Would our perceptions of self and the world around us be any different if we grew up in a vacuum, free of interactions and their influences? Various disciplines, including psychology, social sciences, anthropology, and medicine have in the past conducted investigations to establish how a person comes to who they are, and the factors that influence these perceptions. Coming to terms with who we are is critical in helping us embrace and deal with situations. A review of “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri, “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Adichie, and “Growing Up: Key Moments” by Saul McLeod, revealed that a combination of family structure and personal experiences form the largest part of the process through which we embrace our true selves.
Human beings are social animals, and the family structure is the smallest unit that establishes a feeling of association, love, and acceptance, and fosters a sense of belonging. McBirney asserted that growing up and finding that Santa was not real may have taken away the joy of Christmas, but revealed a deeper truth regarding the love and care of the family (1). Despite the disappointment that comes with realizing that Santa was just a story, the reality of the gifts that people receive every Christmas demonstrates the importance of family in promoting a sense of belonging and acceptance, which in turn contributes to the perception of who we are. The family also plays a critical role in defining our perceptions of self by exposing the flaws we did not know people we admire and respect have. According to McBirney, the family environment help us realize that parents are also normal human beings who also make mistakes (2). This realization is important in strengthening beliefs about who we truly are, as it provides a foundation for the morals, values, philosophies, and principles that guide our everyday behaviors and actions.
The value of the family structure in defining who we truly are is also evident in “The Namesake.” The novel tells the story of Ashima, an Indian immigrant living in the United States with her husband, but finds it difficult to transition into the new culture because she misses her family (Lahiri 3). Despite making makeshift recipes that mimic the actual Indian dishes, she finds them lacking in originality, which distances her further from familial relations and true belonging. Ashima recognizes the importance of the extended family to childhood development and admits that the absence of family leaves a gap in one’s life. Ashima pities her son, who will grow up without the love of the extended family and is likely to feel “alone” (Lahiri 4). Therefore, family structure contributes to social development, which plays an instrumental role in defining who we are concerning other members of society.
Another major factor that influences how we come to terms with who we are is personal experiences. Lahiri describes the discomfort of being in the hospital because, in India, women go home to their mothers to give birth (4). In contrast, in America, women are sent to hospitals, where they are surrounded by strangers, a concept she cannot relate to due to her personal experiences. Perception can as well emanate from a person’s experiences with the environment and other sources like literature. Adichie wrote about her personal experiences with American and British children’s books, which influenced her writing and perception of self (1). The description of personal experiences indicates that they influence our self-perceptions, as well as how we relate with other people.
Although family structure contributes to how we perceive and embrace ourselves, at the same time it can disrupt how we come to terms with our true selves. A parent’s failure to do what we perceive as right like forgetting to pick up a child from school alters our perception of values and what defines who we are (1). As a result, we begin to develop alternative views about ourselves due to such mistakes because family serves as a source of the values and morals that define us. Similarly, personal experiences open up our minds to possibilities of what we could become and how we embrace our true selves, but these experiences can be misleading if they are based on fiction, rather than reality. Adichie’s perception of self was primarily based on British and American literature, but it changed immediately after she made contact with reality (3). Therefore, family structure and personal experiences may not determine who we truly are if the process involves changes to values we hold true or if the views were based on fantasy instead of reality.
Embracing who we truly depend on is a combination of family structure, personal experiences, and heritage. The family structure provides the most basic unit in which beliefs, morals, and values are cultivated and embraced. These values help us embrace who we are by creating a sense of belonging. Personal experiences influence the perception of who we truly are because they also define what we hold as crucial for our survival in the community. Heritage determines how we embrace who we truly are by creating self-awareness based on cultural and historical backgrounds. Therefore, it would be crucial for people to connect with their personal experiences, heritage, and family structures in learning and embracing their true selves.
Andichie, Chimamada N. “The Danger of a Single Story.” 2009
Lahiri, Jhumpa. “The Namesake”. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003.
McBirney, Jessie. “Growing Up: Key Moments.” 2020