By Jen Roeser
When we think of growth, we tend to think of big happy plants growing in full sun, fertilized soil, and plenty of water. Yet, we’ve all seen those Facebook memes (maybe even in real life if you’re the unplugged sort) of trees growing in the unlikeliest of places, like out of a boulder. Or, flowers blooming out of potholes in the middle of neglected roads. Instead of thriving in ideal conditions, we find them growing despite their adversities.
When this analogy is applied to humans, we know that growth happens best under positive conditions. Good nutrition, plenty of sleep, a loving family, supportive peers, and a good education are indicators of healthy growth. When our basic needs are met then we can get on to all that good spiritual growth stuff, right? But, what happens when we are faced with adverse conditions?
When conditions are not ideal, growth still happens, but we view it as stunted or underdeveloped. Now, why in the world do we do that? I mean, when I see a small flower growing through concrete, I think, “Yes! You go flower!”
Yet, if we charted that flower’s growth in comparison to other flowers, it would end up in a low percentile and marked as deficient in some way. When people go through hardships, we tend to think that growth stops until the stress is dealt with.
I remember the self-actualization triangle I learned about in college. The theory is that after our basic physical needs are met, then we can progress towards spiritual development. I believed this myth for the longest time. We all have our own challenges to overcome, but we never stop growing.
Personally, I feel like that tree that busts out of a boulder. Finding nutrients even though they are scarce, sun even though the clouds roll in, water even through a drought. But, this is a new self-perception. For years I believed what I was told, that I am less than. Less than I should be, less than I could be, less than everybody else. Then, as an adult, I worked through these feelings with the help of a great therapist.
It is not until recently that I realized that I was still believing other people’s less than stories about me. I was hurt when I heard their stories that I was reliving my abusive childhood or when I received emails detailing exactly how clueless I am. And, despite knowing better, I believed it. I felt less than.
Still, I didn’t stop growing. I carried it around for a while until I had a few a-ha moments. I stopped believing their stories because I, and I alone, know exactly who I am and what I have become. I reinvented my perception of myself, and in doing so, I stopped comparing my growth to that of anyone else’s.
Here’s another thought about how we grow. We have the capacity to change our garden. If you’re happy with your struggle of growing out of a boulder, then by all means keep growing there! But, if you are unhappy, then pull those roots out and hop on over to that mound of soil. We get to choose. We get to be more than.
More than our own perceptions of ourselves, and damn sure more than what anyone else thinks we can be. Instead of feeling stunted by our adversities, hold the miracle that we are growing despite our struggles. Or, maybe even because of them.
Jen Roeser has lived in many types of gardens, and is currently growing in both favorable and adverse conditions at 8,000 feet in Marble, CO with her 3 favorite flowers and her cowboy.