Personal Growth

Growth comes through discomfort

I’m not a fan of slimy food. But I like lobster a lot. Not a meal, thank you no, but as a metaphor, an important one that illustrates growth comes through discomfort.

Have you ever heard the story from Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twersky about the lobster and adversity? It’s one of my favorites and it goes like this:

A lobster bops around his underwater wonderland living his life out in a shiny, hard protective shell that offers him no wiggle room. It’s inflexible. It offers zero give. So, when the lobster grows and gets too big for his shell, he starts to feel squeezed, boxed in, and uncomfortable. 

Shame, right? Like buying that awesome jacket they only had in a size smaller than you usually take and thinking it’ll be ok as long as you wear a really thin shirt under it. Ya…. no.

To relieve his discomfort, Ms. Lobster shimmies herself to the nearest rock and hides there to shed his protective shell in relative safety. She waits under cover of the rock and grows a new shell, one that better fits her expanded body. When she’s all armored up and ready to trot, she heads back out bopping around her hood in her fancy digs. 

Her growth comes through the discomfort of her own shell.

And lobster life continues in this vein. Every time she becomes too big for her outer layer, her discomfort bugs her to the point that she sheds her too-small shell and recreates one that’s a better fit for her larger self.

If you think about it, the lobster’s discomfort is an invitation to create something more fitting to who she has now become. The lobster doesn’t sit for long, suffering in her tight spot. She doesn’t bend herself into a pretzel to accommodate an out of date model. She takes action. She makes sh@t happen.

The lobster models growth through discomfort

I like the lobster story.

It’s a metaphor for what people experience growth through discomfort using the Five Archetypes (5A) method. The 5A method helps you notice when your darned shell is rubbing you the wrong way. It reminds you to pause. Lets you know it’s time to take a step back and inspect your motivations and beliefs, take a look under the hood.

In the 5A method you learn that your discomfort–whether in the body, mind, spirit or relationship parts of your life–is your invitation to check out parts of yourself that are in need of attention.

I’m curious. What do you do when you feel discomfort?

  • Do you hold your breath and try to stuff down your feelings and beliefs?
  • Do you acknowledge your emotions, but revert into old patterns of behavior?
  • Do you try to stay within the confines of your shell?
  • Or do you take the risk of trying something new?
  • Does it frighten you to sit with the unknown and step into those new, unexplored possibilities? 

When you start to feel an unpleasant “too big for your shell” feeling it likely means that your old tactics are ineffective at getting you what you want, at work, in love, and in your friendships. 

Discomforting times

Many of us are experiencing this discomfort now in our personal lives and in the social and political dynamics around the globe. Since March with the onset of COVID-19, we’ve been more still (and stressed!) than at any other time in our lives. This inactivity has afforded us more time to feel, reflect, and engage with our thoughts and deeply evaluate our relationships and our current life circumstances. 

My dear friend and colleague, Lisa Karmen, gave an astrology lecture this week on the energy of the new Sun in Leo that we’re entering now. She said that this time period is about tapping into our own intuition to figure out who we really are. To discover our own core beliefs.

Lisa encouraged us to ask ourselves, “What is my contribution to my own growth, to my network, to my community, to the world?”

So I did. 

As a Fire Archetype with a healthy dose of Earth, I loved the idea of this exercise. In my introspection, I found I was equally curious to consider how others saw me. And believe me, over the years I’ve heard it all.

I’ll share some of it with you here, and I promise to keep it clean.

Some have said I’m shy. Some say I have a potty mouth and can’t ever be serious. Others say I’m deeply insightful. Still others say I’m enchanting like Tinkerbell. People have said I for sure have ADD. My youngest kid says I show off too much and my son says I’m pretty much only useful for heart-to-heart conversations, but not so much for good, solid, actionable advice based on data, facts, and statistics.

I thought about how the other four Archetypes think of me as primary Fire when THEY are in an inflexible, or judgmental mindset. When Wood, Earth, Metal and Water types aren’t feeling their best and can’t access empathy, here’s what they’ll likely see in me.

  • Wood – thinks Fire goofs off too much
  • Earth – thinks Fire is too much of a show-off
  • Metal – thinks Fire insults their boundaries
  • Water – thinks Fire is too superficial over focuses on positive feelings

Do you see yourself in any of these?

It’s not uncommon to go into this type of thinking when you’re not feeling your best. And right now many of us are not feeling our best.

If I believed in all the things people said about me and what I had to offer, I’d be constantly trying to accommodate, change, prove something–either to them or to myself–about who I really was. My Fire would have me basking in the good and becoming anxious over the bad, believing EVERYTHING everyone would say.

I’ve been in that place and it’s exhausting. Existing in that mindset to me now is like living in a shell that I’ve outgrown. It’s not a construct I want to maintain, which has become very clear to me during this period of COVID-19. 

During this new moon in Leo, we’re invited to practice trusting our own intuition, a strength that corresponds to the Fire Archetype. We are being asked to release old constructs and structures that have pinned us down into mere personas of who we are supposed to be. 

It’s time to dig deep and tap into our individual gifts.

It’s time to accept the invitation to grow through discomfort and reach a place that feels more authentic to who we are and what we want to accomplish in this lifetime.

We’re being asked to pause, notice the discomfort of a too-small outer shell and take the brave steps to transform into the people we want to be in this lifetime.

This is a stressful time. But remember, growth comes through discomfort.

Ready to shed that now too-small shell?