Do you believe we act the way we do because of genetics or because of our environments? Explain…
We come back to the nature vs. nurture debate several times throughout life. I am currently seeking my Masters Degree in Counseling studies and this topic has come up more times than not. As individuals, is it our environments that shape and mold us or are we who we are because of our genetic makeup? I believe the answer to be both BUT I tend to believe more strongly that our tendencies and actions are shaped from the environments we put ourselves in.
I am now 33 years old and as of lately I have reflected a lot on my life, where I have come from, who I have been and who I am today. I see both of my parents so much in me but there are also times that I am so unsure of where my thought processes and beliefs come from. Ok, I will split up the 2 and give you a description of how I see genetic makeup being fitting then I will share how I believe environments shape the person.
Genetic Makeup (Nature): In order to give my best explanation I must take this argument onto a personal level. I could use myself as an example (which I may later on) but I am choosing not to for my initial example. I am actually going to discuss my adopted sister. There may be a lot of people that are reading this that were/are unaware that I have an adopted sister. I do not talk about her but very rarely and I do not have any sort of relationship with her (that may end up being another blog entry). My point being, she is the main source in my life that sways me to believe in some truth to the Nature Theory. I grew up in a small town in northern NY. I have 2 very loving parents (that are still together) and 2 sisters (both older-one biological and one adopted). I will be bised in saying this, but I have two of the best parents in the world. Like any parents, they struggled and may not have always have the right answers or the right solutions but everything they did was based on love and all they ever wanted to do was protect us. We were three girls living in a house in an All-American neighborhood in what could be considered an All-American small town. We would be what is considered middle class and my parents offered to us all of the opportunities that they could (sports, music, social life, etc.). We were all raised the same and were taught the same morals and values. My parents did not force anything upon us (well they may have pushed us to be in a sport or try out for something-but this was never done with ill intent-they were only looking out for our best interest). In my opinion we were truly blessed and lucky to have all that we did. We were never the type of family to care about labels or status. We were raised with a lot of love in our household. My mother and father did everything they could to teach us right from wrong and the one thing they taught us (and may not even realize they did) was how to treat people. We were taught about respect from a very early age and to give kindness as much as we possibly could. I never thought I would say this (and my parents would probably fall of their chairs if they read this) but I truly believe I had what people would consider the most ideal, best parents a child could have. So, we now come back to the topic of genetics. As I have said, my sisters and I were all raised the same and given the same opportunities. My oldest sister and I (biological sister-she is 9 years older than me) have grown up to live by the morals and values that were taught to us growing up. We both value family and I believe we are both pretty well-balanced people (ok well we might be off-balance every once in awhile but nothing ever detrimental). We both treat people with kindness and believe that family is very important and a strong source of support. We provide the best for those around us (she is married and has 2 sons that she would do anything for and a husband she loves very much). My other sister (adopted sister-4 years older than me) though could not possibly be any different. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have anger and resentment toward her. I am not proud of this but I am honest about it. This is personal yes and maybe I should not be sharing but I am not naming any names and I think this is important for those that want to know more about me and for those who are debating nature vs. nurture. Let me give you the little bit of information that I have. My sister was adopted when she was 1 ½. It was a closed adoption and the only information that my parents have is that her mother was 16 when she had my sister. Ok, back to where we were. From as far back as I can remember (early childhood) my adopted sister was nothing like my biological sister and I. She had a mean streak. She was the child that was always pushing buttons and tested my parents far beyond imagination. My sister had a resentment toward me as far back as my first memory. She treated me very badly by hitting and punching me or trying to get me in trouble for things I never did. I remember when I was about 6 or 7, it was night and I was going down to the basement in our house (this was our play room) and on my way down the stairs my sister turned off the lights and I tumbled down an entire flight of stairs. The only thing I heard was her laughing at the top of the stairs. I would like to say that things have changed but to this day they are no different. She has me blocked on Facebook…and mind you I have not even been in her presence in over 5 years (and I have been on Facebook for 4). The problems that she had were not just with me though. My mother did everything in her power to be a good mother to my sister and give her as many chances as possible but my sister rejected it all. She snuck out of the house, stole money, started having sex at 13 with an 18 year old. The list goes on and on. After her running away my father would be in the car looking for her and would usually find her at the local skating rink or a friend’s house. My sister had such anger and animosity issues that she called DSS and we had a social worker come to our house on a couple of occasions (they had to because of me living there and making sure I was safe). My mother has never and would never do anything to harm us kids. The social worker learned very shortly that my sister was very sneaky and manipulative. I could tell people stories that would absolutely blow your mind. Her presence and overall anger and negativity had a big impact on our household and luckily for my biological sister and I, we used these times to make ourselves stronger.
Upon growing up my adopted sister became a mother herself. She was pregnant and married (to her 1st husband) at the age of 18. They had a son together. She later divorced this “man” and married another “man” that she had a daughter with. Yes, I use the term “man” loosely because both of these “men” I would not consider to be “men” because they are both deadbeat dads with absolutely no ambition in life. Anyhow… I spent a lot of time with my nephew for the first 5-6 years of his life. In this time, my nephew probably lived in 20 different places. My sister and her husband split and she had a different guy on the string all of the time. The only thing my nephew ever knew was the back seat of a car because they were constantly on the move. I witnessed my sister scream at this child in a manner that was absolutely terrifying. She showed him no love and acted as if he was an inconvenience and burden in her life. I watch him develop a stutter because of being so nervous to be around her. It saddened me (and still does very much to this very day) because I knew that the chances of my nephew standing any sort of chance in this world were slim to none. He is now 17 years old and has been in a Juvenile Detention Center since he was 14. My sister, nor his father, have ever gone to see him. It absolutely breaks my heart. I am getting off topic though. My sister also has a daughter that I think is either 9 or 10 years old. Yes, it terrible that I do not know how old she is. I am unsure of her birthday too…it is in either June or July. I have seen her only once and at that time she was 3 ½ years old. I do not know anything about her. My sister also has two step-daughters (well one is transitioning to be male-but that is a whole different story). I remember that one of these girls used to be a little on the “chunky” side. My sister would fall her a fat cow or a tub of lard. I couldn’t imagine it was easy to live with my sister…well actually I know from experience it wasn’t because these were the same insults I got throughout growing up with her. So, here were are, at a place where we see this person that has turned out completely different from anyone else in the family. This person is filled with hatred and spite. I cannot help but think that her genetics HAVE to play a huge factor in her being this kind of person. This behavior was not directly learned for her early environments. I would love to know what type of person her mother was and what type of person she is today (or her father for that matter).
