I had a conversation with someone recently about what makes us who we are, what makes us ‘tick’ so to speak. Is it our personality, our life experiences or it is something else completely different?
As a therapist I could list a number of factors that determine who we become or our personality such as biological, social, psychological or our genetic make-up, yet whilst all these factor in moulding us – they still do not determine who we really are. Why does one identical twin who has experienced the same childhood as his brother grow up to be so completely different from his twin that it would appear they lived very different lives?
When we grow up we learn from the world around us, from the people who surround us mainly our parents and care-givers. However it is not necessarily the events that we encounter along the road of life that shape our future selves, it is more the meaning we give those events that determine who we become.
Going back to the twins as an example – their father was an abusive alcoholic and often beat the boys. They had a miserable childhood. One twin grew up to be exactly like his father – an abusive alcoholic who treated his kids the same as his dad had treated him, whilst the other became a successful businessman and loving father. When asked why they turned out the way they did – both replied ‘well what else could I become with a father like mine?’
We could argue that these identical twins had the same biological and genetic make-up along with similar experiences and upbringing yet who they became as adults were two very different people. So if who we become as adults isn’t just about genetics and upbringing what is it about?
It is said that it is not the events in our life that make us who we are but how we interpret them. An event only has a meaning when we give it one. So when the guy pulls out in front of you and you have to slam your brakes on, your interpretation could be ‘how rude, who does he think he is.’ However the woman in the car behind you thinks ‘Phew that was a close shave. The guy obviously didn’t see that car coming!’ But whose interpretation is right? Well unless you stop the guy and ask him – who knows!
We read into events certain meanings based on our own belief systems and life experiences. Some people see the world as a bad place and they will probably interpret events very differently from an individual who sees the world as a great place to be. The words failure, rejection or disappointment conjure up pretty negative pictures in most people’s eyes but why?
Rejection could be seen as personal or as an incompatibility; a failure can be taken as proof that you aren’t good enough or feedback – next time I will try a different approach and disappointment might mean that the world is against you or it could be that something better is just around the corner.
How you see your world and the people in it determines how you live your life to a great extent and it is your beliefs that colour your everyday existence in this world. Your days could be grey and overcast or bright with a burst of sunshine – and the only thing that determines what hue your day will have is you.
So the woman in the shop was rude – so what! And the clutch in your car has finally given up the fight – well you were lucky your car passed it’s MOT for the last three years. You can spend each minute looking at the bad things in life which all adds up to hours, days, weeks, years and a life-time of hard work and disappointments or you could choose to see the good in everything you experience.
It’s hard to imagine that your outlook determines just how happy, successful, slim, confident, fulfilled you will be or are – yet it’s empowering to know that by simply eradicating those negative and limiting beliefs you have the potential to transform the world you live in by simply projecting onto it a new, happier, positive and supportive world.
If you find life a struggle then perhaps it’s time to work out what beliefs are holding your back – then and only then can you go on to change them into more supportive beliefs.