and you will feel like hiding, or downplaying yourself, or saying no. But you must say yes. Eventually knowing better has to turn into doing better, and surely those moments will come where you have to put your money where your mouth is and show up as the person you want to be— not just what is easy, or comfortable, or who you’ve always been. You might need to really start navigating new territories, or getting your hands dirty with a challenge. Trust yourself.
6. You will mourn the things that you lose, like anything else.
Nobody said that because someone or something you were involved in wouldn’t grow with you, that you wouldn’t care. You will care. You will be disappointed, and sad, or even heartbroken that you can’t continue your journey with a certain person or piece of your life you once really enjoyed and cared about. When you stand up for yourself, or vouch for a change in the dynamic of a friendship/relationship, or express otherwise that you’d like to change course or make improvement in a situation that isn’t working— sometimes the person on the other end doesn’t want to see that change through with you. They’d rather terminate the relationship. This is no less upsetting because you tried to do the right thing. Take care of yourself through these moments, and know that not all connections can last forever.
7. Whether you see it or not, whether you like it or not, you will make an impact.
You cannot change without your environment catching on. When you show up as your whole self, lovingly, shamelessly, fully— it’s noticeable. You will radiate with this change. People might be surprised, and they’ll speak to you as if you’ve changed, or like you’re putting on a show, rather than emerging as your true self. Some people might not say anything at all, but still recognize and be inspired by your courage and sincerity. Some people will come closer to openly embrace the self loving you. You will draw in, and you will send away, but things certainly change when you change. (You can take this shifting as a sign that it’s working. The universe is to build around you, now.) Continue being a light in the rooms you walk into, showing up as your genuine and whole self, and be prepared for plenty of transition. Hang on tight. Continue your journey. It is not all perfect days, but we know better than to believe that, anyway.
It’s worth every moment, and you are worth sticking through it for.
Have you experienced any of these “side effects” of self growth?