Choices and self (and a story!)

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 26, 2007 3:37 PM GMT
    I've been watching the "To Be Masculine or Feminine - A CHOICE?" thread for a while now, and I think it is unfortunate how quickly it devolved into a flame war. I wish people could consider opposing perspectives openly, without being so defensive. But I suppose that's neither here nor there. People are what they are.

    Instead, I'd like to tell a story that I think is related, although some might not.

    I remember my first year in highschool. I was fairly unsure of myself, but there were definitely guys I looked up to. Older guys on my teams, older guys that I thought were "cool" (whom I probably thought were "hot", although at that point in my life I wasn't thinking about it that way).

    And so I made some deliberate choices. I thought: "They are cool, everyone wants to be with them, and I want to be like that." So I would pick little things about different people and I would mimic. A couple guys had really deep voices, and I liked the slang they used, so I made an effort to talk like that. I noticed the way one guy walked (sauntered, really), and liked it, so I made an effort to walk like that. Even down to some minute details: one guy had a really interesting way of printing his lower-case "n" (it was like an upper-case "N", but smaller), and I thought that was cool, so I copied that.

    Looking at it from the outside, you could condemn it. I was "trying to fit in", I was a "poser", I was being "fake" .... but from my perspective, it was noble: I was making an effort to become the kind of person I wanted to be. Instead of whining about not being "like the cool kids", I was taking control of my life and doing something about it.

    And by my junior and senior years, it had worked. I was incredibly popular and people thought I was hot. Now, I'm not saying this is all because of the way I wrote my lower-case "N".... but all of those other things not only changed how others perceived me... they also gave ME confidence, as well. So what if it took some conscious effort (I told myself); I was simply practicing being the person I wanted to be.

    And it worked. Now, a decade (and change) later, it no longer takes effort. It is no longer "fake" or affected. I simply talk the way I talk. I walk the way I walk. And I write my lower-case N's the way I write them. It was practiced so much that now it IS habitual, it IS natural, and it IS the "real me".

    And I still get compliments about those things. I still get people who tell me how "hot" my voice is. And I still get people who think that my walk projects strength and confidence. So it worked... not just for highschool, but for who I am in general.

    And it's so ingrained that it's certainly not a "choice" any more.... but I chose to become that way. The "real me" wasn't just something imposed on me by God or environment or genetics. I was able to deliberately practice and change my "true self" over time.

    And THAT was a choice.
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    Aug 26, 2007 4:08 PM GMT
    Greg, I think there is a distinction from behavior we pick up because we emulate people, and condemning what behavior people choose to have, as long as it is not harmful to others.

    I think the issue is, for me, not whether being masculine or feminine in behavior is a choice (I am sure it partially is...but I am willing to bet that there is something more going on to that than "choice", but the demonizing of people becasue of that choice.

    In that other thread, one person suggested that he would be violent towards people who were effeminate. Can you see that his comment was not directed to whether that behavior was learned or nor, but that he would not tolerate it to such a degree, that the other person becomes a vermin to be eradicated.

    Getting back to your comment, I am willing to bet you were already, to some extent, very coordinated, masculine, at ease with your body (please, I realize I may be objectifying you too here...I'm just trying to guess). And that you just extrapolated that to emulate those that you admired.

    I, on the other hand, admired those same traits, but was such a dweeb, and so clumsy, that I feel on my face every time. :-)

    Now, I am trying to emulate you, but, alas, I fear it may be too late. :-)

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    Aug 26, 2007 7:26 PM GMT
    Interesting story, thanks for sharing.

    Kind of turns the whole idea of "be yourself" upside down...

    It sounds like you had to NOT be yourself for a time, until it became who you are, and then you were yourself. Interesting way to "be yourself".

    Not that I am condemning it. I have tried to do some of those things - emulate certain characteristics of people. Everyone does it. But it is just so painfully obvious when I emulate others that I cant let myself continue doing it.

    For example, like you said, one time I tried to talk differently. I said things like "yeah, i'm down with that" and "yeah that's how I roll". But it's just so obvious that that's not who I am.

