It’s Worth the Struggle to Become You

Have you heard how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly? It’s quite a process starting with the caterpillar eating and eating until it can eat no more-something I know I’ve done on more than one occasion.

But the caterpillar has a purpose in doing this. This food consumption aids its transformation whereas my food binge overstimulates my kidneys and results in a sugar crash. After its feast, the caterpillar hangs upside down and sheds its skin to reveal a chrysalis in which it lives until it is ready to emerge as a butterfly.

One afternoon a young girl watched the hole in a chrysalis get bigger and saw the butterfly struggle to get out. In her sympathy for the emerging butterfly’s seeming distress, the girl ran into her house, found a pair of scissors and ran back outside to assist in the drama unfolding before her. She cut open a larger hole in the chrysalis to ease the butterfly’s arrival.  And what a difference her cut made. The butterfly quickly emerged from its chrysalis. What happened next taught the girl a valuable lesson.

You already know the butterfly came out much more easily. But what you may not know is what affects her act had on the butterfly’s development. Instead of spreading its beautiful wings wide and taking flight, the newly formed butterfly’s wings were shriveled. The butterfly’s body was small. This butterfly couldn’t take flight.

Butterflies need the struggle the little girl interrupted.  They need that struggle to emerge fully grown and with its wings fully developed. Those majestic wings unfold from a fully developed butterfly once the body clearly completes its struggle, separates from the chrysalis, and dries off.  The struggle is a biological process to becoming itself.  

I bring this up to highlight the importance of going through the struggles to transform from a caterpillar to a butterfly. First you need to know what struggles are worth engaging.  Let’s take a look at what that means.

I recently had a long conversation with a colleague about approaching life by identifying one’s problems and analyzing them or looking at what one wants to achieve and focusing on that.  The conversation went down many paths as we looked at both as an either/or possibility or as complementary components.  But what I want to examine today is the value of the struggle in becoming who you are.  

In that conversation with my colleague, I learned that psychiatric disorders were first recorded in the 1840s. By 1880 seven “categories of insanities” were established. In 1952 the psychiatric industry introduced a diagnostic and statistical manual identifying 106 mental disorders. The most recent edition, published in 2000 contains approximately 374 mental disorders. That is a 371% increase in disorders in 48 years. An additional identification of disorders is expected in the upcoming edition, to be released later this month.

“So what?” you might ask. The so what for me is that I sense that today, for some, disorders are like an entitlement.  People feel entitled to their inability, almost like a badge of honor.  It makes me wonder if the focus is on the wrong thing.

I don’t want to minimize the severity of disorders. They are serious. They need attention, relief, and/or cure. However, when I see people parking their cars in special places, getting out of their cars and walking in to the grocery store, carry out their own groceries and get back into their cars still parked in the disabled parking space I have to wonder has their struggle been pinched like the caterpillar by the girl’s “help?”

My questions are two: “Who’s directing your life?” and “Are you focusing on an inability when you could focus on the struggle to achieving what you really want with your life?”  Take a moment to click on to our website and take your life focus assessment. See what gaps need to be filled to develop your life of purpose.

It is easier to let others come in and direct. It is easier to just “let it happen.” The brain is geared to respond to do so in its flight, fight, flock, and freeze responses.  It takes effort to define what you want. That is one reason there is such marvel at the person who reaches their goals. Most people don’t.

Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania is a major player in the world of positive psychology, a powerful force. If you want to know more, I recommend his book:  “Character, Strengths, and Virtues.” He describes what character is; he questions whether it can be taught, and demonstrates how character characteristics can be learned. He and his co-author Christ Peterson, describe what they consider to be the 24 core virtues.  

It is a struggle to define your core principles and then make them the core of your life. But, there is nothing more powerful than doing this. When you identify the core of who you are, you develop the real you. And that real you, the one with focus, is the one who gets things done. No one can do it for you, not even that little girl who wants to help. You have to take up the struggle to be you. Fortunately today there are systems, tools and activities to help you get to the core of who you are and live with that core as the center of who you are.

Go for it, you’ll be glad you did. 

Next time I will talk about how this relates to building a legacy family.

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1 Comment

  1. Bhaj, what a terrific message, as usual. I recently saw a time-lapsed video of a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis – so powerful to watch. I had no idea how complicated it was.


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