One of the oldest questions in psychology is what has the biggest impact in shaping our personalities: nature (genetics) or nurture (environment)? Current analysis indicates that the two have equal importance.
But is that true for women?
What about women who grew up in family environments and a society that severely limited women’s possibilities? Can they know if their personality is theirs or others?
Without question, “nurture” has historically been a very strong influence on the personality of many women.
For Susie, a lawyer, communicator and astrologer from Rio de Janeiro, the social demands of her parents defined her early adulthood. Her parents were of humble origin and struggled to achieve financial success. The importance of appearance dominated her life choices.
“I always had a very strong desire to do something related to communication and arts, my whole life. But that didn’t give status (for) the Brazilian middle class. I was a good student and passed at a federal university, in law. I was fifteen, going on sixteen. My parents, at the time, talked about it nonstop and wanted to sue so that I could attend (early), but I said no. I wanted to go back to my school. I loved my school. The following year I passed again. It was very complicated because at seventeen/eighteen years old you have to deal with a reality that you know will never make you happy. I begged my parents to let me out and they said no. I didn’t have that option. They thought, in their hearts, that they were doing the right thing, sending me on my way. There was no notion of vocation.”
She hated law and knew that it was not what she wanted to do, but saw no other choice. When she was twenty, she couldn’t stand it any longer and looked for a job in tourism. She was hired as a flight attendant. “Although she (her mother) had never told me this openly, she was ashamed. For her, it was a beneath me—to be serving people. She thought I had more potential.” For Susie it wasn’t an issue of potential but rather of personal and financial need. “It paid well and I had no other source of income. It was the only way (to see the world). In my fantasy I have entered television.” Even after leaving her full time studies, she made it a point to get her degree in law and pass the bar exam to please her mother.
She did a lot of cool things in life, but “I got the feeling that I had not fulfilled my duty. Aviation was good, but I never talked, and to me, talking is very important. Right now, I’m coming out of a terrible divorce. I came to NY alone—my, my suitcase and a dream. The dream was to back to my (original life)
project.” To give voice to her passions and capabilities is the current priority of her life.
Astrology has been a part of her life since adolescence. Despite having a passion and talent in the area, she struggled to value her work. “Astrology, for me, is a very interesting thing. It has always followed me. When I started studying astrology, it was after this crisis (of law school). I loved it. You know when a musician goes to a concert and he listens to music for the first time and is intoxicated? (That’s how it was with astrology). But I was bombarded again (with insecurities)—what was I going to do with astrology? I’ve always been a person very attached to what others thought. Deep down I wanted approval from my mother.”
Until 2005, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, her relationship with her mother was complicated. Susie realized she wasn’t living the life that her mother wanted, nor the one she wanted for herself. She received treatment at John of God and moved to the US. “It’s so interesting. I did a lot. I started a great group in Boulder, Colorado, of meditation and prayer. I started to take people to Brazil to do the healing journey. I did a talk show at the time, on community TV—little by little finding my voice. Now, my father has died and my mother is much older. My mother has changed a lot. She is beginning to see that if there is something that needs to happen before she passes away, it’s that I am happy. She really wants me to find my voice. For me, on an unconscious level, has been marvelous. Its as if I’ve made peace with a very important part of me. I suffered a lot by not being seen, for not being accepted for who I am.”
It’s only now, after almost fifty years, that Susie can really say that who she is not overly influenced by her environment. Finally she has the freedom and confidence to be who she really is.