Nature vs. Nurture: The Source of Your Personality

Steve Williamson, VP Digital Marketing and Content Creation, eRep, Inc.
Monday, November 14, 2022
Nature vs. Nurture: The Source of Your Personality

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We have learned that a great deal of our personality is baked in at birth, but that is not the end of each of our psychological stories. Your experiences and relationships can alter the part of your innate, unchanging nature that is revealed as you move forward through life.

Some say they are different people at home than they are at work. Your behavior may differ between one circumstance and another, but it's not technically true that you have different personalities.

Your behavior may change based on the circumstance, but your personality remains the same.

Consider this analogy.

If you own a Porsche 911 and are driving through a school zone, your speed and braking would be sedate and safe (hopefully). If you drive that same car on a winding mountain road, your driving style would likely be quite different.

It's the same car, but it's driven in different ways.

The way you behave is much the same way. You will act differently in a business meeting at work than you will sitting on the bleachers with other parents at your kids' soccer game. You are still you, and you still see the world the same way and have the same preferences of what you like and don't like — all the characteristics of what makes you unique — but you adjust how you act based on the circumstance.

The Influence of Parenting

How does the way you grow up influence your personality as an adult?

Your innate, unchanging nature defines how you are hardwired. Evidence shows this is set at birth. It defines your ideal and preferred way of seeing the world and operating within it.

Your human operating system is locked in at the factory.

The people that raise you often play the most influential role in your life until you are an independent adult. Their hardwired personality will determine the way they see you and parent you and behave around you, for better or worse.

If you are a naturally creative person but grew up under the roof of someone who wasn't creative — perhaps they were profoundly analytical — their natural priorities of what is enjoyable and what isn't will unconsciously act like a force of will upon the behavior you feel comfortable exhibiting. Your creative side may not be suppressed per se, but it may not be valued as much as if those raising you shared the same creative hardwiring as you.

Over time, if the natural part of your personality isn't given enough free reign, you may adopt your own internal suppression mechanisms without even realizing it.

On the other hand, you may be completely aware and deliberate about how you behave. For example, if you are a natural jokester, you might act more subdued when having an important meeting with the Big Boss. The real you is still there, but your outward behavior is modified according to the situation. The same thing can happen but over a longer period of time when you're growing up.

What if those raising you share much of your emotional hardwiring? For starters, you and them will likely see the world in much the same way and enjoy many of the same activities. You will probably grow up feeling like your personality is embraced and celebrated. Parents who are hardwired differently may still outwardly celebrate your personality but there will likely be both a conscious and unconscious awareness of your differences.

Out On Your Own

When you become an independent adult and get involved in relationships, you may be more consistent and aware of your own hardwiring (even if you haven't taken an accurate and reliable psychometric assessment like the Core Values Index). Most people as adults are aware of the basic tenets of their personality (creative, analytical, independent, intuitive, etc.)

In your relationships as an adult, the same mechanism of unconscious similarity or difference will be apparent and will play a part in how you shape your behavior.

As an adult, if you and your partner are hardwired in a similar manner, your outward behavior will likely more closely align with your inner hardwiring. Conversely, if your partner has a fairly (or radically) different psychometric hardwiring, you will likely alter your outward behavior [unconsciously] to a greater degree in order to maintain the peace (Editor's Note: I once lived next to a couple that seemed to thrive on conflict).

Although it is not technically true that our experiences (nurture) define our personality, it is very true that they shape our behavior. This impact can occur on a deep and persistent level based on our relationships with parent or partner, and at a very specific yet temporary level based on the circumstances (business meeting, soccer game, etc.)

Ultimately, your baked-in hardwiring — your personality's DNA — is essentially your preferred way of acting while your circumstances and relationships will influence your actual behavior. Underneath, you are the same person and that never changes.

Your road may change but your Porsche 911 is still a Porsche 911.

It is important to note that the way you are hardwired emotionally changes very little if at all throughout your life. If you feel as if you are a different person as an adult than you were growing up, it is likely because your circumstances and life as an adult allow you to be closer to your innate preferences. Conversely, those in unhealthy relationships or in dysfunctional jobs can actually have their true selves repressed even further.

This dichotomy can occur on a daily basis between how you feel and behave at work versus when you are at home. The environment where you feel the most comfortable and able to be your true self will more closely reflect your innate hardwiring.

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Steve Williamson

Steve Williamson

Innovator/Banker - VP Digital Marketing and Content Creation, eRep, Inc.

Steve has a career in project management, software development and technical team leadership spanning three decades. He is the author of a series of fantasy novels called The Taesian Chronicles (, and when he isn't writing, he enjoys cycling, old-school table-top role-playing games, and buzzing around the virtual skies in his home-built flight simulator.

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