Are we all the same? Or are we all different? People seem to argue over this topic endlessly. Consider the following scenarios:
He says he doesn’t want attention. But did you look at his face when he was called up to speak? He clearly loved the attention. We all love attention. We’re all the same.
She doesn’t like it when someone interferes in her personal life. Others may love it when you ask them about their relationships, but she gets very defensive. We’re all different you see.
Many well-meaning people will sagely tell you that we’re all unique, that we have our own peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. This makes you believe that no two people are alike just like no two snowflakes are alike.
Then there are others who insist that alike or not, we’re all snowflakes after all. They tell you that we’re all the same.
The result is confusion- are we all the same or are we not? I’m certain this confusion must’ve gripped you at some point in your life and that you may have fluctuated between the two schools of thought depending on your recent observations.
Each one of us is unique, just like everyone else
Both schools of thought are correct. We’re all similar and different from each other at the same time.
We, humans, are born with some hard-wired behaviours that are a part of our genetic heritage. These are the behaviours that we demonstrate just because we are humans or because of our gender. These are the default settings that we’re all born with. So, in a way, nobody is born a clean slate.
For example, we all want to feel important, special and loved. We all like food and sex. These are basic human needs no one can claim they’re free of unless they’ve deluded themselves or suffered from severe neurological disorders.
We all have a subconscious mind that operates in exactly the same way in all of us. Though it stores different beliefs in different individuals, the interaction with those beliefs happens in the same way, resulting in similar emotions and behaviours.
This fact alone has largely made the study of mind possible. If everyone’s subconscious worked differently, we wouldn’t have known whatever little we know about it today.
Then there’s another category of behaviours known as learned behaviours. As the name suggests, we are not born with these behaviours but learn them from our environment. These are what make each one of us unique.
No two people are raised in exactly the same set of circumstances and so no two people have the same set of beliefs. Even identical twins differ in their learned behaviours due to different life experiences.
The boy who says that he doesn’t want attention may actually have never succeeded in gaining attention and so invents a new lie, ‘I don’t want attention’ to protect his ego. But when he does receive it, he behaves exactly the way his genes have programmed him to behave.
The girl who doesn’t want others to interfere in her personal matters is the one whose environment made her believe that others’ interference can harm her relationship. Maybe she saw it happen to someone or maybe it happened in her previous relationship.
Learned behaviours can override in-born behaviours
When we get a new mobile phone it has default factory settings. Everyone customizes the settings according to their own needs and tastes. In a similar way, our environment can sometimes program us with beliefs that override our in-born beliefs.
For example, all women love being feminine and this is the way they’re programmed to behave in order to attract males, and it works. But take the case of tomboys, the not-so-feminine girls that hate pink, dress up, talk and walk like boys.
It’s possible that tomboys are like that because they’ve grown up in circumstances that made them look down upon their female identity and so they’re running away from it, in the opposite direction, towards being a male.
So why does a girl become a tomboy? The reasons can be plenty but they all revolve around one thing- a disliking the female identity.
Maybe she always saw females being ill-treated to the point that her mind motivated her to avoid acting like a female just so she could avoid the ill-treatment herself. Or maybe she admired the role of her father as a caregiver much more than she did of her mother.
Another reason why girls can become tomboys is when the parents treat the male child more favourably. In this case, the girl’s mind thinks that by acting boyishly, she can get more favours.
Whatever the reason, a tomboy hates her female identity and does what she can to appear like boys. So, in this case, a learned behaviour overcame a genetic predisposition.
Another good example of a learned behaviour overcoming an inborn behaviour would be that of suicide.
Even though we’re hard-wired to behave in ways that ensure our survival, the beliefs that we pick up in this world and the emotions that they generate can be so powerful that they can override our most primitive evolutionary programming.