Butterfly Struggle

aka The Struggle to Become Ourselves

One day a little boy found a caterpillar and took him home to take care of him. He checked on the caterpillar every day and made sure there were lots of leaves for food. 

Then the little boy noticed that one day the caterpillar was starting to spin its chrysalis to prepare for metamorphosis. The little boy was so excited to see the butterfly that this caterpillar would become.

After a couple weeks, the little boy saw a small hold in the cocoon and noticed that the butterfly was struggling to get out of its cocoon. Then he saw that the butterfly was struggling so hard and worried that it might not be able to do it. The little boy thought that this struggle wasn’t right and that the butterfly needed his help. 

The little boy cut the chrysalis to make the hole bigger and the butterfly emerged!

But the butterfly’s body was very swollen and the wings were small and shriveled. The little boy was confused — he thought the butterfly would be able to fly and just needed some intervention. 

But that never happened. The butterfly was never able to fly. It spent the rest of its life crawling around with shriveled wings.

The little boy didn’t know that the butterfly needs to struggle to emerge from its cocoon – that the struggle is what strengthens its wings so that it can fly! The struggle out of the tiny hole in its cocoon is what pushes the fluid out of its abdomen and into its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly would never be able to fly. 

I heard this fable a few years ago and I think of it often. It reframed struggle for me — that struggle is part of the journey of growth, and while I may want to seek outside myself for answers or want help along the way, I am the only one who can do this work. I now embrace struggle, and that specific feeling of discomfort when I’m not sure if I can do it — I know that I will try and try until I’m able to. If not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’. And it’s the same for you! 

One final nugget – I know that what we *learn* in the process is the real jewel. It’s about who I/you/we become, not about what is accomplished. The big goals that we set for ourselves are really just the vehicle we take to work through our deepest stuff. 


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