Good Essay On The Person I Am Today
Everyone is an individual, with a unique personality, set of behavioral characteristics, and outlook on life. Some may hold the opinion that these factors of a person’s individuality may be innate variations set at birth. However, a more prevalent viewpoint is that these factors, particularly once one has reached adulthood, are, at least to some extent, shaped by one’s life experiences, particularly during formative years. My experience confirms the latter; I strongly feel that certain life experiences while growing up have shaped who I am today, some more influential than others. In particular, I credit my parents with allowing me the freedom to make many of my own decisions and work through my own problems; because of this, I feel I am well equipped for adult life, and am comfortable and competent when it comes to functioning independently.
Some of the earliest decisions I remember being allowed to make were decisions about my wardrobe, a responsibility I believe I was given sometime between the ages of four and six. While this may seem small, it taught me so much; it made me feel proud, independent, and competent. I remember feeling that my parents completely trusted me to make this important decision every day, and it made me feel mature and trustworthy. Granted, if I were to make a horrible decision – such as wearing something that was inappropriate for the weather, or mismatched shoes – my parents would redirect me gently toward a more appropriate choice. But they did so without allowing me to feel that my decision was being overridden; they allowed me to feel they were helping me with my decision making process, rather than making me feel as though they were the ones in charge of this small but important task.
Studies have shown that children between the ages of two and six are in a developmental stage that focuses on seeking autonomy; overprotection in this stage – even something so simple as doing tasks for the child, instead of allowing him or her to attempt them him/herself – can lead to feelings of helplessness and frustration, which can carry over into adult life (Meece and Soderman 84). Respecting children’s abilities during this stage provides a sense of autonomy that promotes confidence and independence later in life, and some of the simplest ways to do this are wardrobe-related; let the child put on his or her own jacket, or dress him/herself (if appropriate) (Meece and Soderman 84). I am thankful that my parents set the stage for autonomy early on, during the appropriate developmental stage, by allowing me to take on this task. This milestone was soon followed by other small decisions with seemingly similar impact.
Another early decision I remember having an impact on my development was the ability to choose some of my own meals. This was not completely autonomous, whereby I was not allowed to pick out unhealthy food from the store, and I was not allowed to freely choose every single meal (as there were other family members involved). However, for certain meals (especially those we typically did not eat as a family, such as breakfast or lunches away from home), I was allowed to choose from a selection of food we had at home that was deemed appropriate for that particular meal. Being able to do that once again reinforced my parents’ trust in my decisions, and in turn, increased my trust in my parents. As a result, I was not a reluctant eater as a child, like many of my peers who were never given a say in meal preparation. I also learned cooperative decision-making through involvement in family meal decisions.
Everyone in the family had a say in family meal decisions, so it was made known that my opinion was valued and I was given a say in what we ate. However, it was also understood that other family members had equal say in the decision, and we would usually make the decision together. While being able to independently choose what I ate allowed me to strengthen my sense of autonomy and sense that my parents trusted me, having a say in family mealtime – while also having to make a decision as a group – allowed me to develop a sense of community, democracy, and understand that while my opinion mattered, so did the opinion of others. As a result, I am not only independent, but also respectful and inclusive of others’ opinions and needs.
During that time, between elementary and middle school, I was also allowed to choose my own friends, experiment with my tastes in music, and select extra-curricular activities that I felt were most appealing to me. As with previous decisions, it reinforced my parents’ trust in my decisions, my sense of maturity, and development of autonomy. However, it also had another positive consequence: I was allowed to freely learn from my mistakes. Studies have shown that if parents make decisions for their children, the child is often prevented from making mistakes (Taylor 1). While this may appear to be a benefit, studies have shown that making mistakes is an important process by which children learn to improve their decision making skills, and make more responsible and educated decisions in the future (Taylor 1). It is considered essential to development of maturity, and those who are not allowed to experience this trial and error often wind up having difficulty understanding good versus bad decisions later in life, perhaps even into adulthood (Taylor 1).
