Last Sunday Sadje posed a question to the blogging community – “Do you think how we turn out is in our control?”. It was an interesting question, and after some careful consideration, I don’t have a yes/no answer, my feeling is it depends.
I believe genetics gives us a foundation of traits and characteristics, but who we become is shaped by our environment and the kind of people we interact with during our formative years. Our community – whether that’s parents, extended family or the wider community – ensure we develop and have an understanding of the values of that society. What is and is not acceptable in terms of behaviour.
I can see how nurture can influence heavily the way in which we grow and develop, depending on the people who are around us and input they provide.
I do wonder, though about the type of traits we inherit from our parents. Looking at my siblings, I can see that we are three very different people in terms of our interests, aptitudes and personalities. Where I’m friendly and outgoing, my sister is socially awkward and would prefer to be on her own and not have to interact with others (I can see she got that from my dad). What that then got me to thinking about was whether the traits we’re born with and the interactions of others as we’re growing up have some sort of inter-dependent relationship.
If we are born with specific traits, characteristics etc and we learn our values and acceptable behaviours from our community (parents, family and extended community) then it could be, thinking about Sadje’s question – that the answer is ‘it depends’.
If you have a child who inherits their traits from their parents that makes them shy and lacking confidence; then if they are primarily shaped by parents who do not encourage that child to think for themselves; makes all the decisions and just tells them what to do; the child may grow up to be happy following others and will not step out of their comfort zone, and therefore may not be able to push against the influences of nature and nurture to change who they are. It may not even occur to them to try.
Conversely, if you have someone who has benefitted genetically from traits that make them outgoing, more confident and determined; that coupled with a range of influences from different sections of society who encourage the child to ask questions and seek answers, to question beliefs, then it could be that this child will become a person who will continue to grow, look for opportunities to develop and become better throughout their life. They may be more self aware. However, while they are able to push beyond the influences of nature and nurture, I wonder if the spark to do that would not have been lit had the initial support not been there in the background.
I see a bit part of my role as a college lecturer working with young adults as helping them build their self-confidence. They don’t believe in themselves, so they need reassurance and to see where they are achieving, where they are succeeding. It may be that they’ve never had someone who believes in them before; and they just need that encouragement, but that’s still nurture. Sometimes you get through, sometimes you don’t (so again, the influences of nature and nurture combine to influence outcomes). Learning and personal development are things that should happen throughout life; I’m not sure I want to live in a world where things are as clear cut as having people who will never achieve because they don’t get the support and encouragement as a child. With the right environment, even as an adult that person has the potential to change, but someone else (the nurturer) needs to be the catalyst.
When drafting this, I had come to the conclusion that yes, we can go beyond the influences of our childhood to control how we turn out, but now I’m thinking its more that our genetics give us a baseline starting point; but the influences of those around us is a major factor shaping things like our curiosity, inquisitiveness, tenacity and self-confidence to believe you can achieve – these things can be shaped greatly by our families and others who interact with us. If we are encouraged and supported, if we know the people who are for and about us believe in us, then we are more likely to push ahead than if that supportive framework isn’t there.
Thank you Sadje, for providing such a thought provoking subject, that really challenged my own thinking and made me explore a lot of my own upbringing and seeing the wide range of people who had a part in shaping who I am now – the good and the bad. Sunday Poser #118
I’d love to hear, via the comments, what others think. I know this is going to be a topic to trigger lots of discussion.
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