    Now, I guess maybe it's easier to be slightly "not yourself" when you are around people who don't know you. For example, if I talk like that around my best friends, they'll immediately call me out on it. But if I were to go talk like that with people I've never met before, they wouldn't really think twice about it, they would assume that's who I am. But I always feel that I can't keep up the act forever... so I just don't put on the act.

    Greg, sounds like you had more determination to keep up the act.
  • MikePhilPerez

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    Aug 26, 2007 8:51 PM GMT
    Greg, I think it is sad that you felt you had to do that. That you felt you needed to do that to fit in.

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    Aug 26, 2007 9:00 PM GMT
    Oh, MikePhil. Don't be sad.

    For example: I *could* be sad that some people are so threatened by the idea that they MIGHT not be perfect just the way they are, that they would never even dream of actually putting effort into changing themselves to be better people, or to help their self-esteem, or to project the kind of image that they want to project. I *could* be sad that some people think that they are so powerless over their own destiny that they have to condemn people who actually take control over who they are.

    But you know what? I'm actually not sad about that at all. :-D Go figure.
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    Aug 26, 2007 9:04 PM GMT
    OK, that was my snarky response. Which apparently I can't delete, so there it is. LOL

    But let me do a less (hopefully) knee-jerk response now:

    First of all, you're projecting a lot of things onto the situation that I actually didn't describe. I never said that I felt that I "had" to do it, I said that I wanted to do it. I also never said that it had to do with "fitting in", I said that I found traits that represented something I *wanted* to be.

    The difference is important, and I think it has to do with locus of control. I never felt powerless, I never felt depressed because I "fell short" -- there are a lot of negative feelings associated with the way YOU framed your description.

    Instead, I felt empowered. I was deliberately choosing to do something in my own life to improve myself ... in the ways that I thought (in highschool) mattered.

    Don't you do the same thing, and admire people for it? This is a fitness site: didn't you, at some point, decide to work out because you saw the results it produced in others and wanted to emulate that for yourself?

    How is that different?
  • gymingit

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    Aug 26, 2007 9:32 PM GMT
    I never said anything in the other thread, so here goes. There are a lot of these threads that tie into one another. You may think I'm getting off the subject, but I assure you it all adds up. There are straight men out there afraid that they're gay because they can see beauty in other men. Not to get religious, but Gods greatest creation being mankind, you would think men would be able to see the beauty in other men. Society has placed so many different stereotypes on people it's unreal. I myself consider it brainwashing. We have gay men that say they're straight acting. Why should that be..... is there that much stigma on being gay? YES. Everyone has their own opinions and their own perspective, yet we try our best to pressure the other groups to follow suite/order. I was always told I walked like a girl in high school; I was never trying to walk like or emulate a girl. I found out years later from my mom I have a slightly crooked right foot. I never noticed, but hey... there you go. The Army didn't seem to care. I've never wanted to be a woman and though I don't mind guys in drag, I prefer not to date them because I am interested in guys. I don't judge those guys. I've been judged by society and right wing Christians all of my life, why would I want to even consider judging anyone else? I don't. I also think it's harsh when gay men judge each other for the variety of personalities found in gay men. Forget being gay and think of the different cultures we see across the U.S.-- Southeast, North, Mid-west, West, Northeast and Texas is a world of it's own from what I gather. In the southeast, my grandma would tear me up with a peach tree limb if I ever used the word piss or pissed off or any other form of the word. From each of these perspectives and those around the world where straight men hold hands, I don't know when we say straight, we're all thinking the same thing. More than likely we're not with many different variations of straightness. There is someone out there for everyone. Just as animals and insects have many different species such as the butterfly, there are many different types of people and we all have different nuances. Live and let live.
  • MikePhilPerez

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    Aug 26, 2007 9:51 PM GMT
    Greg, I was not putting you down. I wasn't thinking you were sad. I was thinking it was sad that society made you feel you needed to do that (needed to change)

    Now reading your story again I see I misunderstood you.

    I will consider your first response deleted :)

    You said, "Don't you do the same thing, and admire people for it? This is a fitness site: didn't you, at some point, decide to work out because you saw the results it produced in others and wanted to emulate that for yourself?

