Whenever people start talking about “nature vs nurture”, I tune out. Honestly, I switch off. I can’t help it. Why? Because I know I’m about to taken down one of two avenues, intellectually. And I don’t want to go down either.
Either I’m going to hear about how everything is genetic, everything is pre-determined, we’re just machines, we’re made to eat and fuck, nothing more, nothing less… Or… I’m going to hear about how everything is actually nurture, how we’re all blank canvases at birth, and how if our fathers sneeze too loudly in the second week after our birth we are 34% more likely to support West Ham…
Put another way, I know I’m going to hear some bullshit.
The truth is that whilst some people like to debate it, there is no answer, and there never will be. Why? Because it’s a false dichotomy. It’s both. It’s nature and nurture. You can’t have one without the other.
The reason I bring this up is that I often find myself comparing who I am and where I am with who and where other people appear to be. This is natural, I know. We all do it. But it’s not healthy, especially done to the extreme. Well, anyway, I was writing in my journal this morning, and I found myself riding a train of thought about how ridiculous this all is. And as I kept scribbling, “nature vs nurture” found its way in and I feel like I understood it better than before. Allow me to explain.
Everybody has a unique, once-in-a-lifetime genetic make-up. So, does that mean our fates are decided at birth? No. I heard it said once that our genes are like suggestions from nature, and that’s a great way to look at it. They don’t pre-determine, but they do pre-dispose. That’s the nature part.
And then life happens, and that’s the nurture part. Our environments go to work on us, shaping us, molding us. Or, rather, our environment meets with nature’s suggestions (our genes), and it is that combination of forces that shapes us. Nature and nurture, working together to make no two lives the same.
So all this got me thinking about comparing myself to other people. More specifically, how can I do so, and still keep a straight face? It’s insane! I have a different set of genes from the person I compare myself to, and I was born into a different environment. I then lived a bunch of years where my genes and my environment met and day-by-day helped turn me into the man I am sitting here typing this… (as did theirs…)
What I realised, as I hope you do too, is that all you can ever be is you.
Compare yourself to others if it inspires you, if it spurs you on, if it gives you a healthy, positive feeling. But if it makes you feel shitty about yourself, then you have my permission to stop it today.