To grow is to develop, evolve and change. Whether that growth is physical, mental or spiritual, it’s a natural process. From the moment we are born, we move through our lives having all these crazy, exciting, sometimes terrifying experiences, and we learn from them. It’s impossible to do anything else. So, why is it that growth can sometimes feel so uncomfortable?
It's partly because of the circumstances in which growth happens. There’s a saying that growth doesn’t happen inside your comfort zone, and that's true. Take building strength in a muscle, for instance. If we never push ourselves to work that muscle and create some tension, there will be no growth.
Life is just like that muscle. If a situation is comfortable and easy, what are we learning from it? Why would we go anywhere? There’s no push to evolve. Ease and comfort encourage us to stay where we are. They can breed complacency, which is pretty much the enemy of growth. It’s the situations that challenge us that change us, and it is in this way that we grow. (Learn more about Accepting Discomfort.)
Another cause of discomfort lies in the nature of growth. Growth is, by definition, a process of change, and this can be unsettling. When you’re faced with something unfamiliar, it can seem frightening. This effect is multiplied when the unfamiliar things are new or newly discovered aspects of yourself. To see ourselves in a different light may be uncomfortable. We may feel anxious and worried that too much is changing, or changing too quickly. Perhaps we think we’d rather cling on to the way things used to be. We may feel concerned about how others perceive our growth and wonder how our changed selves will fit into old relationships and patterns. (Read more in The Nature of Fear.)
If this sounds like you, don’t worry! Yes, growth can be uncomfortable, but it’s ultimately a beautiful thing. The alternative is staying put, stagnating and being left behind by life. Besides, life will throw too many things your way to allow you to do that. It’s just not a realistic option. When you grow, you discover new things, you gain perspective, skills and wisdom. You expand into your own unlimited potential.
Embrace the discomfort of growth and see where it takes you. It’s bound to be more exciting, interesting and positive than fighting it. As the author, Marianne Williamson, put it, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world.”