    I started to work out first of all for health reasons and second because martial arts fascinate me and I practices Taekwon-do after that, yes I would love to have a body like yours and other guys here.

    Have you ever wondered what kind of guy you would be today if you did not decided to make those changes?

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    Aug 26, 2007 9:56 PM GMT
    Do you ever wonder what kind of guy you would be if you never bathed or shaved?

    You make decisions based on the kind of person you want to be, the kind of image you want to project, and you work toward that. If you do NOT do this, you will constantly be a victim: because you will always imagine that the way other people see you is outside of your own control.

    A lot of people have a mistaken idea that there is some kind of way that a person "REALLY" is, without any kind of external influence or internal effort. But that's a complete myth... who you are at any given moment -- who you REALLY are -- is a sum of external influences and internal efforts.

    Do you ever think about what kind of guy you would be if you never decided to be healthy?
  • MikePhilPerez

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    Aug 26, 2007 10:21 PM GMT
    Greg, I have been doing some thinking here and I am trying to improve myself all the time. I just started to think how I am doing that.

    My partner does something I like and I try to do the same. I see a guy dressed in nice jeans or jacket or something and I want to know where he got it so I could get it.

    Yes I guess I am the same. Just never realized I was doing that. Thanks for bring that to light.

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    Aug 26, 2007 10:43 PM GMT
    This is a cool topic. Real personal, revealing history there Greg.

    I am from a multi-generationally divorced family and spent weekends with my father but was living with my mom and sister. Me, my older bro (who was mostly busy doing his own thing throughout my "developmental" adoloscence) and Dad never really spent a lot of time together long-term so I sorta picked up more female-copied behavior early on.

    I was in my freshman year of high school when one of my close friends told me I sorta acted like a girl and implied I needed to butch it up a bit. I blamed his perspective on the fact that he had not yet expanded his horizons and at the time only saw things from a "stereotypical southern rural Illinois kick-ass black-belt with killer obliques/skoal-chewing" point of view so I did not get too offended; sorta listened to him, sucked it up and drove on being myself. Now he is one of my nephew's uncles and we laugh at how I had a major crush on him; I believe the guy is getting a swelled ego because of all his gay buddies bestowing compliments upon him! He has a lot of gay friends these days and I am one of the many now. He is still a great athlete by the way with a wife and kids (and still REALLY cute).

    Nowadays I suppose things are the "same but different" and I am what I am as Popeye says. I decided I liked my dick and nuts between my legs and my deeper voice, etc. so made my own decision to be who I wanted to be.

    I Remember my mom telling me to keep it down because my voice carried and not talk so loud, while being asked not to be so heavy-footed around the house and try not to stomp so much when I walked! Hell I even appreciate the difference between female and male pheromones now and truly think it is OK if I work up a good stink at the end of the day or after a good workout/jogging or grunting, thrusting visceral sex sweat.

    I'm 100% gay and remember when I first became aware of digging the boys over girls during 3rd grade on but love my imperfections and actually enjoy respecting everyone elses, male or female and get into being funky, spunky and eau-naturale if the situation is appropriate. I often ponder originations of phrases like "full of spunk" "hot shot" "little squirt" "hot rod" and many other witty phrases bestowed upon males or females occasionally. Man, I also believe hardly anyone fights as tough as a drag queen or a gay man/woman.

    Hey I grew up during the seventies, with Marlow Thomas and friends telling us we were "free to be you and me" and that it was "all right to cry". My name is William though so I did not appreciate the "William wants a doll" theme at the time but can look back at it in hindsight with 20/20 goggles now and appreciate the situation.

    I always got along pretty well with everyone anyway and still do but I suppose society has it's own control issues and wants us to be a particular way despite our unique personalities.

    Seems there are a lot of articles being written about how "boys" are a sort of dying breed going into the future. I sure hope not!

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    Aug 27, 2007 3:59 AM GMT
    Thanks for the story.

