Growth may be hard. But it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Simplicity is my philosophy as a licensed family therapist and life coach. In order for me to understand something, I need to (as my friends say) “John-Kim-It." I need to (as I say) put things into a shot glass, to serve them up in the simplest possible form. And since psychology and the therapeutic process can be quite dense and complicated, I had to come up with my own concepts and language in order to truly help others.
So when people ask what I do for a living, I often tell them I help others build safe containers for themselves — a healthy psychological space to promote personal growth.
Here, I'll elaborate: if you think of the "container" as that space we hold all of our baggage, I believe most of us have cracked containers. The metaphor is a bit mixed, but bear with me. Cracks come from abusive relationships, dysfunctional families, our life experiences (situational or relational), that have caused us some version of trauma or pain. And since no child enters adulthood totally pure, we all have cracks.
It doesn’t matter what you’re going through — a painful breakup, struggling with an addiction, or fighting an eating disorder. Building yourself a safe container for your emotions, thoughts, experiences and so on will always allow you to maneuver through life easier. It will protect you and promote growth.
Here are the three steps to building yourself a brand new container, which will promote your growth no matter what you're going through:
Step 1: Realize that every part of growing necessitates transparency.
This is the foundation of everything. Practicing transparency means being vulnerable and honest, and accepting your story. You have to honest, especially with yourself. Practicing transparency means complete honesty in where you're at, what you're struggling with, and the courage to chase that string down to find out why.
This leads to the second half of practicing transparency: accepting your story. Most people want to rip out chapters; they spend their days regretting and wishing things didn’t happen the way they did. But this keeps you stuck in what could have been instead of what can be. The more you accept your story, the more transparent you will be. And the more you practice transparency, the richer your growth.
Step 2: Create a stance for yourself, and firmly plant your feet there.
This means that you must have non-negotiables, boundaries, things you will not allow into your life. Non-negotiables are also things you are no longer willing to negotiate about yourself because they crack your container and stunt your growth.
Most people negotiate more than they realize. Then you wake up one day and wonder why you're so unhappy.
So let’s do a quick experiment. Take out a piece of paper. Make columns for each part of your life. Friends, work, family, and your relationship or your last relationship. In the columns, write down all the things you have been negotiating. Really think about this. Your standards? Your passions? Your truth? Your voice? Your worth? And what were the consequences? How did these sacrifices impact the quality of your life and beliefs you have about yourself?
Sometimes, I think that growth is about "a reunion with your true self," more than anything else. You must reconnect with that part of you that you stuffed into a hope-chest and locked up when life happened, and got in the way. And by "life," I mean death, divorce, a breakup, transition, anything that forced you to grow up fast, to put yourself aside to take care of someone else or others.
These kinds of experiences can lead you to disconnect from your true self, so you really never got to know him/her. The action step here is to allow this new relationship and mindset to play out in your thinking but more importantly behavior in your everyday life.
Step 3: Build that container.
As we start practicing transparency and creating a stance, we start to build ourselves a brand new container. We start to pull from a different place. But we don’t just build our container once, and it’s done. We must keep building and rebuilding it. It's a continuous practice, and as we do it, we get stronger and more skillful.
Once you have built yourself a safer container, you can work on your fitness, nutrition, spirituality, and everything else that will add to building a better life and maneuvering at a higher potential.
John Kim is doing a FREE WEBINAR on how to build yourself a brand new container and going deeper into my concepts. Let's take the "self" out of self-help and do this together. Because the greatest misconception about self-help is that you're supposed to do it alone.