1. Your place of birth.
Whether you are born in a country of law and order, or in the middle of a war-torn zone, your worldview would have been shaped by what you see as you grew up. Even within a country, it makes a difference if you are born in the countryside or in the city; in the ghettos or in the private hospitals. Many issues, like your priorities, the pace of life or standards of living will diverge.
2. Your parents’ identity.
You would have been shaped by how your parents brought you up. This depends largely on their unique personalities, and how they work together. Parenting styles can range from authoritative, collaborative, controlling to indulging and will make a difference to one’s character traits such as levels of self-entitlement or one’s expressiveness.
3. Your socio-economic background.
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em” goes the quote from Twelfth Night. Ultimately, we would have been born into different levels of comfort and luxury. The goods we receive, or lack thereof, from toys to education to books would have given us head starts or a lack of development. Importantly as well, children from richer families might grow a sense of self-centeredness, or a desire to give back, while children from poorer families might develop a bitterness about life, or a wish to change the world for the better.
4. Your social circles.
We are often mistaken into thinking that we have the power to choose our friends. Think of a random friend you met at school. Don’t you think that it could have easily been another person if you had found yourself enrolled in a different school? Also, it just so happened that at that point in time, you had shared an experience with your friend that bonded both of you. It could have been so different if there was no such experience, or if both of you had met at another point in time.
The social circles we find ourselves in are largely dependent on the schools our parents send us to and our socio-economic backgrounds. Children from richer families tend to go to private schools and socialize with friends from similar backgrounds, whilst those who cannot afford an education might end up working in industries where they meet similar people.
5. Your teachers.
The great teacher inspires, while the mediocre teacher tells. Oftentimes, the passion we have for our subjects are nurtured by great teachers. The potential we have for great art and drama would have been developed only by teachers capable of doing so. In the same way, the love for a subject can be extinguished if one is taught in a restrictive or overly technical manner.
If you have a passion for a subject today, or have done well in school, the chances are that you would have been taught by several good teachers. The quality of teachers in turn, are also dependent on the budget and recruitment processes of schools – factors which are way beyond our control.
6. Your religion, or lack thereof.
One may look at the stars and feel the infinite vastness of God’s love. Another may see the beauty of astrology and cosmology. Others might see the stars as the emblems of many deities. All of us would have been brought up to believe in certain things about the divine, or lack thereof. And until we develop an intellectual honesty and independence to re-evaluate our stance, we would view the world and our current state of affairs in lenses influenced deeply by our religious upbringing.
7. Your race and language.
The skin colour and first language that you speak are features that will stick with you for a lifetime. More importantly though is that in several societies, one’s rights are intricately linked to one’s race or language. This will in turn affect one’s social stature or economic privileges.
8. Your cultural exposure.
The foods we consume, the plays we watch, the historical sites we visit are all dependent on where we live, and the kind of culture we are born into. The cultural exposure we go through will shape our thinking and beliefs. This will aid us in the future when we require cultural deftness to attain jobs or social privileges. Our horizons are also shaped by how much we know of the world, and those who have less cultural exposure might possess narrower worldviews.
9. Your moral education.
The values you develop through your life are largely shaped by the judicial system you grow up in, and the childhood socialization processes unique to your society. What you perceive as right and wrong are not necessarily universal. Much of it depend on the punishments you receive as a child when you step out of line, or the rewards you gain by performing specific actions. Until we are able to develop stronger cognitive abilities, we would have taken it for granted that any action which we are told is wrong, or any person whom the state claims is in the wrong, is definitely wrong.
10. The opportunities afforded by your society.
All being said and done, even if the first nine factors are fulfilled ideally, you will not get much further in life if there is a dearth of opportunities provided by your society. Many famous people in history are fortunate to be born during economic booms or in cultures without persecution. It is important that a society possesses the right levels of social mobility, adequate infrastructure, a sustainable economy and enough good jobs for the people within it to flourish.
In many countries where children are starving, or where jobs are inadequate, much potential is lost. University graduates work as road sweepers, while young and intelligent lives are lost to hunger. Ideal childhoods will not be enough to secure a fulfilling life if society does not provide the opportunities to advance.