Let’s ask this question. Does early hardship in life keep children from becoming successful adults? How likely is it that children who grow up in tough circumstances will fail to reach their full potential or sink into despair or dysfunction?
There is no way to make a general statement and of course the outcome is affected by the entire social environment and the socio-economic class of the child. These risks are real, but a surprising number of kids who grew up in tough times drew strength from hardship and saw their struggles as one of the keys to their success.
In 1962 two psychologists, the Goertzels, studied the lives of 400 famous men and women. They found that less than 15% had been raised in supportive untroubled homes. Of the 400, 75% had grown up in a family burdened by severe problems ranging from poverty, abuse, absent parents, alcoholism, or other issues. The authors concluded that the “normal man is an unlikely candidate for the Hall of Fame.”
The author of an article discussing this problem observed that most common childhood adversities are not one time events but chronic sources of stress, neglect and physical or sexual abuse. Resilient youth do not just rebound from them. Instead they develop a way of approaching life as an ongoing battle.
Those who did well used whatever strengths they had to their advantage. they made plans to better themselves. They set ambitious but realistic goals for the future.
When the researchers asked these resilient adults how they understood their own success, the majority answered determination. Another way of understanding this is the parable of two brothers who were raised in a home in which the father was an abusive alcoholic. One brother grew up to be a drinker and an abuser. the other became a model parent. When asked how they came to be who they were both brothers gave the same answer: “given who my father was how could I not.”
This could lead each of us to look at our own life. Are you satisfied with how you look and with how you feel? If not what are you going to do about it?