If we really are born with a personality, as many psychologists tell us, there is plenty of evidence to makes us think so, but also plenty to argue against it.
If I were a Badass Orange person, for example, you just might agree I was probably born with great physical abilities and an adventurous nature. I would tell you that, yes, I worked hard to get skillful, but that I honestly feel that I was gifted at birth with a terrific body type, a bottomless cauldron of endless energy, and a ridiculous comfort level with risky behavior. I’d say, yes, you are looking at a naturally born Badass. I am Orange, Orange, Orange.
On the other hand, we just might discover that our individual temperaments are nothing like our parents’. Our siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and our own children have core values in direct contrast to our own. How could our own DNA manifest itself so differently? How is it, then, that we are ‘born’ with this personality?
I challenge you to look back over your whole life for just a minute. How different are you, really, from the kid in grade school you remember? Was your main core value that much different from now? For example, if you were dependably responsible then, are you still that way now? I mean, is ‘dependable responsibility’ still more important than harmony seeking, than knowledge and competence, or than personal freedom? If that principal core value remains the same, there’s a case to be made that you came into the world with a strong DNA-based temperament. You always were and always will be Gold, a Loyalist, a logistical thinker.
Needless to say, you were a hostage of your parents until your teenage years, so you have to wonder how much of ‘who you are’ comes from a natural temperament and how much comes from the intense nurturing that your parents and community thrust upon you for over a dozen years. All those people influenced your thinking, your philosophy of life, your religion, even your politics and career choices. You have to ask yourself, “How many of my life choices came from the real me, from my innate temperament, and how many were influenced by the society around me?
So am I living my own life, or someone else’s idea of life?”
To paraphrase Rene Descartes, we can’t live until we reject everything we’ve been taught and then begin to design our own life. Descartes’ thinking must have come from the realization that a real, innate self needs to trump the weavings of the cultures swirling around us in order for us to truly fulfill our destiny. Ah, there’s the word: Destiny. And I don’t think the word ‘destiny’ here means ‘pre-destined fate’ that we really cannot control, but a pre-determined set of talents and intelligence that need to blossom under our own control, in the face of the cultures around us, to find the best possible path for a lifetime.
So do I think we were all born with a temperament? You betcha. Both nature and nurture contribute to who we are as whole persons, but I am certain our brains and bodies arrive with some kind of pre-installed hard drive (temperament) that develops into a whole character through configurations with the apps of life.
The trick, I think, is to discover the right path early in life rather than later. And if it’s clear our own path differs significantly from the paths of the gang that lives around us, our choice to follow our own right path will probably demand a ton of uncomfortable honesty and raw courage.