Peeling away for new growth

Have you ever noticed that what we call “personal growth” seldom feels very good while its happening? There’s no sense of expansion or blooming or joyfully opening.

In fact, I seldom even recognize it as growth until after the fact. In the moment, it generally feels more like destruction, and that’s because it often is at first (at least for me).

Periods of growth are often the result of having layers of conditioned beliefs, expectations, patterns of behavior, and ways of seeing and understanding the world peeled away, leaving me feeling vulnerable and stripped bare in the absence of the confining walls I’ve built around myself.

Other times, it reminds me more of having my wisdom teeth removed years ago. They were so impacted that they had to chisel them out, leaving me with swollen, bruised cheeks from the trauma of the hammering.

It’s more a sense of having something ripped away, of being broken open, or of having my protective shell crushed to bits than of any kind of joyful blossoming while it’s happening.

I discover the new blossoms and fresh green growth only after I’ve surrendered to the letting go of the limits holding me back, negotiated my way through the wreckage of the destruction of my old ways of being, and survived the painful, awkward vulnerability that comes with learning new ways of being in the world.

Sometimes I manage to be courageous enough to destroy one of these limits on my own, like a chick breaking out of her shell. More often, life comes along with a hammer and does the breaking for me when I’m too afraid to make the necessary changes myself.

No matter how many times I’ve been through this, I still somehow expect that this time around growth is going to feel good and joyful and fulfilling. When it doesn’t, I panic thinking that the world has ended rather than seeing the many ways that it is expanding.

I rely on images from the natural world—peeling away an orange skin to get to the juicy fruit underneath, the breaking open of a seed for a new plant to sprout, the emergence of a baby chick from a broken open shell, plowing the earth to make space for planting a new garden—to get me through those times by helping me look forward to the goodness emerging even as the old is being destroyed.

They remind me that growth often starts with breaking through old, confining limits before the new life can truly come forth and blossom. It makes it a little easier to let the pieces of those old peels and shells go with grace and start practicing my new ways of being on my wobbly new legs.

If this season of so much loss and discomfort has left you feeling like you’re being stripped bare, take heart in knowing that this can be the opening to growth to a more authentic, bigger life, if you so choose.

What image helps you best survive these seasons of peeling away so that you can better emerge into new growth?


Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

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