Growth is not a straight line


December 22, 2020 by Cláudia

Ever since I started recovering from mental illness, my progress has been for the most part linear. Despite individual bad days, at the end of each year I was left with a reassuring feeling that even with all the hardships faced, I was in a better place than in the previous year. It’s safe to say the same cannot be said for 2020. This year has been incredibly disruptive for everyone. Personally, I’ve also dealt with some pretty major changes.

We’re almost at the end of the year (can you believe it?) and normally around this time I would feel the urge to take stock of my accomplishments and set goals for the next year. I’m not feeling it this time.

If this incredibly atypical, unfair, unpredictable and anxiety-inducing year has taught me something is that growth is not linear. Infinite growth is unsustainable for our personal growth in the same way as it is for our economies. For the past five years, I’ve done all I could to get better mental health: daily morning yoga, journaling, walks outside. I’ve also really invested in my personal growth: I learned languages, commited to reading a certain number of books and articles, actively participated in climate activism. It got to a certain point that it was just not sustainable anymore. One of this year’s lessons is that it is okay to be stagnant.

We don’t need to be constantly working on self-improvement. Sometimes we need to just be.

This constant eagerness to be more (more disciplined, more productive, more confident), to have more (friends, hobbies, skills) and to do more is exhausting and it is starting to feel like a self-help grind culture, sponsored by capitalist thinking.

I’m not doing better than last year and that’s okay.

I’ve not practiced yoga regularly in a long time. I’ve been eating mostly fast food or skipping meals. Most days my house is a mess.

I had set so many personal goals for 2020: writing 24 blog posts, read 20 books, write scientific articles, practice yoga every day, eat healthier, engage in climate justice activism… I realize that I’ve just been building up my goals and not taking into account that it is not realistic to keep adding more or to expect that there won’t be any setbacks.

This year’s struggle is to be okay with not being okay.

And in that sense… I am okay.

I am proud that I’m still here, still doing my best. Some years my best will bring more outputs than others. I’m slowly realizing that doing my best doesn’t have to be this oppressive perfectionist ideal.

So I guess I am doing a wrap up of the year after all.

2020 was stressful and filled with heartbreak, frustration and self-doubt. I’m not big on finding silver-linings.

However, it did make me reconsider my own notions of personal growth and let go of many of the expectations that come with it. Which I suppose also constitutes as growth.

10 thoughts on “Growth is not a straight line

  1. JAARA says:

    Awesome post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This year has also revealed a number of facets to ideas I had held onto tightly over the years. It’s is growth in its own way and a welcome change.
    I agree with not looking at achievements through the lens of perfectionist ideals. It is a freer way to live when you are not tied to a particular set of results and yet still doing your best.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. To be. Yes I think that says it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Glad I’m not the only one who felt this way! Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You might find it restful and reassuring to read these books:

    Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (by Paul Reps)

    Tao Te Ching (by Lao Tzu; I like a 1972 edition by Vintage Press)

    And, yes, relax and enjoy life as it passes by; don’t over-obligate yourself. “Doing nothing, nothing is left undone.”

    A tongue-in-cheek version is: “How can I fail when I have no goals?”

    Liked by 2 people

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