Think back to your earliest memory of yourself. What were you like? How did it feel to be you back then? And most importantly, how much of that younger you do you still exhibit today?
If you are like me, you have a big smile on your face because you are remembering an exuberant little you full of love, life, and joy…with a strong passionate attitude. Man was I a little spitfire! The memory that came through the strongest was me as a very young girl (2nd or 3rd grade) standing up to a bully at school that was picking on my older brother. I was confident in my ability to ward off this bully with my words and make him see why bullying is not the answer. The bully ended up throwing a large piece of wood at me, but hey I accomplished what I wanted which was him to leave my brother alone.
Now, fast forward to today. What do you feel now when you think about yourself? The first thing that comes up for me is, I want to be that little girl again. Not in the sense of age but in the sense of living life with such confidence, self-worth, and fearlessness!
How is it that at such a young age we have the capability to live and love with such zeal but as we get older that reckless abandon begins to dissipate being replaced with fear and worry. The answer: nurture!
Nurture is most commonly defined as environment and experience that shapes a person’s behavior and personality. Now I won’t get into the nature vs. nurture debate as that is a whole other approach to this subject, but I have included some resources at the bottom of the page if you would like to explore that in more depth.
What I want to talk about is how our life experiences and the environment in which we grew up in has cultivated a shift in our inherent personality and how that influences our overall well-being into adulthood.
We are born wholehearted and full of love. We yearn for connection with people and experiences. When our lives lack love and connection, negative consequences can result. According to many psychologists, the most influential period in a child’s life is from infancy to five years old. This is the foundation that shapes children's future health, happiness, growth, development and learning achievement at school, in the family and community, and in life in general. You may not remember this time, but your mind, body and soul does.
Say that you grew up in an environment that was full of criticism and negativity. For example, you were always told that you were doing things wrong or were punished for not meeting the expectations of your parents and teachers, or you were not supported in what you wanted to with your future and were forced to follow a path that society deemed “normal”. Or like most American families, you were never really told “I love you” or “I am proud of you”. The foundation that would most likely result is one of self-criticism, negativity, and lack of self-worth.
You may begin to set unrealistic expectations of yourself and when you fail to meet them, beat yourself up creating negative self-talk and overall low self-esteem. You may settle for work situations that do not stretch you beyond what you believe you are capable of and therefore become complacent in just getting by. You may begin to attract relationships that further the development of these feelings as that is what you have grown accustom to in your life. Many individuals find others who share similar foundations or worse, find those who use your lack of self-worth as a manipulation tool for abuse.
As your life goes on and your experience more of the same, you begin to recognize yourself as this archetype and grow comfortable in experiencing these moments. It’s at this point you have lost that younger you, full of love, joy, and life. This is the role of nurture in your well-being journey.
Is it possible to change your foundation? YES! The first step…awareness. Don’t roll your eyes at me! Open them. Look at your life right now. Can you find a resemblance of that little boy/girl? He/she is in there just waiting to come back out of hiding.
The next step, clear out all that gunk! Find what makes you happy, fills your life with passion, and quiets the negative talk in your head. Then you become more willing and able to make a change.
For me, awareness came from practicing yoga. Yoga helped me connect with my confidence and was the catalyst for change. Then I was able to build up the courage to leave my negative environment behind and move to a place the felt more like home, Colorado. My ability to love and be loved has evolved tremendously in the past five years after taking that first step. I’m not saying you run away from your foundation, you embrace it and let it push you into the life you were meant to live.
Life is a work in progress. You take each experience as it comes and learn from them. You determine how much you let them define you. Remember, you are that little boy/girl full of life, love and joy. Always and forever.
Nature vs. Nurture Resources:
Ashley Tracey, MS RYT