    I don't think there was/is anything wrong with being image aware and working towards adopting styles and behaviors you've seen along the way. There is a flip-side to that - are there any behaviours you specifically avoided? I can recall noting mentally behaviors which resulting in teasing or guys being talked about as 'fags' and I would make a conscious decision to suppress any such behavior. The point being, I wasn't so much altering my behaviour toward the masculine to acheive an image, as I was just trying to avoid derision or negative attention - which would detract from my otherwise built-up good will.

    I was no stonewaller, I wouldn't have identified as gay then and so I didn't really see that as an identity I needed to defend. So, sorry if I offend some of you there.

    It hasn't occured to me to try and develop a 'sexy' image at any point in my life. I ignored my peers and worked on impressing adults - so I was doing 'trustworthy', 'hardworking', and 'intelligent'. Highschool found me dressing in ties, and being appointed leader of just about everything I was a part of my teachers and instructors. I saw the kids working on 'sexy' as missing the intentions of the adults, and hurting their chances of getting respect from the adults around them.

    Now, my perspective may have been skewed about what adults wanted. I just don't remember ever seeing an adult express that they wanted their kid or any kid to look 'hot'. As far as Mom was concerned - you looked pretty or handsome. My sisters were all dancers and had decent bodies - they however were never anything but properly dressed. We're a pretty proper family.

    Now, as I transition from straight to gay lifestyle - I'm concerned. Dating guys is going to be a whole new sport for me. I see guys, like yourself, who have been at this 'style' and 'sexy' thing for decades(Thats a bit of left-handed complement, sorry)and its intimidating.

    I'd like to attract a sexy guy, who wouldn't? I'm at the point now where you were in high school. Developing a sense of style and personal presence. Everything up to now has been more 'utility' than 'sexy'. Hopefully, I'm not putting too much emphasis on it.
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    Aug 27, 2007 4:42 AM GMT
    There's nothing wrong with being who you want to be. But people who invent themselves are especially cool, even if they're not always correct.

    BTW: I finally remembered that, since I was six years old, I've been trying to be some sort of strange mashup of Lloyd Bridges and William Shatner. Tragically, I've succeeded.
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    Aug 27, 2007 6:30 AM GMT

    What you are describing is called "Socialization":

    - a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.

    - the adoption of the behavior patterns of the surrounding culture; "the socialization of children to the norms of their culture"

    - Learning the customs, attitudes, and values of a social group, community, or culture. Socialization is essential for the development of individuals who can participate and function within their societies, as well as for ensuring that a society's cultural features will be carried on through new generations. Socialization is most strongly enforced by family, school, and peer groups and continues throughout an individual's lifetime.

    Everyone does it both sub consciously and consciously; chosen and un chosen.

    That you recognize that you were and are doing it simply puts you up on 2/3’s of the human race.

    I think the WHY of doing it might be worth some introspection, but…

    Personally I think what you did was totally normal, albeit that you were doing it consciously and deliberately says volumes about your acumen, self direction, and determination: provided that you were simply determined to use every tool at your disposal to improve yourself and get where you wanted to go.

    If on the other hand you were so insecure with who you were that you were simply trying to imitate others in order to present a false persona to the world and you thought you could make them like you because of those mannerisms alone, then I find that terribly sad.

    I will go out on a limb though and say that I don’t think that is the case here. I think you simply chose to enhance what was evidently already a considerably formidable character and personality.

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    Aug 27, 2007 7:07 AM GMT
    I think that this thread and the other are in fact the same topic.

    Your story makes some interesting points but I wonder if you have really considered what you have said. Choices and self is a good title. But what is the meaning of this choice and self?

    It starts out about admiring others, wanting to be cool, being fake. But just because you become a good imitation, does that make it your true self? And when you said you became the person you wanted to be, didn't you just become the person you felt others wanted you to be? i.e. popular?

    Also your definition of natural is that which you practiced to be; habitual. What is natural is not practiced. You have heard the expression "second nature"? it is called that because it is not real or first nature.

    And not having to think about your habits does not make it not a choice, but a shadow of yesterday's choice.

