Who do you consider to be influences in your lives? How have they played a role in shaping who you are today? Have they been positive influences or negative? We all have been shaped in some way or another by those who have played varied roles in our lives. Our first role models being our parents or guardians. Before we even realized it, these people were paving the way to who we are today.
Studies show that from birth through the first five years of life are the most impacting years on a child’s brain development. This means that a child is most greatly influenced, positively or negatively, within this span of five years. Because parents are generally the ones who manage a child’s activities, a child’s social skills are typically determined according to the environments that the parent(s) expose their child to. Children are also affected by what they see within their environments. How parents interact with others, make choices and determine right over wrong all play a part in how a child develops and is influenced. Despite environments however, genetic influences still play a part in a child’s personality. Similarities between parent and child can present themselves through genetic predispositioning so parental influence is not the only contributing factor.
Understanding the Power of Influence
When someone is asked who their hero is or who they look up to they will almost always answer with the name of an individual who had the greatest impact on their life. That person is highly esteemed and regarded to this person. So it’s easy to see how parents can have such a powerful influence.
Interactions between a parent and child are the foundational building blocks of growth. Through these interactions a child learns the difference between good and bad, right and wrong, who they are and who they can become. Though genetic factors may layout a blueprint, they do not determine the direction of growth in a child’s life. The environment that a parent creates is ultimately what directs and instructs a child’s development process making them the greatest influence in a child’s life. This means that as a parent or guardian you have the power of influence; what you say or don’t say will shape your child(ren). What you do or don’t do has a strong influence on who your child(ren) become. Essentially you are a co-writer, creating the beginning chapters in the story of their lives. Luckily, this influential position will simply come down to you providing them with a loving and nurturing environment that offers them a sense of security. Studies have shown that these types of environments actually stimulate neural connections within the brain and are responsible for a child’s thought process, emotional well being and behavior traits.
Knowing Who We Are Outside of Our Influences
There comes a time in all our lives where we have the ability to make decisions for ourselves. This includes taking control of our mindsets, emotions and thought processes. Regardless of the environments we grew up in, whether healthy or not healthy, we get to decide who we become. Environmental factors definitely play a role in shaping who we are but as we mature and learn we begin to understand that we can separate ourselves from these factors; making decisions for ourselves towards what we currently value. This may mean we have to break free from certain ways of thinking if our environments were unhealthy and led us to unhealthy ways of thinking, but even this consists of personal decision making where we as individuals ultimately decide for ourselves. There’s a lot of power in being able to think and make decisions independently. One could even say it’s freeing. Essentially, this mindset is what allows us to step away from the negatives that influences have had on our lives and open the door to a healthier us.
What Shapes Us Does Not Define Us
Understanding that we are not limited to our environmental experiences and the influences they have had on us helps us to continue growing in a healthy direction. Here we begin to see that though influences may shape us they do not define us. We ultimately decide which direction to set course and have the power to turn the wheel in whatever direction we choose. Influences will still exist in our lives but we can regard them in wisdom; maintaining our individual personhood and growth as an individual.
Limitations almost always come down to mindset. Believing that we are held back because of our environmental upbringing, cultural upbringing or life’s experiences is a mental stumbling block that will ensnare the rest of our lives and who we can potentially become if we allow it. Therefore, it starts with a decision. What will we believe? What will we allow to define us? And what decisions will we make to set the trajectory of our life? Influences are powerful but even they do not hold the ultimate power of who you become.