Do The Experiences We Have And Share Make Us Who We Are?

Do The Experiences We Have And Share Make Us Who We Are?

I put forth the question on social-media do the experiences we have and share make us who we are?  Such a question spontaneously emanated as a consequence of my personal life experiences.  After receiving many positive comments, I felt it worthy of contemplation.

 “It is what we do with those experiences that mostly shape us.” 

Does what we do with those experiences shape us mostly?  From personal experience, I believe that all experiences affect us.  However, “what we do with those experiences” determines if we develop a better version of ourselves or not.  Do we remain stuck in negative experiences? This is where growth and development steps in, a central important barometer for what constitutes our wellbeing.   

As another comment was put forward. “We persist in our quest to become our best version ever”. However, do we all persist to the same degree?  Do we have the possibility or potential when facing adversity?  Do we have the same opportunities, the right timing, the required environment and support to do so?  Do we have what it takes, the resilience to overcome problems or obstacles including coping with the symptoms when facing rejection, pain, fear, failure or judgement? Therefore, what choices do we have or what direction do we take?  Especially when we are faced with conflicting choices? 

Bitter or better?” 

Someone commented do we become “bitter or better?”. In other words, do we permit past experiences to form us or taint us? Do we allow experiences to influence us negatively developing anger, frustration, alienation or anomie as prominent sociologists such as Durkheim and Merton studied (Bell, 2010).   

Do we become hardened by such experiences? After all, not all people have the opportunity to be blessed with experiencing happiness to the same degree.  For some, the balance of experiencing happiness may not be equivalent.  For others may perceive experiences differently, especially when facing rejection, failure, sadness, trauma or fear.   

Our experiences shape us 

As was further noted, “we are shaped by the experiences we share with family, friends, our surroundings, culture and beliefs“.  May I also humbly propose that our age, ethnicity, sickness, behaviour, physical and mental challenges, education, work and finances also affect our lived experience.  Therefore, we are shaped by both personal and social factors.  

Moreover, the interactions and relationships that we share with others might weigh heavily on our lives shaping who we are (our identity).  When supported by our community, this gives us a sense of self, a purpose and belonging.  

However, what is the likelihood of feeling that we have purpose or belong somewhere when we cannot cope with the demand’s life throws at us.  When we are at a disadvantage, when we are too young to take control of our lives, vulnerable, under qualified, discriminated, economically deprived, excluded from a conventional home lifestyle, abused, emotionally controlled or just alone?   Such that we no longer fit into the stereotype of what society considers normal.   

What occurs when as a consequence of this we no longer conform to the status quo, the social values or demands of a given culture? We end up rebelling as sociologists such as Merton maintained when we face social strain (Bell, 2010).  

Seeking deep within oneself 

Therefore, circumstantial limitations may obstruct our path to a better version of ourselves. Still, there is hope as was commented, “Yet who we really are depends on the depth we seek within ourselves“.  So, let’s stop, reflect and turn inwardly putting forward the following question.  Do we all have the potential to search deeply with ourselves so as to get in touch with our soul?

I personally believe so, and this is where beliefs, spirituality and values become particularly significant.  As such search requires factors such as awareness; motivation; the ability to work through our weakness and limitations; to look beyond with great courage; building on our strengths and having the well-needed community support to reach our full potential.  

Why me? 

On the other hand, one cannot deny that the impact of certain experiences instils the deep need to ask Why? The “Why” is intertwined between ourselves and the experiences that influence us.  Why do we have to go through experiences that throw us at the deep end?   

The answer is not offered on a silver plate as it entails learning lessons from certain experiences that impact our lives most deeply.  Here time becomes an intrinsically important factor for growth requiring a process of reflection, self-healing, discovery, commitment, determination and risks.  

Moreover, because of our experiences, working hand in hand with spirituality and seeking answers to our questions helps us to transform and delve deeper into discovering “Why”?  

So why do we have experiences that impact our very core?  

As someone commented, “even a low time can be a blessing”.  If we allow ourselves to reflect and look back, we might notice that going through a “why me” experience helps us discover who we are, our purpose and how we want to actualize ourselves.  As was well interpreted with profound meaning to “shape our habits, attitudes, nature and character”.   

A personal reflection   

Returning to my own lived experience makes me realize that every experience has enabled me further growth.  However, at times such growth was not easy as it encompasses many of the above-mentioned points shared and reflected upon.  Using the analogy of a roller coaster ride with its synergy of fluctuating dips of highs and lows, hard lessons may ignite fear or failure.   However, the upside means that those experiences can help to reach the point of self- discovery and the thrill of becoming a better version of oneself, to live an enriching life which mechanism potentially aids in giving something back into our community.

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Bell, A. (2010). The subculture concept: A genealogy. In S. G. Shoham, P. Knepper, & M. Kett (Eds.), International handbook of criminology (pp. 153-183). United States: Taylor & Francis Inc.

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2 thoughts on “Do The Experiences We Have And Share Make Us Who We Are?”

  1. David Kinsella

    I’d say this is one of the most important lessons in life. Until we realise that we have been shaped by our experiences, and learn to know ourselves, we might go about interacting with people not trusting them, getting into fights, breaking up with partners, because we would be interacting with them in the way that negative experiences shaped us.
    They, on the other hand, may not understand us since they didn’t go through the same experiences. And see us as weird, etc. So this results in a lot of friction between people.
    So once we understand how our past shaped us and become aware of our negative coping skills, our ways of thinking, assumptions, etc. about people and the world (e.g. we can’t trust anybody at all), we understand who we really are and become free from the chains and can find a meaningful life and grow.
    The “why me” part struck me, too. Some of us go through mental illness, physical illness, any form of abuse… it’s impossible to know why a certain person goes through a certain adversity. Some say because God knows that he or she can handle that particular adversity. I believe that each of us has the opportunity to help particular people in similar situations if we use our past experiences not only to grow ourselves, but to help others who are going through them, too.
    But let’s also consider other types of persons… Those who seem to have had an easy life, coming from a privileged background, and have become very successful in life. Some of these people… can they really understand people who are suffering? Does it make them subconsciously feel uncomfortable because they realise that they were lucky in life and would much prefer to think that their success in life is only due to their own hard work? Just a thought for reflection. Thank you.

    1. You have mentioned some valid points such as trust issues, projection and thus conflict with others. You also highlight the lack of understanding,putting oneself in another person’s shoes or empathy which is somewhat lacking in today’s society. Such social skills are important to develop so as to achieve healthy relationships and thus feel that empathy should be nurtured from an early age. Am in agreement also that having certain experiences can benefit others. What comes to mind are individuals such as Nelson Mandela. His political experience of imprisonment (though unjustified) developed his pursuit to support his movement through his writings as well as helping others behind bars. You also shed light on other important aspects such as believing we are in control of our own lives on account of one’s own merit. Though a prominent feature in modern society, I also feel too much is expected off us and hence is understandable when we develop stress on account of not coping. Yet am in agreement that others also feel that their lived experiences are supported by God who overlooks everything. On the other hand, I would also add that though being born in a privileged lifestyle, we can also experience challenges. However, I believe that the values we adopt shape our attitudes of how we react to the misfortunes of others. Thank you for sharing.

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