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.
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.
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.