How Our Experiences Shape Our Identity

By Madelaine Romero - August 27, 2023
How Our Experiences Shape Our Identity

You’ve probably introduced yourself many times over the years by saying, “Hello, I’m (blank).”  Did you know that the identity you were presenting was shaped by your past experiences? You are the person you are today because of the experiences, both good and bad, that you have had in the past. 

We use our past experiences to choose how we respond to new situations and people. We make conscious and unconscious choices about who we are and how we interact with others based on what we’ve learned from our past.

According to neuroscientists at New York University School of Medicine, our current perceptions are a combination of new input and memories about similar, past situations. For example, you might see an advertisement for a new type of breakfast cereal. The new input you receive about the flavor, health benefits, or cost of the cereal is filtered in your mind through your memories. 

Whether you’ve enjoyed a different type of cereal or not from that brand, your memory of liking that flavor or not, and your past experiences with value and cost for cereal all combine with what is presented to you in the ad. Your choice to buy the cereal or not depends on your past experiences as well as on the current offering.

Researchers discovered that our past experiences shape our identity and behaviors by:

• Satisfying needs

• Using comfortable patterns

• Anticipating negative threats

Satisfying Needs

In some of our previous experiences, our needs were met, while in other experiences, our needs were not met. Both positive and negative experiences shape our identity by creating behaviors that try to fill those needs. 

Physical needs like shelter and food, emotional needs like friendship and love, and mental needs like stimulation need to be met again and again in our lives. Our past experiences teach us how to fill those needs.

If your past experience includes times where you were rewarded for working hard, your physical needs were met by your behavior. Dedication to long hours, hard work, and giving a job your best effort become part of your identity. 

You will continue to identify those behaviors with receiving a reward. But if in your past experience others got the same reward for less work, you may decide that hard work isn’t necessary. These differences shape who you are and your outlook on life and work.

Using Comfortable Patterns

Habits, or the comfortable patterns we do routinely without thinking, come from our past experiences. If we’ve always experienced feelings of safety and love from our friends and family, we become the type of people who include others and treat them well. Being supportive of each other becomes part of our identity. 

Our daily routines are based on past experiences. We may wear a particular style of clothes because we’ve previously received compliments on how we look. We smile at others we pass because most people smile back at us. 

We may spend time with others and attend social events because we’ve previously enjoyed the company or situation. Our positive past experiences develop into our identity of being outgoing, friendly, and social. 

Anticipating Negative Threats

Our ancestors faced many threats in their world. Weather, animals, and other tribes could all be sources of threats for them. Each time they experienced a threat, it added to their perception, memory, and belief about what was threatening and what wasn’t.

Today, we use the same technique to anticipate negative threats in our lives. If you’ve never had a problem walking the same route to work, you may become comfortable with that routine. If you’re mugged one day, the new situation is added to your experiences and may make you afraid and less inclined to take that route. Your identity of trusting that route changes based on your experience. It can also lead to you trusting other situations or people less too. 

Our experiences lead us to make decisions about what could help and what could hurt us. We learn to anticipate threats because we have similarly experienced them before. A child knows they are in trouble by the way their parents call their name. They’ve experienced a lecture or punishment before and know the tone of voice that will lead to another one.

Our experiences shape our identity by satisfying needs, developing habits, and identifying threats. These behaviors become part of our identity and how we and others see ourselves. 

🌟 Unleash Your Authentic Self: Schedule an Introductory Life Coaching Session to Discover Your True Identity, Values, and Purpose! πŸš€

In our captivating post, we explored the profound impact our life experiences have on shaping who we are. Now, if you're ready to delve deeper into your personality traits, uncover your core values, and align with your life's purpose, we invite you to schedule an introductory life coaching session with our expert Coach Madelaine.

During this transformative session, our experienced certified life coach will guide you on a profound journey of self-discovery. Together, you'll explore the unique tapestry of your experiences, uncovering the threads that have woven your identity. By delving into your personality traits, strengths, and passions, you'll gain invaluable insights into your authentic self.

But it doesn't stop there—our life coaching session goes beyond self-discovery. Our expert coach will help you identify your core values and connect them with your true purpose in life. By aligning your actions and decisions with your deepest values, you'll embark on a path of fulfillment, meaning, and genuine happiness.

🌟 Ready to unlock your true identity and live a purpose-driven life? Schedule your introductory life coaching session today! Visit Coach Madelaine to book your session and embark on an extraordinary journey of self-discovery. Gain clarity, define your purpose, and live a life aligned with your authentic self. It's time to embrace the limitless possibilities that await you on this incredible path of self-exploration and personal growth! πŸŒΊπŸš€