WORDS Ria Wolstenholme

ILLUSTRATION Russ Atkinson

A number of things come to mind when you see or hear the word develop. Building developments, career developments, the developing world; it all comes down to improvement, and aiding something to flourish into a better version of itself. But not everything that develops has to be something you can physically see.

Personal development is something that has blown up over the years. Self help books, seminars, retreats and subscription services are no longer reserved for middle aged spinsters, or Carrie Bradshaw types chasing down the future they’re told they should have by now. Self help has become a part of every day life, with the self love and self care movements having blown up globally, especially on social media. To simplify, it’s all about putting yourself first and loving yourself for who you are.

That said, a lot of people still don’t buy into it. It’s branded as ‘fluff’, not genuine. Self help, and now self care is still branded as something feminine, marketed for women the same way yogurt adverts are. Seriously, does no man ever treat themselves to an activia? Is a healthy gut not wanted by one and all? We’ll get into that debate another time.

Nonetheless, we are in a time where discussing your emotions, seeking help and advice and generally being more open with each other is encouraged. The idea that putting yourself first, practising self love and working on developing your mental state is reserved just for women is ridiculous. So let’s disregard that notion from here on out.

Loving yourself is all about making decisions that help you to grow. But developing yourself mentally, and encouraging growth in your mind-set and outlook is something only you can do for yourself. Nobody else can tell you how to think, or what actions to make in order to reach your preferred, personal level of stability. It sounds easy, but we often look for answers in others wisdom when we have a problem. It can seem strange to be so selfish if it doesn’t come to you naturally, but this is the best kind of selfishness you can practise. There’s no set recipe or rulebook as to how to do it, but there are some very basic places to start in order to get the ball rolling, which is what I’m here for this month.

For starters, stop justifying everything you do. It’s human nature to ask why, which is why our loved ones, friends and family tend to question our decisions. For example, you’ve decided your job isn’t giving you the satisfaction and happiness it should, so you decide to quit. Everyone’s first question will be why. They’ll try to dissect it, unravel the story behind why you’ve made this decisions, when really it has nothing to do with them. So, from now on, if you don’t want to share your answer, or don’t have one when someone questions your actions or choices a simple ‘because that’s my decision’ is all you need to say. You do not owe anyone who is not directly affected by your decision any kind of justification or explanation.

On the back of that, expanding your reach further than your immediate circle is an important step in developing a personal growth mind-set. Don’t think that in order to stay loyal to your loved ones you cannot meet new people and create new circles away from them. Seek out like minded people, socialise with people who share your interests. Accept invitations you may have snubbed before, and make conversation with people you wouldn’t think twice about speaking to. They might not be your kind of people, but you may learn something from them. It can never hurt to collect new contacts, and expand your own views by listening to others.

To stop being negative about your ability, and start having a more positive outlook, you have to stop calling your dreams stupid. Allow yourself to have ambitions or visions for your future that seem far fetched and impossible. They may seem unattainable now, but if you keep it in mind it could become a reality for you without even realising.

In short, put your wants and needs first. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone, and you are happy, then nothing else matters. The experience is more important than the outcome when it comes to personal development, because the route you set out on could change at any given moment. Being aware of that and ready for something to change at any given moment not only keeps you on your toes, but keeps your head above water.

Accepting that personal growth is not something that ever ends is important to keep in mind. It’s always expanding, changing direction and going through alterations, but in the long run it will make you happier. You don’t have to accept how things are just because you can’t find a way out yet. A new opportunity is always around the corner; you just have to make the choice to look out for it instead of blindly waiting for it to find you.