What makes someone the person they are?

I have often wondered what makes someone who they are. We are often told of nature and nurture. Nature being the genetics you were born with and nurture being the environment you grow up in. Lately I’ve thought perhaps there is a third aspect, that of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is choosing to do things, consciously. It overrides other things such as emotion, because it is logical. It’s objective you might say.

A possible example is I want to have a candy bar.

  • Nature– I shouldn’t because it will be bad for my health.
  • Nurture– I shouldn’t because I will feel guilty, regretful and get disapproval.
  • Mindfulness– I shouldn’t because the bad consequences outweigh the good for me.

It is a decision based on logic rather than emotion and impulsion. This may seem a slight change, but it can make a great deal of difference. Living with mindfulness can create more strength in your personal morality and increase the success of following it in your actions, leading to positivity in many ways.

This theory of mindfulness being a third vital part in an person’s development or personality or identity, however you’d like to describe it, also answers other questions. I’ve often heard of someone acting a certain way and their actions being attributed to their nature or nurture. Genes or environment. And sometimes people even say that justifies negative actions. But then almost immediately comes to my mind, that there are often instances of people raised in negative environments, with relatives who have negative traits, being wonderful people. “Overcoming” their misfortune, or simply being a wonderful radiant human being despite their negative surroundings and difficult life. These people don’t even have to be exceptionally positive. There are people raised in negative environments, with negative genealogy that are simply positive. They are different from their nature and nurture components. There is something else that is behind this occurrence. What could be the reason? Mindfulness. It transcends nature and nurture. Mindfulness is empowering. Mindfulness is the individual having a moral code and consciously striving for it.

The individual consciousness of each person is the difference. Some might call it “soul”. It is independent of and superior to nature and nurture. Therefore it is more than integral to every individual. I think this can help in understanding people. For instance, obviously people will disagree at times, we all seem to have a different morality, as we have different individual consciousnesses. Perhaps disagreements and the separation and isolation of people may be overcome with compromise, understanding and unity. In any case, to communicate and act effectively, it is important to remember anyone you interact with is different from you.

For these and other reasons, I often think people may have a reason for their actions, but not an excuse. As in a reason being a driving force, a cause, etc. And an excuse being something that makes the action excusable. Anyway, how could we have an excuse for anything? We will never know everything. We ourselves are in a constant state of flux-including our morality, it develops with every second and experience-and so is the rest of the universe. Hindsight constantly makes things clearer, but that only tells me how much more there is to learn and know, which is great and scary.

Well at least I seem to more clearly comprehend one of the infinite amount of riddles to contemplate. Hope this may be of service to anyone. Feel free to give feedback if you wish. Peace.


14 responses to “What makes someone the person they are?

  1. Mindfulness: I like it. Anything that convinces people they have some power over the direction their lives take is good. I think it’s certainly true that some people start off with worse odds than others, and that “choice” carries different meanings in different circumstances, but if we can even the most unfortunate among us develop a mindset that, if they can control nothing else, they can control the choice they make in this moment. Thanks for the post!

  2. I agree with “atomsofthought” comment here Sophia that taking back power is good. And love this concept of “mindfulness” as the third pillar in our decisions: nature, nurture, and mindfulness. It is too easy to blame our genes or family for our tendencies, and I’m thinking of alcoholism here. It is also so easy to excuse behavior based on environment, the group of friends, what was going on at the party or something like that. How much more rewarding and positive to think “I chose to do or not do this”. Thank you for this deeply provocative essay, and for asking the important questions.

  3. Thank you for your wonderful comments and support Jennifer and “atomsofthought”. I think you guys understand what I’m saying, which is a great feeling!

  4. I think introducing mindfulness as a path to take is genius! With mindfulness you can be aware of where you are led by nature, and where you are led by nurture, and perhaps understanding yourself to a deeper degree, you can begin to formulate your person ahead of your predisposed nature and nurture patterns.

    Mindfulness and free will are ways to claim your position in space, however temporary that might be. Thank you for sharing this thought provoking post! I look forward to more.

