I once saw a photo of a patch of shaved tiger’s skin. The stripes are actually on the skin, as well as the fur — stripes all the way through. That’s one of the reasons a tiger can’t change his stripe (or a leopard her spots, for that matter).
For the majority of my adult life I have believed in nature versus nurture. We are born a certain way, and although some things can be changed, most cannot. Of course, nurture plays a part, but not nearly as large as our genetic make up. Or maybe, just maybe, I am a pessimist about human beings.
A study a few years ago found out that when people are told to change the way they live or they would die, many actually cannot nor are willing to change. Here’s the fable that illustrates that point.
Once, a scorpion had to cross a river. He came to a frog and begged the frog to give him a ride on her back. But the frog was hesitant. “What if you sting me?” she asked the scorpion. “Why would I do that? Then we’ll both die,” replied the scorpion. So the frog agreed, and the scorpion climbed on her back and they set off. Half way across the river, the scorpion stung the frog. “Why? Why did you sting me — now we will both die,” exclaimed the frog. “I can’t help it,” replied the scorpion. “I’m a scorpion, it’s in my nature.”
So, can people change? Absolutely. If they really, really want to. Can convicts be rehabilitated? Yes, if they really want to. Can I change my eating habits and improve my exercise regimen to ward off a heart attack? You bet your sweet bippy! Of course, human beings can change. But true change is difficult and, often, painful. But lasting change, although attainable, is difficult, and I don’t trust quick changes. Nor do I think most people are either able nor want to change. Status quo is a comfortable, known factor, even if it is uncomfortable.
I’m not one to get excited over new challenges. I am one to sigh heavily and shake my weary head. I do not consider myself a hard worker, although I am fairly certain my DNA is wired for hard work (I come from a long line of hard workers). So what am I to do? It’s not complicated, but it’s not easy, either.
I want to improve: my writing, my discipline, my routine. Without eating my feelings, I want to see how much work I can do to excavate my honest-to-goodness authentic hard worker self. I know it’s there — I’ve seen glimpses of it. It requires journaling, more walking to keep both body and mind active.
I was never sheltered or had “helicopter parents,” but I was always protected and taken care of. Not exactly spoiled — I was told “no” plenty of times growing up, and had responsibilities and duties at home that I did without allowance and without complaining (whining about being forced to play piano doesn’t count). I have lived on my own, in different places, even traveled by myself. Yet I still feel as if I am not as independent of thought and deed as I want to be. Nor have I worked hard, really hard, since graduate school, and it’s been several decades since I graduated. Those are kinda negative thoughts about myself.
On the positive side, those stripes don’t go all the way down. They are learned habits — therefore, they can be unlearned.
I’m a little scared that I might turn out to be a scorpion, but at least I would know what I am up against. There is no need to lose hope before going into battle, that’s how battles are lost. I just have to gird my loins (I love that expression and have been wanting to use it) and get to work.