A good plan violently executed is better than a perfect plan executed next week.
-George S. Patton
The Nurture Assumption
So you’ve just gone through your “How to Raise Your Kids For Dummies” book for the 4th time. You feel confident in your parenting ability. You feel you are ready to take on that next challenge in your life. You feel ready to have that kid you have been preparing for. After skimming through your notes one last time, doing your positive affirmations and meditating drills you take a deep breath and say to yourself. The time has finally come. You slowly and steadily take your box of Magnum condoms, which are clearly too big for you, and into the fireplace it goes…It’s time to start a new chapter in your life.
Well the jokes on you because it turns out that all that time spent reading your How-to books you could’ve spent reading some article on some awesome website slowing finding out that your dreams have been crushed and that, as a parent – You may actually play a very small role in your child’s development.
The Nurture Assumption
We all assume that our parents are the reason why we turn out the way we are today. However, the evidence for this claim is actually quite biased. This assumption that our parents are mostly responsible for our development is simply just a cultural myth. Realistically, a child’s development depends on many more things other than the father and the mother; things such as environment, teacher, friends, and other influential figures in a child’s life. These are things a parent has little control over.
Unfortunately the fact of the matter is there isn’t really a good way to know for sure which factor in a child’s life is most significant in how a person turns out. Researchers can only look for correlations between a trait and an environmental factor. This data is often inconclusive because humans are not black and white creatures and there are always other factors at play.
For example, we often want to know what drives a person to commit a crime or even a murder. We may look at the parents and point figures at them without considering a bad influential teacher, or a bully at school or any other factor that may or may not have even been reported. Although parents are a large factor in how a child is raised, there are many other factors at play. Parents are often quick to blame themselves for how their child turns out without considering the limitless number of other factors which may have had an impact on the child’s development.
What Really Matters
One thing science can find correlations of are genes. Studies have shown that genes definitely impact personality. Multiple studies have found that genetically identical twins, which have been separated at birth and raised in completely different homes somehow end up with very similar traits.
One particular and famous study was called the Minnesota Twin Family Study conducted between 1979 and 1999. These twins were genetically identical but were raised in very different homes. They met later in their lives and they both bit their nails, drove the same exact car, liked the same brands of beer and cigarettes and both did woodwork. What’s even more mind blowing is that they both named their sons “James Alan”.
So does this mean that twins who live in the same household with the same upbringing will basically be the same person? Surprisingly, in the same study they researched identical twins who grew up in the same household and found that the trait correlated only by 50%. This means that there was statistically, no difference between these twins and the twins who grew up separately. But how is this so? How can parents have absolutely no influence on a child’s personality?
Personality is Not Static
The thing with personality is that it is not static, it is always changing. Humans are experts at quickly adapting to social situations. The way you act around your parents is completely different than the way you act around your friends and you act a different way at work, around your girlfriend, etc. This is because as we grow older we learn that certain social rules apply in different contexts.
When we are first born we act the same way anywhere and everywhere. We cry, and as kids we complain – Whether it be in a store, library, or church. We don’t care because we don’t know. Although these things are looked down upon in society, when children do this they are being their true authentic selves. When child run around and play in a store they are lifting the social shackles and being completely who they are. An adult would fear even running in a store for fear of what others would think.
As our brains develop we slowly learn that there are actually these social norms and rules we have to abide by. Although some of these rules are important, most just dilute a child’s personality. Have you ever met somebody or heard stories about a person who seems completely normal and happy but you find out the next day he has an extremely troubled family? Or maybe he’s extremely depressed? We put on this mask in order to follow these social rules we learn as we grow up. The more and more we try to hide our true selves the more pain we cause to ourselves in the long run.
This is where this myth comes from. If a parent never smiles or looks at the child the child may never smile around the parent. However, if the child goes to school, and the teacher and children start smiling at him the child will learn to smile and look at the teacher and his or her peers. When this child goes home, he will frown again at his parents. This is just following social norms the child has learned. It does not mean the child is necessarily sad, it just means the child is imitating social norms.
At the end of the day you are who you are. There are certain things we gravitate towards, that our personality gravitates towards. In life we simply need to find those things. Those things we are meant to do, despite what others think. What others think is simply a social norm. Some kids like to run around the store. Others kids don’t. However, the truly sad thing is that all adults have convinced themselves that they do not like to run around the store.
To find out who you truly are you need to find your personality. You need to drop your social mask and learn what your personality is. In my opinion the only way to end sadness in this world is to just be free. To take off these shackles that society has put on us and just be ourselves. Be completely ourselves. How much more fun would life be? How much fun would shopping be if you just saw grown adults running around playing freeze tag or just cracking jokes at each other for no reason. Making fart jokes or even jokes that could be considered as downright insulting? But yet, at the end of the day we all knew it was just a joke and no hard feelings were exchanged. In such a socially free society bills will be less stressful, shopping and chores will be more fun because it will be less of the day to day grind and more of thinking, “Who will I meet next?”
The truth is, most people are the same. Most people don’t have a personality, they just imitate these social norms. They are quiet when they should be quiet. Loud when they should be loud. They look to others to figure out how they should act. They hide their jokes because they don’t want to offend. They don’t stand up for their values because they would rather follow these social norms.
You are not a child anymore. You need to take the mask off and live your true self. Find your true self. Embarrass yourself. Don’t listen to that part of your brain that goes “It will be weird”. When you can truly do that – When you can truly let go. Then you are truly confident.
Have a great day!