Whether internal distress or external circumstances call into question the familiar image of our self, a time of confused identity will follow, that though unsettling, can be useful . Without some temporary disorientation, it isn’t possible to make lasting changes in how much or how well we accept ourselves. Losing a job, changing careers, military service, marriage, divorce, becoming a parent , having the youngest child leave home —these are experiences that unsettle and disorient even the most stable personality.
It is the same for all of us. We may submit voluntarily or go kicking and screaming that we cannot stand life as it is. Changes that involve personal growth require that we repeatedly expand our emotional limits and renew our work on the self. In order to do that, as William Butler Yeats said, we must learn that “personality, no matter how habitual, is a constantly renewed choice.”
Personal growth is a life’s work, not a part-time project.