What Defines ‘You’?

The recent election results in the USA has made me think about what really defines us—how others perceive us, what and how our beliefs are shaped, and what influences us and how that impacts us and shapes our development. There are multiple factors that once combined contribute to who we become, but does that define you, and what your morals, standards, and beliefs are?

First of all, our direct environment can affect our beliefs, and morals, which is why the first few years of life are important as it creates a foundation for what we believe in. However, things can change so nothing is set in stone. Our parents, siblings, teachers, peers, and the people such as neighbors can provide an initial foundation for what we become and what we build upon. But what about those who come from a background where there was instability, does that mean it will affect a child and their development? It could go either way; perhaps that is what they know and expect in life, or they will see it and know that is not the direction they wish to follow.

What you choose to do for a living, where you decide to live, your choice of friends, political beliefs, religion, lifestyle choices, even what newspaper you opt to read, all contribute to what external perceptions people will have of you. Of course it is wrong to stereotype, but often psychologists find patterns that fit into categories, and people will do this subconsciously, wondering whether they want to get to know you better or not.

I have met many people who have overcome a background that was less than ideal, or they appear to have done so. Take for example Hollywood actors who came from humble backgrounds; on the surface they may have changed and evolved, but perhaps underneath it all, it was that lifestyle that pushed them to escape, or that part of them is still grounded in those early beliefs?

We aren’t always a product of our environment, but some people are. You simply can’t generalize because we all have choices, and some seek out other paths, while others are content to follow the path ahead rather than to source an alternative one. I come back to the Trump voter, which I think many psychologists would like to study and try to understand their beliefs, morals, and levels of humanity. Indeed, I feel it would be a useful study, however, many people will not admit openly to voting for Trump, or those that do have no answer when questions of discrimination or racism are raised. Instead of answering the question, people divert the answer towards Clinton, and say Trump wasn’t as crooked as her. Therefore, they silently admit (for they can’t deny) by evading the question that Trump has made racist statements, thus by supporting Trump, they also support racism. That’s what I can’t get my head around. Two friends (both from ethnic backgrounds) said they supported Trump over Clinton, and both are women. It confounds me, having being a victim of racism that people could support someone who has publicly been racist.

While politics is  a grey area, it can still define the core basis of your beliefs, just as your religion can. Often it’s easier to say you don’t follow any particular party or religion to avoid people judging you, because they will even if they never say anything. It’s the same when you are a child, where your parents don’t want you to be friends with those from bad families. Outward perceptions and judgments are made all of the time, but do they matter? People are more comfortable around those with shared beliefs, but that doesn’t mean they can be trusted automatically. That’s a red herring, which is why people do create public personas and images so that they can attract the desired friends and networks. What groups you join, and who you follow on social media defines the kind of person you are to the outside world, because you are making a statement to say, ‘This is what I agree with and like,’ so be careful who you follow or like.

As a child I was bullied for being clever and looking different, and as a result I ended up a loner observing all that was around me rather than be involved in things. I knew where I came from wasn’t a great neighborhood, but often as a child that is one thing you cannot control. You can’t control where you live, but you can make the best out of the situation, and you can choose who you wish to speak to and who to avoid. I say that, because I did, although for many I know that may not be possible. If someone I didn’t like visited I would hide and be shy, to avoid having to interact. Now, I just block them on social media or ignore their emails.

When people meet me, they are surprised at my background because I’m not typical of my peers or the natives in my area, nor am I similar to my parents. That’s because I decided for myself what my beliefs were going to be, based on moral principles, and logical and realistic facts. I was born in a small mining village where most people lived in council houses, supported Labour (and hated Thatcher), and thought if you didn’t speak with a local accent you were a snob. Yes, it’s a small minded place, and I always knew that and couldn’t wait to leave, but even the locals will admit that the area is rundown with few prospects. Throughout my childhood I battled against my direct environment, often arguing with those in authority because I saw them as small minded. I did win on several occasions, because my argument had basis and was logical. I nearly got suspended from college, but all could see I had a valid case and argument and I got my way and hopefully paved the way for others.

While our beliefs can adapt or change according to our personal experiences and influences, do they differ greatly from what foundations were created as a child? I find that social media has more of a brainwashing effect on people, and the media too depending on which paper you choose to read. Finding neutral and unbiased reports, and opinions, is much harder which is why I like philosophy, because it is supposed to look at all the options and then let the reader decide. Naturally, a philosopher can highlight what appears to be logical or rational depending on which philosophical approach they are taking.

What defines me is my moral compass and that is the bedrock of my belief system. I know right from wrong, even though I may have made errors in the past—that is how I know what is wrong for me at least. I am influenced by very little, but then again I don’t get impressed easily, even at my own achievements. Are you thinking for yourself, and can you explain why you have your beliefs or standards? If not then maybe think to yourself why and how did those perceptions come into being. Are you an individual or a byproduct of what you see and hear?

