Psychologists have debated and theorized for centuries over whether nature or nurture more dominantly affects the outcome of a human's personality. The theory of innatism is accredited to philosophers as old as Plato. Under the innate umbrella is the belief that humans are born with certain predispositions that become “unlocked” as a result of life experiences, education and more. Innatism lands on the side of nature preprogramming the human mind. Alternatively, John Locke later theorized Tabula Rasa or “Blank Slate,” which credits an individual's personal characteristic developments chiefly to external experiences. The idea is that humans are born with no predisposed traits. Like most philosophical and psychological debates, there may be no right answer. However, upon personally reflecting on the question of how I became who I am, there exists a consistent influence which continues to impact my personal evolution - rolemodels.
Sticking true to the psychological approach, we’ll start from the beginning. I was raised in a household where being adventurous did not have gender limitations, and therefore my ambitions were never questioned as a result of being a girl. I played sports against men, I worked on school projects with men, I hiked in the backcountry with men. They never spoke down to me or acted as superiors, they were my partners and equals. Secretly, I think my dad had always wanted a son, but when I popped out as the second child and ultimately his second daughter, he kind of accepted that he was going to raise my sister and I just the same as if we were boys.
I do remember one time when a man at the gym refused to play basketball against me (“a girl”) because he felt it was a waste of a game and effort. Embarrassed and insecure, I was prepared to walk out of the gym. Just as I was getting ready to walk off the court, my dad stepped in and replied “play her one-on-one; if you win, her and I will go shoot hoops on our own. But if she wins, you leave and don’t get to come back because I don’t play with assholes.” With such a reaction and support from my dad, the man ultimately apologized and we continued the regular game. Such a display of unquestionable confidence in my abilities to compete against a man even at the age of thirteen was a foundational stone in my core personality, and it was the start of my sense that I could compete equally with my gender counterparts.
Although my father was an influential individual in my upbringing and overall confidence, I was exposed to inspiring and encouraging women who played an equally crucial contribution. Growing up in a household of strong women, whether or not I was capable of achieving something was never the question. The only obstacle was how was I going to do it best. If I wanted to be Indiana Jones when I grew-up and discover new underground cities -that was totally acceptable. But how would I make that work? What subjects would I need to do best at in school? What skills does Indiana Jones have that I should learn? Navigation? Knots? How to be really, really badass? It was all achievable if I focused and worked hard enough.
Additionally, being raised by strong women resulted in the acceptance that I never need a man or partner. I was raised with the idea that gender is irrelevant to a person's value. Traits to admire were internal and included intelligence, honesty and kindness. As a result, I now appreciate and surround myself with people who exhibit those traits. My closest friends are both men and women who I respect and admire for their personalities, ambitions and accomplishments.
I am often told grandiose tales of my great, great grandmother who blazed across the Oregon Trail riding bareback, pistol at the waist, and straddling her horse while not giving a damn what a man thinks. Relatives like to imagine I am the reincarnation of that women (if you believe in such things). Perhaps there is a level of my personality for independence and adventure that is genetically hardwired in my mind. However, creating a supportive and inspiring atmosphere to continue developing in as an adult is as invaluable as having a strong childhood upbringing or innate characteristics. Within the outdoor community, this truth could not be more important. Having strong female role models and mentors at any age helps to reinforce the idea that anything is achievable for women. Whether you are learning a new skill or reaching a personal summit - the camaraderie of sisterhood created through outdoor education by female mentors is powerful. All women are capable of achieving adventure; we are all inherently wild.
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