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Who Made You Who You Are Today?

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to explore the question “Who made you who you are?” and how that relates to your career and talents.
Who made you who you are today?

First a quick update:

“Men who marry up but cheat down
Read my insights into why powerful men cheat with powerless women – the new phenomenon I have identified

“What are the most important questions to ask yourself before going into the dating world?”
Read my article and response to the above question posed to me. One key point I make is to remember that we always bring along to a date and relationship our entire self!

Now, lets’ talk about who made you who you are and how that impacts your career and talents.

“Lie to Me” is an American television drama series about the world’s greatest deception expert, Dr. Cal Lightman (played by Tim Roth.) With the help of his colleague Dr. Gillian Foster (Kelli Williams), Dr. Lightman detects deception by observing body language and facial micro-expressions through the Facial Action Coding System. With these talents Cal Lightman and his group solve crimes, prevent crimes and even save lives. The character is based on Paul Ekman, a US psychologist and expert on body language and facial expressions.

In an episode in season one; Cal Lightman is arguing with his protégé Ria Torres (Monica Raymund.) She has a natural gift for reading people. But her own personal pain and past stand in the way of her work and she doesn’t believe that a violent gang leader who was responsible for the death of a policeman can change. Lightman sees the change in the former gang leader by reading his actions, expressions and verbal responses. Torres, finally, is shocked when the former gang leader is released from prison and she witnesses for herself that he has changed; the former killer has transformed now into someone who has compassion and kindness in his heart; someone who regrets his actions and wants to help young people.

CAL LIGHTMAN: I’m sorry about before. (Ria raises her eyebrows at him) Sometimes I see so much, I don’t know how not to tell people.
RIA TORRES: Yeah, I get that.
CAL LIGHTMAN: You’re right; most people don’t change. Right? I’ve been there, waiting for it, hoping for it, and then they just… don’t.
(Ria takes an unsteady breath.)
CAL LIGHTMAN: But there are a few, I think, who can.
RIA TORRES: Any other life lessons?
CAL LIGHTMAN: (leans forward in his chair) When someone… bashes you around, who’s twice your size, just whenever he feels like it, you learn to read emotions pretty fast. We adapt to survive. Your abuse made you a natural. He made you what you are.
RIA TORRES: (takes another unsteady breath) Well, I’ll be sure to thank him.
(Cal laughs and sits back in his chair)
RIA TORRES: So what about you?
CAL LIGHTMAN: Nah, I’m not a natural. I had to learn this.
RIA TORRES: Why did you want to learn? What, you all of a sudden became obsessed with facial expressions? (she reads his face) I didn’t think so. So who was it? Who made you who you are?

Lightman’s experiences motivated him to want to learn to be able to read people while Torres’ experiences forced her to quickly learn how to read people.

Who made you who you are or who motivated you to become who you are?

Many of us simply take for granted our talent, gift and career choice. And yet, they all can be traced back to an event or experience.

Raelene, one of my clients was surprised when she, too, thought about the motivation behind her career. Raelene is a hair and makeup artist. Her motivation is to make people beautiful. Why? She never felt beautiful as a child because her father never recognized her physical beauty. When she released the emotional pain and let go of the subconscious need to be beautiful or prove her beauty, she was able to really enjoy her career and artistic expression.

Adam became one of the best fitness and nutrition experts in the US. He was motivated to enter into the field because he suffered as he saw his mother live an unhealthy life due to a lack of exercise and poor nutrition. Instead of copying her, Adam went the opposite way, and although at a subconscious level he was trying to rescue his mom, as a result of his experiences and talents, he has helped so many people to live better lives.

Another client, Erin, began her own business teaching yoga and a healthy lifestyle because she, too, like Adam above, was inspired to help other people after growing up with a very ill father.

Chris grew up in the Midwest with very poor but devoted and loving parents. Watching them suffer inspired him to get a higher education, to become an entrepreneur and to become highly successful. Chris also chose to be generous and respectful like his parents.

Boy George, the 1980s pop star says that he became a singer because when he was growing up his parents were very strict, he was not allowed to speak at the dinner table and he never had a voice. Working with various singers as clients, I have found this to be a common theme and phrase repeated to me by them: “I never had a voice…I felt oppressed.” And so they responded by finding their own voice, by finding a pathway to freedom of expression. The result is that we today are able to enjoy their musical gift and talent.

Recently, I was explaining to a reporter from the Chicago Tribune that most artists are driven by their pain, dysfunctional past and childhood. Often times, it is an act of rebellion which benefits the general population. Actors, singers, dancers, poets and painters seek ways to smash beyond the childhood oppression or the strict upbringing and express themselves on a grand scale. Some become artists to compensate for the emotional pain – they use it as an escape.

Sometimes, great pain and trauma can be the springboard for a career and mission which can really impact lives and help others. Mandy grew up in an alcoholic family with an abusive father. She grew up to become a social worker and to fight for the protection of children in abusive families.

My father was angry, strict and black & white about everything. He only knew one way to express himself – with anger – and never understood his feelings, emotions or motivations. I knew he could explode at any time and that he could not accept or understand my own personal self-expression. I adapted by hiding most of me from him which made me a rebel but also taught me independence and to ignore the opinion of others, and to encourage others to freely express themselves with appropriate boundaries of respect; I also adapted by spending most of my life seeking to understand people’s emotions and motivations and became gifted at reading people and their emotions. One day, at age 10, my mother turned to me when I was crying and said “Don’t cry. You are my tower of strength.” In that moment, I subconsciously took on a role of becoming strong for others, believing also that I must naturally be strong (possessing an inner strength since my mother recognized it in me) and I adapted by focusing on gaining wisdom to impart to others since I expected that they would turn to me for answers. I became a natural at offering answers and insights.

So who made you who you are?

What do you do and what gift or talent do you have that might even be attributable to a painful past?

The answer to this question is critical not simply to better understand yourself but to ensure that your career and life is not motivated or driven by a need to compensate, make up for something that happened or to payback someone but rather that it be driven by a passion to freely express yourself, live your potential and to make a difference. Sometimes, the toughest challenge we face is to be grateful to the very people who we believe hurt us but who also forced us to tap into our inner talents and gifts.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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