    In attempting to create your true self, you may move further from what you really are. When you understand what you really are you will see what you have in common with other people no matter how different they look or act.

    If you want to see what you really are, you will have to go beneath what you look and sound like. A "choice-less" awareness will reveal more to you than any choice in that respect.
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    Aug 27, 2007 12:31 PM GMT
    ActiveAndFit: See, and my fundamental disagreement with the view you present is that I don't believe that the "true self" (as you describe it) exists at all.

    Does it even make sense to ask "What would you be like, if you never practiced anything or made any choices?" If you could even imagine such a person... would you really accept that person as the "true you"?

    Think about it. You choose to abide by society's laws, you choose the foods you eat, you choose the clothes you wear.

    Everything that makes you a civilized human being, rather than a bundle of animal reflexes, is at some point practiced and/or at some point a choice.

    Can imagine going through a day acting only on animal reflex?

    And if you did... would you really want everyone to judge those behaviors as the "true you"?

    Isn't your "self" exactly that part of you that MAKES choices?
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    Aug 27, 2007 1:34 PM GMT
    It's a bit strange on a site that promotes muscular development to critique Greg for shaping his general persona as well as his body. Anybody who had a younger brother growing up is familiar with what he's describing.

    Most people have role models throughout life. (Many people have bad ones.)
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    Aug 27, 2007 1:58 PM GMT
    I agree with obscenewish. We're all doing stuff like Greg described. I think if we're completely honest we'd have to admit to doing it to some degree even now in adulthood.
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    Aug 27, 2007 2:27 PM GMT
    Well, this is the main reason I'm on this site! I'm trying to improve myself physically and otherwise, and I'm getting a lot of tips, reinforcement, models of being different, etc. from here. I'm trying to envision the way that I want to be, and start being it (Insert Gandhi quote about being the change you want to see in the world.) I think that I'm also becoming more clear about what I want to be and being less affected by what I think others want me to be.

    It's a combination of finding my desires and then acting on them in a conscious way.
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    Aug 27, 2007 2:34 PM GMT
    I agree that the self is making choices, I just disagree that is what the "real you" is. Does the real you change when you get old or become "damaged". There is a lower layer of "you" that makes you the same as everyone else regardless of appearance.

    As far as critique goes, my point is that when you promote appearance too high you create problems for yourself and everyone else. In fact the very nature of over promoting appearance IS one of CREATING and inviting CRITIQUE. When you forget what is fundamental for what is superficial, you become "hollow".

    CONSIDER that being a "jock" or athlete is not just about appearance. It is about performance and health. The appearance stuff is the side affect.

    What I am saying is very simple to understand and grasp. Consider "the elephant man." Maybe watch the movie or read about his life and then reconsider what appearance/image and self really mean.

    The bad thing about being so wrapped up in appearance is you FORGET what you REALLY fundamentally are. This creates cruelty and lack of compassion ultimately. It affects how people treat one another. The nice thing about the SELF I am talking about - the one that is based on how you treat people - is that whatever your appearance is, you can still be "beautiful" and age or disfigurement cannot destroy it.

    Also I am saying that there is indeed life and meaning beyond emulation. More choices and rules do not make you more of a person, they just help you practice decision making. Don't take animal reflexes for granted. They are a part of you and are the things that keep you alive on a daily basis - you gotta love them!
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    Aug 27, 2007 4:01 PM GMT
    Good Lord. He didn't say he threw his brains out the window or that he discarded his native talents while shaping his persona. Nor is there anything in his story that indicates he was trying to be something he's not. He's not hiding being gay, for example.

    This really boils down to whether you have an essentialistic viewpoint about people. The more neuroscience reveals, the more we do seem to be programmed -- but the more we also learn that even our biological makeup is influenced by experience. This is one reason it often matters more how you tell your life story than what actually happened to you.

    When clients talk to me about being "true to myself." I always ask them: "Which self?" Human identity is naturally multiple. That is the reason for the Greek pantheon: they personified the different aspects of human existence. The object is to be conscious, not to discover something like a transcendental ego that makes everything sensible.
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    Aug 27, 2007 4:49 PM GMT
    You guys must be a barrel of laughs in bed.
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    Aug 27, 2007 6:17 PM GMT
    Activeandfit said: "...It starts out about admiring others, wanting to be cool, being fake. But just because you become a good imitation, does that make it your true self?..."