Because I was allowed to choose these things at a young age, I inevitably made some decisions that were not quite right for me: I chose extracurricular activities that I was not compatible with, I chose friends that perhaps were not the best influence on me, and a multitude of other small, seemingly insignificant poor choices along the way. However, as the result of being allowed to make choices earlier in life, and my confidence in myself that arose from my parents’ trust in me (and perhaps the maturity that this had fostered), I was able to recognize on my own that these were perhaps not the best decisions, and make the necessary changes. Recognition of my own poor decision making process led to increased self-awareness and renewed confidence once I realized I was able to fix my own mistakes, and learn from them. As a result, my ability to make responsible decisions improved, and I was given more and more responsibility regarding decisions that I was allowed to make for myself.
Many of the decisions that came with increased age and trust included setting my own schedule with regard to study hours, deciding how and what I studied, choosing my own elective classes, deciding how many hours of study time versus free time I would get each day, and so on. I was free to plan and prepare my own snacks and lunches, spend time with my friends either at their house or mine, play in the park with my neighbors as well as read a book of my own choice. I eventually was even allowed to set my own bed times, snack times, and was given input on such decisions as curfews. So much freedom not only increased my confidence in making my own decisions, it increased my respect for my parents; any rules they did enforce, anything that I was not freely allowed to do, gave me pause. I understood that if they felt it necessary to remove the decision making process from me, then it obviously was important that they do so, and I trusted their decisions; it did not make me feel undermined or untrusted, nor did it mar my sense of autonomy or confidence because there was still so much I was able to do on my own.
As I got older, I also remember being involved in my own healthcare decision making processes. Any doctors’ appointment, no matter how small, always involved asking me how I felt about the end result. The doctor always asked if he or she could perform an exam, and if a medicine was prescribed, it was always presented to me as a choice, and I was always asked, either by a parent or healthcare professional, if I had any concerns or questions before I left. This was extremely empowering. As a teenager, I was entrusted entirely with my own healthcare, and was often allowed to autonomously make decisions for my care without adult input (although in many matters I asked for, and respected, my parents’ opinions). It may come as no surprise that I feel this was empowering, however: physicians are often encouraged to involve children in the decision making process, as it fosters their dignity, sense that they are respected, and is their right as human beings (although of course, must occur on a level that is commensurate with their current developmental disabilities) (Taub 1).
Being involved in my own healthcare decisions did indeed make me feel valued, respected, and in control of my own body and healthcare. As I got older, this confidence inspired me to stand up for myself, be bold enough to ask questions in any setting if I did not understand the concepts presented, or speak up if the terms or outcome of something made me uncomfortable. I also credit this, in part, to the reason I was able to stand up to bullies, voice my opinion in a classroom, and be of the opinion that I am valued, that my voice and opinion deserve to be heard.
These experiences, which started in early childhood with my ability to choose my own wardrobe, and continued with my ability to choose my food, friends, activities, schedule, and make decisions regarding my own healthcare, have absolutely played a large role in shaping me into the person I am today. Today, I am confident, independent, and secure in my ability to make decisions. I am not dependent upon my parents, nor have I ever really been; however, because of their trust in me, I have great respect for and trust in them as well. Their trust in me, and my ability to make decisions, allowed me to properly develop autonomy, independence, and foster my self-esteem during ages in which these are important developmental milestones. I have also developed maturity in my decision making: I understand that we all make mistakes, and will inevitably continue to make them, with enough confidence in my ability to correct my own mistakes, having been allowed to make them as a child. On occasion, though, I am humble enough to ask my parents for help if needed, which I believe is also a result of having been allowed to make my own decisions – it fostered trust in my parents, and that trust has led to a long lasting, secure relationship in which no one is too proud to ask for help. I am eternally grateful to my parents for allowing me these experiences as a child, such that I have grown into a responsible, independent adult.
Meece, Darrell and Soderman, Anne. “Positive Verbal Environments: Setting the Stage for Young Children’s Social Development”. Young Children 9 Sept 2010. Print.
Taub, Sarah. “Learning to Decide: Involving Children in their Healthcare Decisions.” AMA Journal of Ethics. 5.8 (2003): 1-1. Print.
Taylor, Jim. “Parenting: Decision Making”. Psychology Today 19 Oct 2009. Web. 3 March 2015. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/200910/parenting-decision-making>