Collie Creating
Codex Firestarter

What personal growth?

by Collie Collier
October 2005 Firestarter column

This is the second anniversary of Collie's Bestiary, my personal web site. The first thing I'd like to do is wish myself a happy birthday on the fifth of October -- yay, me! Secondly, I'd like to thank Lou Erickson for, once again, being the most feedback generous reader I have. I hope you like the thank-you gift, Lou! ;-)

Finally, I thought perhaps it was time to take stock and see what I've learned (if anything) over the past two years. I've been calling on others to reflect, to research, to objectively examine, for almost all of the more serious Firestarters I've written. Further, I feel the whole point of personal reflection is personal growth, so perhaps this is not unreasonable for me to do publicly.

So what have I gathered over the past two years? I've learned it's wise to build your own metaphorical house yourself, using only the tools you know and understand. Otherwise you run the risk of creating something which is dependent on the good will of others for improvements or growth. There's nothing wrong with trying out new tools, of course, but learn them yourself -- don't expect anyone else to work them for you.

I've learned you will always doom yourself to disappointment when you try to make a person into something they're not. Building a lovely image in your mind of who or what someone is... is not the same as reality. Let's face it -- reality does not have to conform to you. Expecting others to live up to your expectations (unrealistic or otherwise) is simply cruel -- to yourself as well as to them.

What else? You may or may not know what would be best for someone else... but you surely should not expect them to do what is best for themselves. People are all muddling along in their own personal heavens and hells. They'll change, if they change, in their own time, when they're good and ready to do so. If you wouldn't want someone running your life, you shouldn't expect anyone else to want you to run theirs.

Further, even if you do know what is best for someone else, what makes you think that reformative energy wouldn't be more wisely spent on yourself? Are you really already everything you want and can be? If not, look inwards. As the old saying goes: Physician, heal thyself.

If you have high personal standards, good for you! Go for it. But don't waste your time expecting others to live up to those standards, especially if you can't concretely verbalize them. This is not to say you must accept arrogant, self-centered, perennially tardy, depressed, or passive aggressive whiners as your friends. Just keep in mind that if you want quality friends, you have to be a quality person yourself, and you have to let a lot of people go. Expect that people will disappoint you in this respect, and decide ahead of time if the disappointment on one hand is worth the loss of whatever you liked most about the person, should you let them go.

Never waste friendship or love -- there's not enough of it to go around as it is. Someone who truly loves you for who you really are is a rare and precious thing, so even if they don't enjoy the exact same hobbies as you, don't give up on them. The people that are the most fun to do things with will most often not be the people who stay staunchly by your side when disaster hits. I don't know why this is, but some of the most staid-seeming folks just seem to shine when it comes to handling messes... while the happy-fun kids simply fall apart.

Don't bite off more than you can chew. Making yourself crazy because you can't keep up with the demands of life is a real pain in the butt, and gains you nothing. Learn to say no. Further, learn how to say no wisely. Don't say it just to be saying it -- there's no power in that. Say it when you mean it, whether it's for too many demands on your time, or to someone insisting you really do want this unwanted thing they wish to foist off give you.

If you have particular needs, make sure they're clear, and refuse to put up with someone else insisting you capitulate to their needs. Hopefully you wouldn't eat something you were violently allergic to, just to keep the cook from having a hissy fit about your "spurning" their efforts. How much more important is it to treat your mind and your Self with the same respect and courtesy?

Remember it is okay to ask for help. Even if you do the following yourself, don't ever expect others to be floating around, desperately excited at the prospect of intuiting that you need help. Ask. It's not a sign of weakness, and becoming bitter because no one offers is a waste of your time and energy. To be honest, no one cares enough about others to be watching that closely -- they're all worrying about themselves, just like everyone else.

Don't waste your time being bitter or angry. Find something you love to do, that lights you up inside, and energizes you -- then do it. Do it a lot! Do bunches of things that give you joy. Enjoy yourself. If you're happy, you'll help the folks around you be happier too. And don't always worry about whether what you've done is perfect.

This may be short, and a little raw, but it's heartfelt... and for this anniversary, I think it will do nicely. And now, there are some cooling orange-flavored cupcakes which need me to frost them with milk chocolate icing and multi-colored sprinkles. Carpe diem!

Reader comments

10.21.05: Hilary's thoughts

(and my replies)

First: Happy belated birthday! :)

Thank you so much! ;)

As usual, you've written some excellent words to chew on. This Firestarter had particular resonance with me because I've fallen victim to some of the behavior you describe, such as developing my own mental image of a person (in an idealistic way), and then feeling crushed and cheated when said person reveals xir flawed reality. The Internet seems rife with this, because it's even easier to misread someone based on their (highly selective) self-presentation online than it is in person, I think. Not to mention the oohs and ahhs that certain (in)famous individuals attract -- it can be hard to cut through the glitter and hype and layers of sycophancy.

I quite agree. ;->

Speaking of sycophancy, it's sometimes hard for me to find my own unique voice and way of dealing with the world, building "your own metaphorical house yourself," as you put it. I want to continue to grow and change, and I'm also wary about overly conforming to others' expectations, or compromising myself for others' approval. A recent conversation with a close family member revealed that I apparently appear to be highly independent and self-directed --- a clever facade! ;) It made me feel better to hear that, but I'm sadly aware that I could stand to spend a little more "reformative energy" on myself. Especially about wasting my time feeling bitter and angry.

Interesting you should say that, as I too have had folks tell me I appear so very confident and self-assured and independent... and yet inside I often feel quite insecure and self-doubting. I think the trick is making the "mask" into reality, although I'll freely admit I'm still working on how to most easily accomplish that goal.

Regarding wasting time and energy on anger, I admit it took me
ages to realize what a waste it was. I'm really pleased I finally got it, though. I'm still working on perfecting the realization, but I much appreciate the growing lack of angst in my life!

I think you might enjoy The Tarot Book by Jana Riley, for its interesting discussion of archetypes and personality types, if nothing else. My copy hasn't yet made the trip to my new apartment, so I can't quote the book verbatim, but I was reminded of Riley as I read your reasons why trying to "do what's best for someone" (i.e. attempting to change xir) is rarely if ever a good idea. Riley had a great anecdotal passage about how no one can say what's best for another person, however obvious it may seem that the person is making bad choices.

I haven't read that one, but what you're describing (re productively examining archetypes and personality types) sounds a lot like Jean Shinoda Bolen's wonderful Goddesses in Everywoman: Powerful Archetypes in Women's Lives. It was quite fascinatingly illuminating to me, as well as having a nice grasp of where Jung's cultural training made him 'fall down' on regarding women as mature humans.

Neat -- we can swap recommendations! I'll let me know if I get a chance to read Riley's book, and if you read the Shinoda Bolen book, let me know what you thought? ;)

10.31.05: Greg's thoughts

(and my replies)

Some of this felt familiar...I may have read this, and commented on LJ already. If so, well, can never have too many comments, right? ;)

Perish the thought! ;)

Ironically, a lot of what you had to say is stuff I've been running into myself...and even though I know it intellectually, I still have difficulty actualizing it in my life. Specifically concerning things like boundaries, asking for help, and building images in my mind of people that are not true to reality (this much less so, thankfully). So it's good to hear, at least, someone else working along the same lines. Seems to indicate I'm on the right track.

I agree -- it's easier to know something than it is to actually integrate it into one's life. Annoying, isn't it? ;)

And that's really all I have to say...except me want orange muffins! *drool*.

Heh... come visit, silly.