    I'm not sure I follow that completely. Having role models doesn't necessarily mean being fake. I understand that kids can take that to a sophomoric in adopting something destructive as their definition of "cool."

    I think obscenewish and I said the same thing. If you are a balanced person, you choose role models that are already consistent with your "internal wiring." So, for most of us, there is no possiblity of being "fake."

    However, I suppose that we may "try" on various role models to see how well they fit. The only part of Greg's original post I disagree with is the part in which he self-characterized his initial behavior as "fake" (Greg, I know you did that for the sake of argument or of this discussion).

    I don't think it's necessarily fake, and most often is not. It's part of the process of defining who you are, and most of that is intrinsic, not environmental.
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    Aug 27, 2007 9:58 PM GMT
    ActiveAndFit says: "As far as critique goes, my point is that when you promote appearance too high you create problems for yourself and everyone else."

    Oh, I see. So the problem isn't in trying to change one's behavior, or in envisaging role-models and striving to be like them. The problem is that you think the particular goals I chose were shallow.

    Which may be the case. But I'd like to point out two things:

    1) I was in highschool. What better time is there to be shallow? ;-)

    2) I never said that those were the only things I valued. They happened to be the examples I gave. Or are you saying that people should NEVER strive toward appearance-centered goals? That's not very "well-balanced" of you, is it?

    Finally, your distinction between "learned self" and "true self" reminds me of a similar (false) distinction that is made by people who don't really comprehend genetics.

    A lot of people ask "Is trait X (eye color, height, body type, whatever) determined by genes or environment?"

    The naive answer is that you can pick one or the other. Eye color is caused by genes! Fashion sense is caused by environment! Tah-dah!

    But of course, you might ask: What about height? Some people seem "naturally" taller than others, but it is also obvious that your height will be affected by your nutrition level as you grow up.

    So the slightly sophisticated (but still wrong) response might be to think: Oh, there is some height that I would "truly be" based on my genetics, but then the environment can shift it one way or the other. So you get some concept like, "Well, he's genetically tall, but the bad conditions of his upbringing messed him up."

    But as appealing as this view is, it's still completely wrong.

    The fact of the matter is, genes are just molecules. They do not define ANY trait (height or otherwise) except for with respect to an environment. There is not such thing as "the height your genes would make you, without the influence of an environment." Because without an environment, your genes wouldn't turn into a person at all.

    Sorry if this is a strange analogy. But what I'm getting at is this: You still cling to this notion that there exists some personality, some "way you would be", if you had never learned anything, if you had never made any big decisions about who you wanted to be, if you had never chosen goal A over goal B in your life. That "true self" doesn't exist... it's a non-sensical idea, in fact. Because personalities only develope THROUGH our decisions, our goals, and our deliberate actions.

    Whew. That was long. I'm gonna go to the gym now. LOL
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    Aug 28, 2007 12:11 AM GMT
    I think it's being said all throught the thread, but I'll say it anyways:

    Behavior changes through time, specially when youre growing up, being a teenager and creating or developing your personality. But it happens all throughout our life too.

    Most of these changes are completely unconscious: Attitudes and behaviors of others rub off on us without even realizing it.
    There are some people, however, that become aware of these changes and simply take control.
    I don't think there's anything wrong or fake with that. I mean, everybody changes to adapt to new situations and environments, whether they are aware of it or not, so what's wrong with being aware of it?

    When youre establishing or changing your behaviors for whatever reason, you choose your role models based on what YOUR PERSONALITY deems "cool", "desirable", "professional", etc.
    You're not betraying yourself, since your personality IS the one choosing the role model.

    And this is very tacky, but to all those people who say that you betray yourself when you consciously pick and choose who you want to be, I'd reply:

    "What if one of the characteristics of my SELF is to copy behaviors that i find desirable?"
    Wouldn't I be betraying myself for not doing so?