The One Thing (among others) that Makes Us Uniquely Human

Sep 24, 2018

Personal Development Personal Growth Self-Awareness Change Self-Improvement
water ripple

Photo by Linus Nylund

What sets us humans apart from other species? Scholars from numerous and diverse fields have attempted to answer this question. The ability to plan for the future, many might say. Developing meaning out of nothing, still others will say. I think something that seems to be fundamentally human is the desire for and work toward personal growth. Wanting to improve in certain areas in our life, especially internally.

It seems absurd to think of a horse wondering how he can improve his jump, or a flower trying to grow its petals faster. There is something so delicately human about the idea of self-improvement. The thought that there is a better version of us out there somewhere and we can and should attain it.

I am all for personal development and growing in areas we feel need work. There is a humility about it, about admitting where we are struggling and having the undeniable courage to face ourselves in the mirror and do the work required to better ourselves. But if we’re not careful, “the work” can become our identity, an addiction, a self-care anthem that we begin to use to place ourselves on a pedestal above the rest. A platform from which we judge others for not working on their “stuff.”

I’ve been there, I’m still there. Sigh. The critical Virgo in me is relentless. Part of my own growth work now has become reminding myself that I am choosing to do this work, no one is forcing it upon me. And thereby, I have to step back and respect that others have the right to make that choice for themselves and their own life situation. This is a priority in my life, not necessarily in everyone else’s. Some lessons take a lifetime to learn.

This reminder has proven to be quite empowering. All I need to worry about is standing in my own light, however that looks to me. It is not our place to decide what other people’s light should look like. We may have the best of intentions, but alas, others must choose growth for themselves. As difficult as this is, we must come to terms with it.

Here is the thing I have come to realize:

Everything on the road of personal growth is about you and you alone.

The challenge becomes remembering this and coming back to working on yourself. Whatever buttons others push, whatever reaction their words and actions bring out of you, whatever filters they penetrate, it is still all about you. This is both terrifying and freeing at the same time. Terrifying in the sense that there is no one left to blame or point fingers at; freeing in the sense that if it’s all about you, you have the power to change. That power does not belong to anyone else.

Next time you decide to embark on a personal growth journey — even for a day — know this: it is entirely your choice, it will make a difference, and the only light you need to focus on is your own. Find your light, sweet friend, and set the world ablaze with its brilliance.