Blooming in my own time with a disability

By Michelle Steiner

“A flower doesn’t think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms” Author Unknown

One of my greatest passions is growing flowers. I love to watch many growths blossom from the ground. The blooms grow alongside each other in harmony. They don’t worry about who is blossoming the quickest or who has the biggest blooms. When I was a young child I wanted to find my talents and shine. It seemed like all of my peers were good at something. Some of my peers were good at academics and were considered smart. I struggled with school and often didn’t feel smart. Other peers were amazing athletes, and shined in gym class. I struggled to coordinate my body and would flinch when a ball came near me. I tried to compete with my peers and was disappointed when I wasn’t successful.

My parents assured me that there were things that I was good at and were quick to point out what I could do. I will never forget my dad reading a story about a dinosaur I wrote as a young child and saying it was good. I also had people tell me that I was a good reader and speaker. Hearing those words of encouragement helped to guide me into the person that I am today.

Competition has also hurt me when people have compared my progress with others. Many times people will look at me and don’t think that I have a disability. My disability may be hidden, but it still creates limitations. Many people don’t understand that everyone experiences a disability differently, even if they have the same type. Some people with Learning Disabilities struggle with reading, while others struggle with math. When you meet one person with a disability, you have essentially met one person, and not an exhaustive list of people with it.

Much like the flowers I love to tend, I had to learn to bloom in my own time. I no longer wish to have the skills or talents of another person. I’m quick to encourage or applaud another’s good work when I see it. I generally peruse the things that I enjoy and am good at. I’ve learned not to waste time trying to engage in a futile pursuit of competing with another person or taking on an activity to be the best. Instead, I’m my own competitor. I set goals and try to be the best version of myself. The motivation for competing with myself is not to be better than someone else, but to make myself a better person.

Not competing with others has also improved my relationships with other people. When I tried to compete with others I spent more time being frustrated, angry, and envious of the other person. Competition left more animosity, rather than peace with other people. When I dropped the competition and acknowledged the strengths of others, it built the other person up. Others also saw the strengths that I had and encouraged me.

Competition is not entirely evil or entirely unavoidable. Certain things such as school, jobs, or awards mean having to compete against other candidates. Learning how to manage competition is key. I have things that I’m good at, but there will always be someone better and worse than me. I simply need to do what I’m good at and ensure that I’m doing my personal best. I also have to acknowledge the achievements of those around me. I will bloom and thrive in my own time alongside the blossoms of other people.

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