DNA is all the rage these days. From crime shows to family testing, many of us are putting our trust in genetics. So, are we just products of our genes? For that matter, do the cultural and economic factors of our upbringing lock us onto a life path? Quite often, it feels that way. In a society starkly divided along lines of race, gender, class, and ability, it is easy to believe in destiny. But does reality match belief in this scenario?
What is “Upbringing”?
The standard debate is nature vs. nurture. Our upbringing is usually a blend of both. Among many things, it involves:
- Specific genetic inheritance
- Skin color
- Ability or disability
- Sexual preference
- How our caregivers treat us
- Specific financial inheritance
- Exposure to trauma like illness, injury, abuse, or substance abuse
- The types of teachers we meet
- Arbitrary life experiences
- The amount of encouragement, inspiration, and support
These factors — along with others — are basically beyond our control and combine to create one’s upbringing. If we were to accept these factors as preconditions, it would mean that our general life path has been laid out.
Destiny or Decision?
There is, however, a huge difference between nature and nurture — as it pertains to our options. Biology will always be there. It will shape our decisions and perspectives. It will also shape the perceptions others form about us. We don’t “overcome” nature. More likely, we learn how to make the best of the genetic hand we were dealt.Nurture can wield massive influence over us but this influence does not have to be permanent. Some factors are out of our control, of course, e.g.
- A geographical/geopolitical location in which outside forces suppress one’s options
- Families that restrict movement, thought, and freedom
- The indiscriminate randomness of life experiences
There still remain many environmental components over which we can acquire mastery. Children of poverty can rise to financial stability. Oppressed peoples attain autonomy. Individuals thwart expectations every single day.
Can We Become More than a Product of Our Upbringing?
If we define upbringing as a blend of nature and nurture, the short answer is yes. As touched on above, we must also accept that some oppressive situations can defy any challenge. But many if not most humans are not locked into a predetermined path. The trick, so to speak, is to unravel our own behaviors and patterns as they relate to our current societal and interpersonal status.Taking on the forces of nature and nurture is made more difficult without some acceptance. To follow is some of what we may need to accept before we can effectively choose decision over destiny:
Our Childhood upbringing Created Our Map
Early childhood shaped us in colossal ways we simply could not comprehend at the time. It is now urgent that we begin reassessing how our earliest days continue to influence the choices we make.
We’re Infinitely Capable of Learning
From science to art and beyond, our species never stops learning and creating. The sticking point, it seems, is when we are required to learn about ourselves as we exist in the world. Such exploration is necessary before we can rise above our circumstances.
Social Dynamics Are Real
We will be judged and perceived through the lens of race, gender, class, ability, sexual preference, and more. Factor in this reality as you set out on your journey of personal evolution.
Seek Professional Guidance
There is a proven path towards the discovery we need to rise up: psychotherapy. Identifying your past influences, present patterns, and the role society plays are just some of the crucial work you’ll do in those weekly sessions.