Surround yourself with like-minded people…

That’s easier said than done, but how do you define like-minded, and if you are an individual is that even possible? The people we choose to have around us influences us subconsciously whether we like it or not, and on a societal level subliminally tells people about the kind of person you are or your beliefs. It shouldn’t, but people sometimes can’t help but judge on the surface. Why else would your parents forbid you from being friends with those who have been involved in dodgy dealings? It’s because who your friends are, or whom you choose to be in your circle reflects on how you are perceived and judged by society.

Naturally, there are instances where you cannot choose certain bonds, like your peers, family members, work colleagues, or neighbors. Reputations count, and a neighborhood with desirable residents is highly thought of (posh versus the rough council estates), so people do judge you on where you choose to live. The workplace is a little harder, because sometimes you choose a career, but you can’t choose the reputation of the company. People like to name drop where they have worked, because it elevates their status, but does that really matter?

Can you choose honest, kind, generous, and intelligent company all of the time and is it even possible? Does that mean you should abandon friends that have made mistakes, such as a friend who had an affair, or who got fired from a job for stealing. As a friend you choose whether to support them and give them a chance, or to distance yourself. Humans aren’t perfect, and we do all make mistakes, but having the kind of people who are on your wavelength with shared beliefs does make it easier, and can inspire you.

This also applies to online communities as well as real life interactions. I have discovered certain websites or forums have communities that either you feel comfortable with and can join in, or the members are so far removed from your perceptions it’s not worth trying to interact. An example would be a political forum, where the owner and moderators are right wing and biased; they attack any one who doesn’t agree with them and so there is little point being part of that community. Another one I encountered was one on couponing; the community was given the power to remove any deals they didn’t understand, didn’t think was a real deal, or ones that they thought were misleading. Of course these are all subjective, and when I realized that the community was made up of stay at home moms aged 25 with at least three children, the uneducated, or unemployed when a posting was flagged as confusing and difficult to understand. I’m not sure how difficult it is to understand buy two items and get a free gift, but for some that is hard and obviously not the kind of company I need to deal with or interact with.

There was a New Moon recently and I had a dream that referred to the Fibonacci sequence. I wasn’t sure what that message meant and asked a community I do take part in their thoughts. Someone asked if I saw the Fibonacci Arc; unsure of the significance, another member compared it to the beginning of the Yellow Brick Road. Then I recalled this blog I started, that charts my journey on the Yellow Brick Road. I have been stuck on my journey for a while, just as Dorothy fell asleep in the poppy field. Perhaps it’s time to have faith in the Yellow Brick Road again, and the path will clear; maybe I will find some like-minded company to accompany me on my next leg of the journey?

Reality versus Perceptions

What is reality and how do our perceptions change? Sometimes it comes with age and experience and other times it’s just plain common sense. Is society so blinkered these days where reality seems so abhorrent and sad that people have to create perceptions to survive?

Who wants reality when they can live in a bubble and pretend that their lives can be like celebrities or reality television stars? Reality shows are staged and scripted by prompts; people don’t really live like that and if it gets boring or people don’t cooperate they ‘leave’ the show.

The problem is the media hypes reality to be something it’s not, and behind closed doors the persona of most people is in fact very normal and boring. Famous models and actresses do walk around without makeup and politicians and actors do take public transport. Reality is not always exciting, but is about survival and being as happy and content as possible. The media tempts and goads us to buy bigger houses, buy expensive clothes, and to eat out at fancy restaurants. If the average person can do, then we all can, can’t we is the message they portray. In society we are perceived as equal, but it’s human nature where you will always find someone who wants to be bigger and better than a sibling, neighbors, or friends. No one will admit it, but it’s true.

Our perceptions change when we yearn for something that we are led to believe we can be or have. We want to believe it’s possible, or some choose to only see what they want to see. Many don’t want to know about the homeless street people (thinking it’s their own fault) or the single parent working two minimum wage jobs, or that the elderly maybe lonely and need help. We are led to believe that these things are taken care of, but in reality they are not. What if it was you?

Reality is seen as depressing and boring, but is honest and is how many people do live or survive in this world. People do struggle to put food on the table and live hand to mouth, racism and sexism still exists despite the laws making it illegal, and people do lie and cheat. Accepting reality and acknowledging it is much better than pretending it doesn’t happen, yet the reality for the minority is that their lives can be out of touch for the masses. Even the celebrity life can be a façade—what is perceived and what is reality are two different things. The sibling of a famous actor told me that they saved their air miles to travel, even though they are a multi-millionaire. I remember well-known comedian traveling on the bus standing next to me, and a model and pop star were told that they had to give up the two tables they were using and to let me have one. That’s reality, what many don’t see.

Society is built up on materialism, and humanity, in helping others and protecting nature comes further down the list. What we perceive makes us happy, but how real is it? Are you brave enough to see reality in humanity for what it really is, or is it easier to create your own perceptions?