I have shared a very personal experience which I am sure many of you are somewhat shocked about. This is only the tip of the iceberg of stories I could share but I will refrain from giving too much all at once. I will now move onto discussing our environments (Nurture) and how I believe that we are molded and shaped by what we are surrounded by.
There is so much to say in regards to the Nurture Theory. I could make about one million arguments based on scenarios and situations I have witnessed and been a part of in my life. Some of these situations have been from my own actions while others have been performed by family members, friends, people I have worked with or even complete strangers I have “people watched” in various environments. Behaviors are mimicked every single day. I, once again, look at my own life and how I have behaved as a person. Some of these actions I am very proud of while others..well let’s just say it would be nice to forget them. If you read several of my writings or even just generally talk to me (if I am comfortable enough to talk about it) you will hear me talk about how I believe society has molded so many of us. I am one of those people that has been molded. The Nurture Theory is a concept in which individuals decide what is right and wrong and act upon knowing those things. Throughout my whole life, for as long as I can remember, I have been an extremely nervous person. I have had episodes of depression and anxiety and these things I believe are learned behaviors from my mother. I do not fault my mother for this. She is a protector and a nurturer. My mother never wanted to see any of us girls get hurt so she did anything in her power that she could to make sure this never happened. With that being said, she was unaware that by never allowing us to fall or face our fears and conquer them on our own, that she was doing more damage than good. Her and I have talked about this several times and although we can get in heated arguments, she knows I do not say any of this to hurt her or be spiteful. My mother did an amazing job raising us and did what she thought was right to bring us up the best she could. There is no set of rules or guidelines to being a parent and this I know. My mom is my biggest hero and she knows this. Anyhow, when faced with confrontation my mother steered us in the direction to just keep our mouths shut. We were really never pushed to stand up for ourselves. My mother grew up very poor and her family had very little. She did not have many friends and was not one of the popular kids in her class. My mother did not have high self-esteem (even though she is one of the most amazing women in the world). She never wanted us girls to go through what she went through. Although we had friends, we were never the center of attention or the most popular kids in school. I never understood growing up what it really took to be part of the “in-crowd”. I wanted that back then so badly and it was something I never achieved. My mother knew this and she would try to help do everything she could for me to be involved with those kids or be in the activities that those kids were in. She never understood why I was never part of that crowd either. I mean, we all lived within about a 1 ½ mile radius of each other. I felt my mother’s anxiety growing up. Even as young as I was, I knew she wanted me to be accepted (and don’t get me wrong I didn’t have a bad life-I just kind of did my own thing and hung out with random people) because she never really was. My mom’s anxiety and worry became a part of me. I don’t blame her for this even a little—even though our heated arguments might tell a different story. One might think that when you get older that everything changes and the drama disappears. I have news for you, it doesn’t. There will always be an “in-crowd”. For so long I have ached to be a part of this crowd and until recently I realized it was a façade. I was trying to be what I thought everyone else wanted me to be. I was living a fantasy based on movies, characters, celebrities, models, etc. I admit to being a very influenced person. I get sucked into believing more than I probably should—well I used to—I am smartening up. Let me give you an example (and I swear I am not a TV junkie—haha). A year or so ago there was a show on TV
called Tough Love based in Los Angeles, CA. It was a show based on single women in the dating world. This was a so-called “reality” show. The main “character” of the show is a man that is a Dating Coach in Los Angeles (his mother is as well). The entire season is spent criticizing women on everything they do wrong when it comes to dating. These women were told they are too aggressive, too picky, too spoiled, too this or that. I was hooked on this show after the first season because I believed everything this guy was saying. I started reading all kinds of articles on the Do’s and Don’t’s of dating. So when it came down to me actually getting into the dating pool I had no idea how to swim. I was so focused on what I should and should not be doing that I lost complete sight of who I was. I didn’t even know how to act anymore (and to this day I am still not completely sure). This man impacted me in a way to believe that all men function the same and want the same kind of girls and want them all to act a certain way. My question is, why are the men in control? Yes, I admit some women can be over the top and do need some work in some areas but can we really compare dating in LA to dating anywhere else? LA is a whole different world. It has taken me quite a while to realize that what works for others may not work for me. I have been able to see myself differently because I have changed my environments and have surrounded myself with different things that I believe will be beneficial to me as a whole. I still get sucked into things now and again that probably are not the best for me but I now have a different awareness of it. My point with all of this is that my environments have shaped me to be the person I am to this very day and this very second. I have a certain genetic makeup that I am sure influences different things within me but with how much the world holds, I find it absolutely impossible to not give your environment(s) majority of credit for who you are at this very moment.
P.S. I absolutely refuse to watch anymore seasons of Tough Love or any show with a so-called “Dating Coach”. I may be molded in various ways but no one is going to change me to make me more attractive and appealing to others. I am doing just fine on my own <wink wink> ;0)