Hello, precious souls! I have Spring on my mind and am thinking about growth and change. I also got the chance to visit The Reptarium in Utica this weekend and visiting with all the lovely snakes and lizards has me thinking about how natural and important growth is. But I have to be honest, in both snakes and humans, it isn’t always a clean or pretty process. Some of those snakes had cloudy eyes and their colors were dulled and sometimes they have icky scratchy bits.

Growth and change

Why isn’t it okay for human’s growth and change to be just as messy, icky, and ugly? We expect ourselves to grow, change, and learn new things all while looking flawless. Sometimes I love looking at Nature as inspiration and a guide for my own life. Have you ever watched a young animal learn something new? Go watch a puppy learning to walk. There are tons of YouTube videos. Those adorable puppies (that we love and have all the compassion in the world for) are clumsy as all get out! Their learning is messy and even goofy! They fall and walk sideways and somersault! And we think they’re adorable.

But we expect that learning happens smoothly for us. We’re supposed to complete our homework with 90% accuracy (at least!). Can you imagine if a toddler tried to walk for the first time and when they inevitably fell down said “ya know…I just don’t think walking is for me”? When we’re learning a new skill, we hate feeling foolish. But it’s so important! Feeling foolish reminds us to be humble, to stay students. In learning yoga, I have certainly fallen over and done other embarrassing things (if you ever take a class with me, I’m the one who’s facing you in a twist, laughing because I’m facing the wrong direction again). Can we have the same compassion for our own learning and changing as we do when animals change?

What changes are you making this Spring? What’s growing within you? Are you okay with looking a little less than glamorous while this change/these changes happen? This takes vulnerability. In fact, think about the vulnerability of a snake when their eyes are cloudy from preparing for a shed. Snake owners usually avoid handling too much during the period before a shed as snakes often feel more vulnerable and may be more aggressive or try to hide more.

There is a natural ebb and flow to what takes our energy or attention. For snakes, shedding is just part of this ebb and flow. Shedding takes energy that would normally be directed towards finding food, staying awake (they sleep more when shedding) and the like. Similarly, focusing on growth in one area for us takes energy for another.

Skill building

Have you ever noticed that when you’re working on building a skill (say, focusing on muscle growth by spending more time at the gym) you have less to give to other areas? This is natural! It does not mean that you’re “dropping the ball”. When I am focused on growth in one area, often I slip in others. Maybe I don’t have the energy or the concentration or the willpower. That’s OK. Life is about finding balance. How can I build strength while also attending to the other areas of my life?

Where do you need growth? What are you wanting or reaching for? There are so many things we can grow towards. Now, there’s another piece here that’s important to note. We do not always need growth. A snake is not constantly shedding its skin. It’s a cycle. We need a balance of growth and rest. There is an expectation in our culture that pushes for continued growth and that’s just not realistic. We’re not built for constant change. BUT! We do need to grow sometimes to feel well and healthy and competent.

The other important lesson we can take away from shedding and changing and morphing into something new is that we have unlimited chances to be someone new- to behave differently. Nothing is set in stone about our traits, habits, thoughts, etc. Your cells completely change (the old ones die off and new ones are made) every seven years and you can take any day to become different. A snake does not wait until New Years Eve to heal itself by shedding old damaged skin and revealing the beautiful new cells undeneath.

So what do you need? Are you in a period of growth or rest? Trust yourself! You are your own best guide. You have the knowledge in you. Act accordingly. I’m sending you lots of love and wishes for a wonderful week. Be well, friends!

Connect with Perspectives Therapy Services if you are ready to discuss your own growth and change.

Kayla Valley is a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) who works at the Highland location of Perspectives Therapy Services. She became a therapist to help people struggle with the depression and anxiety that she understands intimately. She loves being a Michigander and is an avid sewist who loves spending time with her cats and sugar gliders.

Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.