What Makes You Who You Are
Who are you? How did you end up in the place you are today? Why are you the way you are?
Well, the simple answer is you are a mixture of your parents’ genes and all the experiences you have in life, a combination of Nature and Nurture.
The biology of your unique genetic code inherited equally from both parents determines to some degree what you look like, your temperament, level of creativity, personality, health predispositions, and physical and mental attributes, or your phenotype. Depending upon your experiences (and even the experiences of your parents!) certain genes can be switched on and off (called epigenetics) forever changing the path of your life.
No matter who you are, I know that you’re awesome because being human is being awesome. You had no control over your biology or experiences as a young child, so take a look at your life more objectively, because your childhood truly was predetermined. Your genes and your earliest experiences were not in your control, so don’t feel guilt or entitlement. At every present moment now you have control to reshape your brain how you choose.
Your brain is full of patterns of neural pathways (habits), and reshaping your brain is a matter of paying attention to the short cuts your brain takes which affect you negatively and rerouting your thoughts. Granted, it’s a lot harder than it sounds to change your own brain, but it can be done, with lots of practice! (Learn about Cognitive Behavioral Theory and other talk therapies)
From time to time I occasionally “zoom in” on questions or topics in order to provoke more thoughts. In order to fully understand a topic, it can take a lot of zooming in. In the same way, a lot of topics require us to zoom out in order to see the big picture- where a certain piece might fit in the puzzle-maze of life and existence.
In order to understand yourself better, take the time to zoom in on the age Ancient Greek saying, Know Thyself.
“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look there.” — Marcus Aurelius
Take some time to reflect on what kind of environment you grew up in when you were very young, and what your family was like, if you can. Sometimes memories from the past are not pleasant, and it’s entirely up to you what you choose to think about, never forget that. You are the director of your thoughts. The cure to fear is knowledge, so even if you’re afraid to dig deep, remember that you are in control of your thoughts and the way you choose to think about things. And don't forget you had no control over your early life and how it affected who you are today, so be kind to yourself!
When were you born? What was the world like then?
Where did you grow up, in rural country or an urban city?
What kind of neighborhood did you live in?
What were your living conditions like?
What socioeconomic status was your family?
Did you live with your immediate biological family?
What kind of parenting style did your caregivers have?
Did your caregivers have any emotional issues? How did that impact you?
How many people did you live with? How did they influence you?
Did you have any siblings? Were they older or younger? How did you interact with them?
What are your earliest memories?
What kind of toys did you play with?
What were your hobbies?
What most excited you?
What made you happy?
Where you shy or outgoing?
What was your personality as a child?
Were you passive or aggressive?
What age were the peers you played with?
What religions and cultures were you exposed or not exposed to?
How communicative were your caregivers?
What did you learn from television?
What did you learn from the people in your family?
What were you interested in?
How did your gender affect you?
Do you have any more insight into who you are? Can you recognize yourself as the same person today? Can you recognize how you’ve changed?
Once you have an understanding of what influenced who you were, picture yourself in-depth during all the stages of your development. What were you like as a toddler, or as a kindergartener? What were you like in elementary school? Middle school? Junior High? High School? College? Work? Were you prone to acting out, getting in trouble? Who did you choose to spend time with? What were your friends like? How did you spend your time after school? Did you enjoy school? Have you had your heart broken? How did your close friendships and loves affect your development? How did you overcome challenges?
Who are you today? In what ways have you grown? In what ways would you like to grow?
Don’t forget that your brain is incredibly plastic, and that no matter what your age your brain is always going through changes, even now! The journey of knowing yourself will last your entire life. At times things will happen which are out of your control, but how you choose to react to those uncontrollable events is up to you, if you think about it. Thinking before reacting allows us to understand more in-depth the nature of an issue. It allows us to plan ahead and realize how our actions affect others. Every last thing we do or don’t do in life is either directly or indirectly affecting someone else, and therefore changes their life forever. That may sound dramatic, but it’s simply the butterfly effect. As humans who are aware of this, are we not responsible to truly think about others when we make decisions, given that you’d like others to follow the Golden Rule?
Follow your inspirations. Think. Love. Live.