How to Grow As a Person — Get Out of Your Head & Do Your Heart Work!
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Think back to third grade, do you remember the papercut on your finger? It was very painful and you vowed to never touch another piece of paper again, right? Of course not! You bandaged the wound, and you kept doing your schoolwork because that’s how you grow as a person. You let it heal and you moved on.
Yet when it comes to emotional hurt, we hold onto it way past its expiration date. We regret being vulnerable and vow, “I’m never going to let myself be hurt like that again.” Whether it’s from a romantic breakup or a painful rejection at work, when we experience emotional pain, we tend to shrink back into our shells. Out of self-protection, we often drift away from our hearts and begin living in our heads. We become more and more shut down and closed off.
How to Grow as a Person…Healing
In physical healing, we allow ourselves to fully experience our emotions. We say, “Ow!” out loud. We show our wounds to other people. We’re not ashamed of the injury. In fact, we might be proud of them, calling them our ‘war wounds’…“This happened when I jumped off the swing. I was swinging higher than anyone else on the playground!” Or “I got this limp from a car accident years ago. The doctor didn’t think I’d walk again, but I proved him wrong!”
But what do we do with emotional wounds?
- We quickly look around to see if anyone notices our humiliation.
- We punish ourselves for being “stupid, naive, gullible”.
- Hurting is unpleasant, so we shut off our feelings so we don’t feel our feelings all the way through: sadness, anger, even joy or our sexual feelings.
- We have a natural positivity bias because we’re trying to “keep everything together”.
- We tamp them down and force them into a ‘mental storage box’, telling ourselves “don’t think about it,” yet it’s always on our mind.
- We become mute and refuse to share our feelings.
- We take them as judgments against our own worth.
- We turn them into negative thoughts that we use to browbeat ourselves.
- We don’t let it heal, as we pick at the scab, constantly ruminating about it.
- We cease living somatically; we totally discount our heart and body messages and give prominence to our head messages of how we ‘should’ act, feel and think.
To grow as a person involves Heart Work – it is a process of coming back home, connecting or reconnecting with our own heart place, our tender place where our wants and needs live. We must soften ourselves and be willing to become vulnerable again. Being a fully alive human being involves feeling all the feelings, without exing out what is uncomfortable.
It’s not pleasant for us or anyone else if we become a bitter, prickly, defensive individual. Putting this thought into a positive frame, Jane Austen said, “There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.” I love that! We are drawn to people who are open and honest. And we’re also more comfortable in our own skins.
Even if your heart has been closed off for years, you can always soften it. It’s never too late. You will be an improved version of yourself from having gone through the struggle. As Charles Dickens said,
“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but — I hope — into a better shape.”
As we learn how to grow as a person, we will be confronted with change. All change is perceived by the brain in one of two ways:
- As a threat because we think we’re being forced to go beyond our limits or ability to cope.
- As a challenge or opportunity to learn or do something new that’s within our abilities and limits.
How you choose to perceive significant change moments in your life will alter your emotional, physical, and mental experiences. Choosing to view each one as a learning experience is how you guide your mind in a healthy growth direction. Please, believe that you, and everyone else, can change, given a rich ‘soil’ in which to grow.
How to Grow as a Person…Moving Forward
Even if you’re not quite feeling it yet, you can purposefully choose behavior that will change your perspective or mindset. Try some of the following strategies:
- Practice reframing your thoughts to view change as a challenge, not a threat.
- Develop greater self-awareness to notice all baby steps as progress.
- Be flexible and experiment with different practices such as mindfulness, meditation, self-appreciation, setting intentions, deep breathing and grounding yourself, until you find the right fit for you.
- Seek out and associate with peers who model the growth mindset well.
- Look for ways to lead by example, even if you aren’t always confident.
Put your whole heart into growing as a person. Remember that the heart is a primary generator of rhythm in your body, influencing brain processes that control your nervous system, cognitive function and emotion. The five suggestions above will contribute toward a more coherent heart rhythm, which facilitates brain function, including your focus, creativity, intuition and higher-level decision-making.
Would you like to learn how to listen to your inner wisdom more deeply? I’d be delighted to partner with you as you tune into the way your body, mind, and emotions are speaking to you somatically. Please contact me and schedule a 30-minute complimentary consultation by phone or via Zoom, to see if we’re a good fit for each other.