Nature or Nurture? They Both Make You Who You Are

Nature or nurture?

Turns out we're a little of both.

Recently scientists decided to see if who we really are is more what's inside us or what happens to us outside in the world.  Guess what?  Both.

As someone who is prone to pessimism, I was long ago counseled to change the way I looked at things rather than bumping my head up against things I cannot control. 

It took a very long time but finally I began to see that not winning a statewide writing award didn't mean I was a bad writer, just that, this particular time, people wrote articles and essays that were better than mine. Then, when it turned out I did win, I had almost forgotten about it.  (I won first place.)

Of course, it's not easy to look at the dark side of life and be optimistic.  But I wouldn't call trying to hold on to perspective -- because that's what it is -- a bad thing.

I remember in fourth grade, when my son didn't get the "star" teacher and I was convinced that his future was over.  It took me a while to accept that he was where he needed to be, and that wherever he was, he would do fine. He's now a straight-A student so I guess it worked out.  (Forgive me for bragging.)

Some of it has to do with religion -- or spirituality, if you will.  I'm not a particularly religious person but when I was going through some really difficult times -- cancer, to name one -- I put myself in the hands of what I perceived as God.  At first I thought, what, are you crazy?  But over time I began to see what a relief it was not to obsess over each blood test and biopsy but to take a deep breath and know that, somehow, some way, I would be okay.

I've now been cancer-free for almost 10 years but some of my friends weren't so lucky and that was hard to reconcile with my new faith that everything works out for the best.  Clearly, it doesn't.  But maybe what we're given is the ability to deal with it.  I don't believe you get what you can handle.  I don't believe that at all because children aren't meant to be mowed down in their elementary school classrooms or people burned to death because they went to work at the wrong time.

I guess it all does get back to being able to handle whatever happens to you in your life, and the ways you work out to deal with it.  Which brings us back to personality.  What, really, shapes you?

Are you the genes you were born with or the circumstances that happen to you?  As you might guess, it turns out to be both.    The study found that our personalities and the situations we encounter predict our behavior independently and simultaneously at any given moment.

This all has particular meaning for me.  Though he was born to me, my son has the genes of another woman.  He also has my husband's genes and is the spitting image of him.  But I have always felt sad that none of who I am will carry on into him (though, as it turns out, the very act of carrying him determines which genes "turned on" in him).  

Interestingly, however, my son is a writer and I can't count on one hand the number of people who say he looks just like me.  In some ways this frees me from having to judge him harshly (did he get that from me?), and myself, too. And, of course, I am his mother (though even that I doubted, in the beginning).  Now there is no question.

Obviously, who he is comes from him.  But his environment also has a lot to do with it.  So is it nature or nurture?  I guess, a little of both. 

So, what it comes down to, it seems, is that both who you are and what happens to you in life is what makes you who you are.

Is my son more a product of his genes, or the life I have given him as his mom?  You know what?  I don't care.  All I do know is that I love him, more than I ever loved anyone, and nature or nurture, that's all that matters. 


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