I consider myself to be a relatively self aware person. Over the years, I have engaged in a lot of self-analysis, soul searching, and self reflection in an effort to understand what my problems are and to figure out how to deal with them. I spent a lot of time learning to like myself as a person. I taught myself not to immediately act on feelings of insecurity or jealousy, which ultimately led to me having fewer feelings of insecurity and jealousy. I learned how to portray self-confidence (even though I didn't feel self confident), which eventually generated feelings of confidence. I learned to listen when someone gives me negative feedback and to avoid becoming so defensive that I am unable to consider the validity of what I'm being told. I learned to accept responsibility for my role in a conflict, even if part of me clings to the need to be right. I learned to say no and set limits as needed. I started forgiving myself for making mistakes.
When I compare how I used to be to the way I am now I think to myself, "Wow. I've come a LONG way." I worked hard to become a better, happier person. I experienced a lot of emotional pain but I grew from it. When I consider how far I've come I feel proud.
And then I got married. A romantic relationship is, without a doubt, the best context for personal growth to occur. In my opinion, personal growth has to occur for a relationship to be a satisfying one. Why are romantic relationships so uniquely suited for self growth? Because while these are the relationships that typically bring out the best in us, they are also the relationships that are guaranteed to bring out the worst in us.
Think about it. What other relationship makes you feel as vulnerable as a romantic one? What other relationship so consistently triggers your insecurities? And who besides your romantic partner is likely to be as forthcoming with you about the not-so-pleasant parts of your personality? A romantic partner typically spends more time with you than anyone else; he or she will notice things about you that others never have the opportunity to see.
Needless to say, my new marriage has provided innumerable opportunities to re-examine myself. I firmly believe that people should always seek to know and understand themselves and should always be willing to grow. These are lifelong endeavors. Still, it's been really difficulty for me to re-examine the way I do things yet again and make changes. I suppose that because I'd only just reached a point where I was satisfied with who I am I wanted to sit back and enjoy it for a while.
For years I've devoted so much time and energy into learning to love and accept myself. Maybe I'm just tired. Yet I can't stop. I have to learn to accept things about my husband that sometimes drive me crazy. That might require me to consider why something that is relatively unimportant bothers me so much. Then there are the things that bother my husband about me that I never really saw as a problem before. Some of these my husband will have to learn to accept; others I will have to work on changing.
So now is really not the time to sit back and enjoy my hard-earned self-esteem. Maybe I was kidding myself anyway, to think you ever reach a point where it's ok to stop growing, even for a little while.