A fern growing in the cracks in a building to illustrate the importance of embracing your growth edges.

Embracing Your Growth Edges: 6 Tips

The email from the New York Times arrived on Valentine’s Day. When I saw the subject line, I braced myself, assuming it was yet another rejection.

Then I saw the words “we would like to publish your Tiny Love Story” and a tornado of emotions rushed through me.

Shock/disbelief: They said yes??

Surprise: I’m going to be in the New York Times??

Elation: OMG, I finally did it!

Disbelief: Is this real? Did they make a mistake?

Terror: What if I mess this up?

Ever find yourself in a similar maelstrom?

If so, you’ve just reached a growth edge. According to Kim Romain, “Growth edges occur wherever there’s a change and our perception is being challenged.”

Because creativity requires great tolerance for ambiguity, patience beyond all measure, and for the professional artist, an openness to criticism, failure, rejection, and setbacks, writers are constantly meeting their growth edges.

They occur most often when we’re tired of a project, feeling stuck, on the cusp of something new, or sending out work we’ve just completed. At the edge, old stories about who we are come out to play.

Here’s a short list of growth-edge related stories writers have shared with me:

  • What if I’m not smart enough to learn how to do this or figure this out? (Perseverance)
  • What if it really sucks? (Confidence)
  • What if they accepted this because they feel sorry for me? (Worthiness)
  • What if no one reads it? (Significance)
  • What if everyone reads it? (Exposure)
  • What if someone gets mad? (Fawning/People Pleasing)
  • What if I encounter trolls? (Vulnerability)

I grew up in a world where staying small—no, make that invisible—was safe, and where my words were often used as weapons against me.

Sometimes I laugh or shake my fist at a universe that calls me to do the thing that scares me most. But I have been called, and to the best of my ability, I’ve chosen to answer.

When you heed the call of your soul, you must figure out how to embrace the tornado of feelings that arise as you change your perceptions—especially if the stories you’ve told yourself aren’t very kind.

Here’s what I’ve learned about the growth edges:

  • We’re always living out a story that’s an amalgamation of past experiences and present choices. While it’s perfectly fine to stay in your comfort zone, expansion happens at the edges of that story.
  • Every stretch brings a period of discomfort, destabilization, and then a reframing of who you are.
  • The best way to deal with the discomfort is to make room for it. Start by recognizing that this discomfort is a gift. Your life is getting bigger. Also, remember that these feelings are a part of the human condition. Other people get hammered by their own swirl of angst/vulnerability/ick when they bump against the edges of who they are. If someone tells you they don’t, they’re either lying or they’re not stretching themselves very much. 
  • It’s okay to ask for help. In my case, I journaled, meditated, asked for extra hugs from my husband, snuggled my cat, reminded myself that adult Lisa was in charge, and worked with my somatic processing person to stay grounded in the present moment.
  • Remind yourself that the physical sensations you’re experiencing are just sensations, which means you can decide how to interpret them. In my case, this included adrenaline rushes, hot flashes, and nausea in addition to the light airiness of the win I’d been afforded. I told myself that this was a shedding of an old story, and it really felt that way.
  • Allow yourself to celebrate the good—no matter how big or small, and no matter how uncomfortable it feels—because each bump against your growth edge is an opportunity to bloom.

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