For my 3rd grade science fair project, I told my teacher I wanted to study the ‘emotions of plants with and without loving environments.’ It was a half-developed idea that was mainly rooted in my love for plants. Naturally, she thought it was a bit of a hot mess but I pushed forward to complete the project anyway.
I wanted to see if me showing love and compassion to one set of houseplants (i.e. singing to them, naming them, playing music, telling stories, putting them in decorative pots etc) could lift their emotional spirits and encourage them to grow faster than another group that received only basic care. All other variables were controlled.
My 7 year old self was no science prodigy but even back then, the conclusions I found shook me to the core.
What I noticed right away was that the plants I developed a closer connection to seemed to thrive under my care while the other ‘emotionally neglected’ ones withered. For a long time during the project, I couldn’t understand why: I was equally feeding & watering them and all plants were given the same amount of time in the sunlight.
What I then began to see was that the way we think about anything- people, places, things, ourselves- greatly impacts how we treat the subjects in question. It was in that moment I realized how strong the subconscious mind is- of course back then, I called this the ‘inside me’. It shapes our relationships with anything we do, whether we want to acknowledge this or not.
So while I never intended to harm my poor plant babies, the absence of my love to them meant I was unintentionally showing the opposite. If my ‘inside me’ didn’t think they were important, this indirectly affected my actions.
When I presented my ‘research’ it stood out complete with its colorful construction paper shapes, proofread typed paragraphs (which was a huge deal back then) and carefully cut photos accompanied by my own doodles. No one really took it seriously but I made them pay attention to me.
I made my case: we must do everything we can to show true kindness to people because when we don’t, it can directly impact the energy they absorb from us and have long-lasting effects on their wellbeing.
Of course at age 7 I wasn’t that articulate but that’s the gist of what I presented. In a very overt way, this project shaped my relationship to everyone I met. It taught me that the only way to move through this world was with kindness and compassion, even if I don’t feel like it, especially when I am upset. But somehow, it didn’t immediately change how I treated myself.
I didn’t grow up in environments where much love and support were present. As I got older, I began to blame myself for all the ways I had been mistreated while, at the same time, being super forgiving to others. I knew that something was wrong with my home environment yet couldn’t always articulate what I felt.
This experiment allowed me to visualize the very real effects of emotional neglect and see what a life of love looked like.
Looking back, I can see it may be that my 7 year old self conducted this experiment trying to remedy my childhood living situation. Now that I am on a road of healing, I am coming to terms with this and many more of my earliest memories.
In my search for self-compassion, I have been brought back to this project and the numerous lessons it has taught me. I knew that no matter what I say or preach, if my ‘inside me’ didn’t think I was important, I could not possibly be treating myself well.
For the past 8 months, I have dove into an intentional journey of self-nurturing. On this path, I decided to step back in time and actively treat myself like as I did my ‘plant babies’. I do this by: mindfully feeding and watering this body of mine. Indulging in my love of good books/stories. Journaling. Basking in sunshine. Wearing only clothing that makes me look and feel good. Taking regular walks in nature. Writing – a lot. Stopping to appreciate the bud of a blooming flower and finding kinship in another being as it gains the courage to open itself to the world.
This is me finding that courage. I hope you will join me as I take the time to explore the crevices of my soul. Hold on, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
*insert cheesy ass photo here*