Was I “born this way”?

Computer graphic of a DNA strand.

News headlines claim that scientists have discovered that people are “born” a certain way. They say our personality traits are “in the genes”. Is it true? And if so, are we unchangeable?

The truth about genetics

Tabloid journalists love a story about a “gene” being discovered that “causes” different personality traits. A gene causing everything from obesity to adultery has been “found” according to the media. Yet it is mostly nonsense.

The truth about genetics is not so simple:

  • No one single “gene” causes any personality trait.
  • Genes cannot express themselves, or act, without the right environment.
  • Genes can switch on and off depending on your environment.
  • Identical twins, who have identical DNA, do not always share the same personalities or disorders.

So the story is not as simple as the newspapers would have you believe. Having a certain gene does not doom you to be a certain way.

Identical twins

Two identical twin babies.

Genetics certainly influence us, but they cannot be your fate. We know this thanks to identical twins.

Identical twins have the same DNA, so if one has a certain personality trait which is genetic, the other twin must always have the same trait too. If identical twins do not always share the same personality traits, then those traits cannot be entirely genetic.

What do we find if we look at these things among identical twins?:

  • Depression
  • Drug addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Social phobia
  • and so on

How many of these traits will we find in both twins 100% of the time?

None.

Yes, none of those traits are always present in both identical twins.

Compare this to real genetic traits like eye colour, or hair colour. Or consider genetic disorders, such as albinism. These are all the same in both identical twins 100% of the time.

Our genes influence

Yes, our DNA influences us, but it cannot dictate.

For example, if your DNA makes you grow 2 metres tall, it’s influence means playing basketball is naturally easier for you. Yet would we say that you have a “basketball player gene”? Are you destined to become a basketball player? Is it your fate? Hardly!

Yes, there is no genetic influence that can determine your personality or forces you to be a certain way. They can encourage, sure. They can facilitate, sure. But determine, like fate? Identical twins prove that the answer is no.

What if I believe my trait is all genetic?

Does it matter?

Your legs are genetic. I’m sure they’re in your DNA. You were definitely born with a “leg gene” (many, in fact). Does that mean your legs cannot be removed? Hardly. A simple sharp axe can remove this “genetic trait”.

Yes, even though you were “born this way”, you can experience radical change!

Blood glucose testing equipment used by diabetics.

Genetic problems are treatable

Let’s imagine that our emotional issues are genetic. Would it matter? Just because something is genetic doesn’t mean it can’t be improved or changed. Many genetic conditions are successfully treated every day.

Consider these genetic conditions:

  • Type 1 Diabetes is treated with insulin and other drugs.
  • Coeliac Disease is treated by removing gluten from the diet.
  • Defective heart valves can be corrected with surgery and implants.

Yes, we have the knowledge to treat – and even cure – many disorders caused by faulty genes. This happens every day in hospitals all over the world. So how could anyone say that something would be unchangeable just because “it’s in the genes”?

Your genes change

The field of epigenetics is the study of how the “expression” of your genes changes over time. This means the influence of your genetics changes.

Your genes can switch on, switch off, or act differently based upon your experiences, nutrition, choices, and environment. Yes your genes can, and do, change.

Emotional issues

Our therapy, Self-Rewiring, can help you to “grow out of” emotional issues. How those issues began is unimportant, and it doesn’t matter if your genes played a role or not.

Next time you hear someone claim that they could never solve, or even improve, their emotional issues because they were “born this way”, remember:

  • Genetics are only one of the many things that play a role in our personality
  • Genetic disorders are successfully treated every day

The truth is, people who think their fate is in their DNA probably want it to be true.