Circling back to identity, who are we? Specifically, how has the education we received growing up affected our development?
Who we are: character vs. personality
I had a very interesting talk with my sister — at the time, still a medical student — about how our DNA is expressed very early on in our character traits; and how personality is built on this base as we grow up.
Character is a set of traits that are embedded in our moral and mental beliefs. Personality changes over time, and is expressed in our appearance and behavior.
The art of education
It was interesting to try and identify what in our environment affects the development of our personality, and why sometimes it feels like some things can change our character too.
We came up with the power of education. Or more like the art of education.
Education, here, we decided was the influence of authority figures in our environment while we grow up.
How it affects the development of our personality
Education we receive from our parents, or other authority figures, is a reflection of their own character traits, their own values and beliefs. The method they use to deliver them is probably a reflection of their personality.
This affects our personality development — but in theory, not our character traits (although, it can — see “learning to express”).
Think about it, you’ll probably sit up straight at the table at a restaurant, while you wait for your pizza to arrive, and politely say to the waiter that you’ve been waiting here for half an hour now (personality: appearance and behavior).
But, say you’re impatient (character trait). You’ll still feel bothered and irritated that your pizza hasn’t arrived yet. You’ll frantically tap the table, or move your leg side to side. Your innate feelings about it won’t change.
What will though, is your reaction: keeping your cool, learning to be compassionate and understanding when things don’t pan out as expected (again, personality). These are learned from your education scheme, right?
“So what does it mean when I educate my children the way my parents educated me?”, you might ask.
Remember when I said that the method your parents, or other authority figures, used to educate you is a reflection of their personality? Well, that’s definitely behavior that you must have picked up on. The values, though, you’ve naturally adhered to and not. Notice that?
“My husband and I have taught the same values through the same methods to our three children, but before they could walk and talk, they were showing different reactions, certainly a preview of their own character traits”, this mother said to me. “One of my three daughters is always difficult, resisting our authority”.
Indeed, her daughter was certainly expressing a character trait. It is likely that her daughter will like to lead and make her own decisions, on her own terms one day.
The idea now is for the parents (the figures of authority), to educate their daughter’s method of delivery. If the child resists taking a bath, fine, but it’s most likely not about the bath but more about expression.
Learning to express
Education we receive from authority figures is a reflection of their own character traits, and the method they use to deliver them is a reflection of their personality. This affects our personality development, but not our character traits.
There are exceptions to that, as you might have guessed.
Because education is so powerful, it can do a lot of damage as well. Not delivering the right values in the right way can lead to toxic stress, and have severe consequences.
Dr. Burke talks about how this can alter DNA in this Ted Talk and can evidently, change character traits.