What makes us who we are? Psychologists and human behaviorists around the globe study this conundrum by the hour. The answers or hypotheses vary.
Genetics. Of course, we are the offspring of our parents and share the bloodlines of our parents parents – with certain genes dominating our lives while others hover in the background waiting to leak out if ever given the opportunity. But we go deeper than our shallow gene pool. In fact, I know people who are nothing like their family members. They are scientists, not laborers like their fathers or mothers. They are liberal minded thinkers embracing humanity, not arms-length conservatives like dad or grandpa.
Teachers. Yep, teachers in our early childhoods helped our brains develop the ridges and bumps (some more than others) to get us started in life. Thanks to the teachers, we got smart and built on these smarts throughout our K-12 and post secondary school years. And they were our mentors many of us still call on today to help us make good decisions. Where would we be without the Evelyn Johnsons, Dave Browns, Jack and Karen Ryans, and Bruce Ellingsons of the world? They are the ones who didn’t just stand in front of the class and yammer, but who pulled us aside for an extra two minutes now and then, and made time to just listen when we needed an ear.
But of all the atoms and attributes that define us, the most significant are the life lessons we experience and whether or not we choose to learn from the events of our lives. Personal experience shapes our attitudes, beliefs and philosophies more than tiny atoms flowing through our tissue and bone or the hard sermons preached to us by parents or grandparents or friends and mentors. Oh sure, we get some of who we are from those we’ve let into our souls, but the formation of that very soul that’s connected to the brain waves beating our hearts comes from the series of tough knocks or a-ha moments we’ve lived to tell about (or hold within us as secrets).
One of my biggest life-changing moments happened when I was just 17 standing outside the high school before the sun came up on a cool April morning. That’s when I learned what it meant to have people count on me – and the disappointment that results when I failed to pull my own weight. The leadership lesson I learned that morning as a kid has stuck with me and will forever.
Good people learn from their mistakes just as they learn from their successes. And the good in us, what’s made us who we are, is only amplified when we choose to share ourselves with those we love.
So in the tamed light of the evening, open up and divulge your secrets to someone who cares. Let them know what it is inside you that’s made you who you are. Let them know what matters to you and why. Share the big story that knocked you on your ass…but helped to form the you who you are now. Let them see you for you and watch as their eyes embrace you further and further.
It’s your story. It’s what makes you.