Nature, Nurture and Free Traits

There are people who believe that we are who we are because of nature (genetic coding).  There are people who believe that we are who we are because of nurture (upbringing).  And then there are those who believe in both (DNA+upbringing).  Now, there is another group who might believe in the Free Traits Theory (Dr. Brian R. Little).  I, for one, subscribe to it.

According to the free traits theory, we are born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits but we can and do act out of character in the service of “core personal projects”.  For example, introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly.

It now becomes clear to me why I always find that my personality test results do not really describe who I really am.  I also often disagree with how others describe or view me.  The descriptions always seem so incomplete and superficial or even contradicting.

One’s behaviour does not come about just because of his/her DNA or upbringing.  It also stems out of personal values.  And until and unless you know and understand what the person values (on top of genetic make-up and upbringing), you will never truly know him/her.

Similarly for someone who is “finding himself”… until or unless you know what you stand for, you will merely exist or continue to struggle with internal conflicts.

The popular saying of “never judge a book by its cover” should be practiced by all, even by a person judging him/herself.

Many times, I miss out on opportunities to do something I really like because others might have already decided that I am not “cut out for it” without first seeking my view.  It is discomforting to find out that an opportunity was already given to someone else (who might be naturally capable for but not interested in the project) before I even knew about it.  We must always give everyone the benefit of doubt… that maybe… just maybe… this person could “rise up to the occasion” because he is motivated by strong and lasting values.

I may be blunt and cold by nature but give me a child and I’ll be tender.

I may be conscientious and meticulous by nature but give me meaningless work and I’d strip it to the minimum to get it out of my sight asap.

The next time you look at me (or anyone else), don’t just look at what I am good at by nature, don’t just know my idiosyncrasies because of my upbringing, but get to know what’s important to me.

Human beings are complex and colourful creatures who are capable of rising up to any occasion for as long as it is of importance to them.


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