… "change is to become something different altogether whereas growth is taking who you are and building upon it. …"
Why does working on one's own development so often create such dread and dismay? Is it the anxiety of what is to come; not knowing if the steps being taken are the "right" ones or how they will be perceived by others? Perhaps it is the past and the people aware of it that make it so disheartening to better one's self. The concern that actions already done are forever and not only is it impossible to become something more than them, but anyone who disagrees with those actions will always be there to bring it back up. Or is the question at hand more about the terror that change can bring? Of course, depending on the individual, it is any combination of these things along with an onslaught of other possibilities, but from my own experience, speaking with others, and general observations, I feel those are the key feelings that hold so many of us back from progressing in personal growth.
I believe the bulk of problem can begin to be resolved by simply addressing a few things. Firstly, one's personal growth is just that, personal. However others may interpret, feel, or react to actions or ideas you have had, do have, or ever will have should absolutely not be a top priority when working on one's self. Yes, of course the world and it's inhabitants influence everyone, but this should not stunt one's maturity. A genuine attempt to become better should only be backed by the support of others, and those who react with anger or bitterness probably have something personal they need to work on themselves. As C.G. Jung said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
This would be the second point to address, that only if the attempt made is genuine. If someone says or does something not truly believing it would make themselves and the world around them a better place, then this is not a step towards growth. With this, be aware that there is no set "right or wrong", so the best anyone can really do is absorb the life around them and reflect back the best they can be at the moment. And everyone has their own perspective and experience, thus landing them into a completely different mindset and idea of what right or wrong is, guaranteeing many will be offended by whatever choices another makes. Choice is an important word here. By not acting a certain way even though you feel you should, that is an ingenuine choice. If everyone was like this, then no growth would ever occur for anyone ever.
Life has an interesting, often twisted, sense of humor. An example of this is what I would consider the key thing to keep in mind; many of the anxieties about what may or may not happen mentioned at the start are absolutely a reality, but to the point where they are not. Are you making the "right" choice? Many will say not at all, and as you grow, you will more than likely continue to find better choices. Yet, isn't the right choice ultimately just the best option you can do given the info you have? Will other's continue to dig up your past about thing's you've said or done, often being things you are not at all proud of? Honestly, it seems to be one of the most absolute truths in life for some reason, but you are looking at it all wrong if it disheartens you. Anything they mention that you regret shows that you have grown beyond that, and things you still stand by is a sign that you are making choices you are passionate about. Plus, remember, chances are they have something personal to work on that has nothing to do with you. It is easier to criticize others than it is to focus on one's self.
A product of my past
In the end, I hate to say the answer is ultimately to "get over it", but that really is an idea to consider. No matter your choice (being to act or not act), many will be offended and you will often consider your action to be a mistake. This is completely unavoidable and deciding to do nothing is still a choice that dodges just as much as it solves, nothing. This is all about your personal growth, not theirs, and as long as you stay true to yourself and remain mindful and genuine, you are certainly on the "right" path. To make things better, leading a life you believe in influences others to do the same, and the more everyone take time to work more on themselves instead of focusing so hard on others, the easier it will be to all cooperate down the road. To reiterate, when I say "get over it", while I mean it (as if I don't struggle with this myself at times), I don't find the feelings invalid. I simply mean to shift the perspective. As Wayne Dyer puts it, "If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
Personally, my struggle with growth was mostly a combination of a fear of change and having a lack of maturity when it came to not worrying about others in regards to my development. I am not going back on the points I've made, but when I was younger, I carried this attitude (for a variety of reasons) that if someone was bothered or hurt by my action, then that was absolutely their problem. I was on the right track, but in a completely confused and ignorant way at the time. For example, my humor is often dark. I have no problem with that, but I would say whatever I wanted to say, and when someone was hurt or bothered by this, I would shrug it off as "its their problem." While I do not think I am in the wrong for my humor at all, was it truly a genuine action of mine to express this without care when someone gets hurt? Not at all. What I gained from my dark joke is not worth the amount of negativity it brought someone else. With all this being said, it is a matter of picking your battles still. Again, I do not regret my humor, and often I do not find it to be my problem when someone is offended by me as I am much more careful about it. But when I was younger, I definitely had an unchecked filter that was not benefitting anyone.
As for the fear of change, this came from my confusion differentiating between growth and change. For whatever reason, I had it in my head that if I were to grow, I would lose who I was, and as I have always strived to be my true self, this horrified me. Fortunately, as I gained perspective and experience, I realized this is not at all the case. To me, making clear my own definition of growth and change helped me get past this. The way I personally separate the ideas is that to change is to become something different altogether whereas growth is taking who you are and building upon it. I have come a long way, mistakes and all, but despite all of the development, the true root of who I am has stayed strong.
This was a long one, so I'll end it here. I was hoping to go more into depth about mistakes I've made, but I have no doubt I will cover that vastly over time. Let me know what point resonated with you or if something else entirely holds you back from personal growth and what has assisted you to get through it! Taking time to reflect and meditate helps me come too many of my realizations and I continue to do so as I still have a life time of growth to achieve.