It is a simple fact that if we want to change our lives we must first change our behaviors.
Think about it for a second.
Your current life situation is a result of your current behaviors.
So, if you want to grow and progress, take a look at what you are doing right now that may be keeping you stuck.
Most of us have a mix of healthy and not-so-healthy behaviors. The key to personal growth is to uncover those not serving you and let them go.
As someone who has been on a self-development journey for the last 10 years, here are seven common behaviors that keep us playing small.
1) Comparing yourself to others
The number one thing that stalls personal growth is comparison.
We all grow and evolve at different rates. When we constantly compare ourselves with others, we diminish our own achievements, feeling like we are not doing enough.
In this way, comparison can skew your self-perspective, as you only focus on what you lack rather than what you have already gained.
This is why comparison can be highly damaging to self-esteem. And chances are, you have witnessed its adverse effects yourself at least once.
A typical example is social media.
Most people present an idealized version of themselves online by only posting about their positive experiences – and often exaggerating them.
According to Ann E Schlosser, a professor at the University of Washington Seattle, one reason people do this is due to the asynchronous style of online communication.
She says that when we post on social media, we have time to think about, edit, and revise what we want to share, controlling how we present ourselves to the world. This is a stark contrast to face-to-face communication, which is unscripted and spontaneous.
When you see this in action on a mass scale, it creates the illusion that everyone is winning in life except you.
If you want to grow as a person, the answer is NOT to join in and compete against everyone else.
Instead, highly self-aware and successful people understand that what we see on social media is a fabrication of reality.
When you accept this, you’ll find that seeing your friend’s engagement posts on Facebook or travel photos on Instagram no longer dents your self-esteem, as you know it does not reflect the true reality of that person’s life.
2) Seeking external validation
Along with not comparing yourself to others, you should stop seeking validation from them.
When this behavior becomes a habit, we develop the internal belief that our worth is based on what others think of us.
For example, if you constantly seek external validation and your partner tells you your new business idea is stupid, you’ll likely tell yourself you’re dumb and instantly dismiss the idea.
A need to seek validation from others also shows that you trust them more than yourself. As you cannot grow until you have faith in your abilities, this is a behavior you must seek to stop.
To do this, focus on the following:
- Validating yourself with self-love and self-care activities.
- Doing more things independently – Start with small tasks and work your way up to larger decisions.
3) Engaging in negative self-talk
You will likely encounter negative self-talk if you lack faith and belief in your abilities.
This has a habit of creeping in in the form of self-deprecating thoughts and self-sabotaging behaviors.
For example, let’s say you get an idea for a new project that aligns with your passions and skills. The thought of it fills you with excitement and energy.
But then the inner critic arrives…
You start questioning:
- If you are good enough to do it
- If you have the time or the resources needed
- What the likelihood of success is
This comes from low self-esteem coupled with fear of failure.
To grow as a person, you must learn how to overcome this negative self-talk. If you don’t, you will stay stuck in a cycle of the following…
4) Making excuses and passing the blame
When something feels challenging, do you seek an excuse to escape it?
And when you experience failure, do you immediately blame anyone or anything instead of thinking about what YOU did wrong?
These are NOT behaviors that promote growth.
Becoming a better, happier, and more successful person starts with taking responsibility for your actions – and yes, that includes when things go wrong!
But this doesn’t mean you should punish yourself when you fail, as that will just bring you into that damaging negative self-talk trap.
Instead, take responsibility by asking yourself:
- What did you personally do that could have impacted the result?
- What can you do differently the next time to ensure it doesn’t happen again?
The second question is key for taking responsibility, as it reframes the situation. Rather than seeing it as a failure, you view the situation as a learning opportunity.
This is the difference between someone who prioritizes personal growth and someone who doesn’t.
The former will use it as an opportunity to do better, while the latter will make an excuse or pass the blame.
5) Seeking perfection
Perfectionism is often seen as a positive behavioral trait.
Now, it can be good in some aspects. For example, perfectionists can produce work with no flaws or mistakes.
A LOT of scientific evidence shows that seeking perfection can also harm your mental health and stunt personal growth.
In 2022, Chinese psychologists Tingting Fang and Fan Liu reviewed all the previous research on the negative impact of perfectionism.
They concluded that there is significant evidence to suggest that perfectionism can lead to depression and anxiety and damage self-image. Moreover, a cluster of studies found that perfectionists are more likely to worry about making mistakes, blame themselves, and doubt their abilities.
So, if you want to grow as a person, you will need to embrace the art of imperfection.
To do this, you’ll first need to uncover the cause of your perfectionism (as it is a complex behavioral trait). Then, try doing the following things:
- Set more reasonable goals
- Stop putting so much pressure on yourself
- Improve your ability to receive criticism
- Focus more on enjoying the process rather than fixating on the outcome
6) Ignoring your feelings
To move forward and grow, we must deal with our past.
Most of us have trauma of some sort that is still present within us. This could be a wide range of things, such as:
- The death of a loved one
- A scary experience that endangered your safety
- A toxic or abusive past relationship
- A mistake we made that affected our life or someone else’s
When we don’t deal with our trauma, we experience a whole host of negative emotions, from guilt and shame to anxiety and depression.
To move past the trauma, we must deal with these feelings.
However, doing so can be extremely uncomfortable, which is why many people choose to ignore and suppress these emotions.
Two Indian Psychologists, Jainish and Prittesh Patel, researched the consequences of repressing emotions. One key finding was that people who struggle to manage their feelings are more likely to experience substance abuse, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and abnormal sleep patterns.
Repression of emotions is part of emotional regulation. As we grow and evolve, our ability to regulate our feelings increases.
This is why highly self-aware people can sit with and accept their feelings much better than those who lack self-awareness.
7) Staying within your comfort zone
As humans, we are creatures of comfort.
We enjoy the familiarity of our homes, families, and secure jobs. And while a sense of stability is crucial for our well-being, we can rely on it TOO much.
When we do this, we (often unknowingly) hinder our own process.
Well, this is how it usually goes…
- A fantastic new opportunity arises, which initially sparks excitement within us.
- After thinking about it for a while, anxiety replaces that excitement.
- The anxiety causes our mind to search for possible reasons (AKA excuses) not to take the opportunity.
You see, we literally talk ourselves out of doing something purely because it is something new that we have never done before.
Because we fear the unknown, we subconsciously want to stay in our comfort zone – the only place we truly know is safe.
So, even if we want to try something new or know that an opportunity will help us progress, we make excuses not to do it.
Allowing yourself to stay in your comfort zone is the easiest way to stay where you are.
So if you want to move forward and evolve, guess what you have to do?
Yep, you already know – do the things that scare you!
Many unconscious behaviors can limit us and hold us back. Uncovering these is the first step to personal growth.
Of course, stopping these seven behaviors is not always easy. So, to prevent overwhelm, start by taking small steps to change just one thing.
With continuous self-awareness practice and a determined mindset, you’ll soon see visible signs of personal growth, inching closer and closer to your best self!