Ive done a lot of personal growth in the last five and a half years. I still remember picking up the book “The Magic of Thinking Big” and reading it my junior year of college. From then on out I have pretty much been obsessed with self-improvement. Ive read hundreds of books (my mom is really happy about that), I’ve been to self development conferences, and challenged myself regularly. I’ve done it all. And for the most part I have loved it. Every second of it. Until recently. Let me tell you why.
For most of the last five and a half years I have focused on external self-development. For example, believing in myself more, people skills, sales, courage, leadership skills, relational skills, taking risks, getting outside my comfort zone, etc. This is what I would call external self-development. It was all a lot of fun and still is. What I hate though is internal personal growth. The difference between external self-development and internal self-development is the external has to do with outward success, like the results that everyone can see, whereas internal self-development has to do with finding true peace, fulfillment, and happiness which is where our true potential stems from.
Why do I hate it? I hate it because it forces us to look at the stuff inside ourselves that’s messed up. I don’t know about you but I have ignored or covered up a lot of stuff in my life that I knew was wrong with me hoping that one day it would just go away and I would never have to face it. Let me share with you a quote from a book called Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, that sums up a lot of my life:
“One thing is that people may have a lot of shame underlying their wish to be perceived as ‘good.’ To cover up their feelings about themselves, they try to perform well and be seen as awesome, wonderful, ideal, and to get a lot of accolades to make them feel good as opposed to their underlying bad feelings about themselves. They thrive on praise and being admired as a medicine to the underlying vulnerability in their souls.”
I have ignored a lot of shame and issues in my life. Instead of facing them I’ve covered them up by the wish to be perceived as good, awesome, wonderful, ideal, etc. Many times I have lacked confidence so instead of facing that reality, I have just portrayed myself as confident which over time has resulted in an even greater lack of confidence. A lot of people have said “Sam it seems like you have it all together, you’re a great upbeat positive guy with the world at your feet.” I’m thinking in my head, “yes thats exactly what I want them to think.” When deep down, I know I feel a lack of authentic confidence. The kind of confidence where you know that even at your worst, you are enough.
Its been a process but I have realized over the last year and a half that I need to start attacking my internal success because when the end of my life comes the external success won’t really mean anything. I realized that I didn’t want to live the only life I was given doing everything to please the worlds definition of success while being unfulfilled and unhappy at the same time. I am not saying that making a lot of money, achieving in your career, driving a nice car etc is a bad thing. I am saying whats the point of having the outside stuff without the inside stuff? The problem is achieving true internal success is hard, its emotional, and it requires us to attack and confront the things in our life we’ve wanted to ignore.
The other day was a tough day for me because I had to admit a weakness of mine not only to myself but to another person in order to move forward. I wanted to come up with every excuse as to why it wasn’t a weakness and why it was everyone else’s fault when deep down I knew it was just an insecurity I had. This person sensed it, and confronted me with it. In that moment I had a choice, do I admit my weakness to this person so I can move forward and improve or do I do what Ive done most of my life and protect my ego by making a “valid” excuse? I knew I needed to confront this issue in order to move forward in my life internally, so I reluctantly admitted it. Luckily this person is full of grace, believes in me, and is on my team so they helped to walk me through this problem. I hated every second of it. I fought it tooth and nail. However, I know I am better for it.
Growing internally is a grueling, hard, and emotional process. It sucks and I honestly I hate it. I hate it because I have to admit that there is a lot of stuff I struggle with and areas I need to grow in. However, the result is freedom. The result is endless opportunity to fulfill my potential. So while I hate the process, I love the result. Ever since I have decided to grow internally I have cried more, admitted being wrong more, and felt more exposed than ever before. However, I have felt more at peace, more fulfilled, and more loved than ever before. I hate internal personal growth but I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!