    • Thank you! 🙂 Yes I think it is empowering to be more understanding of the power you possess. You can improve your own life very much by making conscious decisions to do so, doing whatever is best for you. And you can also help others by being a good example, and by consciously being a good citizen in the community of the Earth.

  5. Oh boy! I noticed that I left out some key words toward the end of my comment. What I meant to say was: “I think it’s certainly true that some people start off with worse odds than others, and that ‘choice’ carries different meanings in different circumstances, but if we can help even the most unfortunate among us develop a mindset that, if they can control nothing else, they can control the choice they make in this moment, then we’ve done a good thing.”

  6. People “make their own history, but not under circumstances of their own choosing” as Karl Marx said. People are not individuals in a vacuum, we are social animals. Obviously we should try to learn to stop doing things which hurt ourselves and others, but at the same time unless society changes it is much easier for wealthy, educated, well people to do so than the bulk of the world’s population. Not being a Marxist, I am very vague about how the human race can get out of the tremendous social, economic and ecological mess it is in- but I fear that mindfulness is only a tiny part of what could help us in the struggles we face. It seems to have an individualist tinge, when it appears to me that collective action is necessary at different geographical scales.

    • Your points are so true! I appreciate the Marx quote very much. The idea of the society entity-not just the individual-is something I think of sometimes as well. And often at those times I feel a bit desperate and confused. I don’t quite know how to facilitate or spark change on a large scale since there are so many preconceptions, rules, etc that exist! However, I think mindfulness at the individual scale is a good starting point and beneficial in some ways, in any case. And I hope that with more experience and education I will get better at reaching more people and figuring out how it is that we change things on a large scale. Your points led me to the thought, how much good is it to have a group of people who have figured out even a utopian method of life, if they are trapped by the ways of a very imperfect society and government? It cannot be ignored as a variable, because it is very dominant! And it is our world, and our people. Thank you so much for your feedback.

  7. Sophia,

    I totally agree with you that mindfulness is a vital part in our journey of life and so also in the fight for humanity etc.

    But I have the impression that in your concept mindfulness is…well, an independent category which isn’t influenced by nature, nuture or religion, philosophy…I think mindfulness depends not only on nuture, but also on other people and of course religion, philosophy and even on the vigor of soul.

    • Hi Joachim, I think I understand what you are saying as well. I think all things are inter-connected and that everything influences everything. Maybe that’s why I didn’t think to mention that aspect. And I think our individual mindfulness is born out of our ideas, feelings, morals, etc-which have been helped to be formed largely by our nature and nurture components. Such as religion, philosophy, people, surroundings, etc. Good point, thank you for the feedback 🙂

      • All this lead us to the question:

        What is the entity of man? (man in the sense of “human beings”, not in the sense of “males”. It’s always confusing me that in English man has these two different meanings…)

  8. John makes a good point. I think it’s certainly true that mindfulness alone will not save most people from the conditions into which they were born. Nature and nurture determine our choices, so even if we’re perfectly mindful, our station in life constrains what choices we’re able to make from moment to moment. To a great extent, circumstances also dictate our awareness of the choices we may have available to us. We can’t easily choose to do what we never knew was an option to begin with.

    I’m a teacher, and I work with students from every part of the socioeconomic spectrum. I know from experience that none of my students who were born into poverty chose their fate, and none of them knowingly choose to remain in poverty, even though statistics and anecdotal experience tell us that, like their parents and their parents’ parents, poor children are likely to stay poor for the rest of their lives. And it’s not for lack of intelligence or desire that they lead difficult lives. It’s about the constraints they live with from one day to the next, and the limits imposed on them by circumstances.

    With all of that said, Ticklemetoo, I still think that the concept of mindfulness that you articulate is a useful tool for anyone who wants to improve their life, no matter what their circumstances. Because if we don’t believe we have even minimal control over the direction our lives take, then we are guaranteed to remain stuck. We do what we can with what we’re given.

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