Strength & Weakness: Nurture


Yesterday, we established self-sacrifice as a strength, but identified the same characteristic as a weakness. Natural self-sacrifice is truly a strength which furthers humanity. Self-sacrifice as a weakness is not an instinct, but instead, is learned behavior.

Out of the Bubble

Outside the vacuum we are exposed to societal expectations and contemporary norms. Over time both change, just the way fashions, laws and personal attitudes do. Looking at the influences themselves shows how the instinctual strength turns into weakness.


English: Family portrait, 1905 Family portrait...

Home life is one of the smallest social circles but the largest influence on our attitudes toward gauging ourselves as important and establishing healthy self esteem. Two major influences are our parents’ example to and their opinion (perceived or stated) of us. Parents are a perfect example of how to handle oneself or a poignant display of what not to do.

Perceived Opinion

When the child is left to perceive what the parent thinks, assumption can lead down a rocky path. Actions speak volumes to the child whose parents do not validate his status as a person, in the family and in society in general. The values necessary to establishing good self-esteem are central to parenting a strong child. If those lessons are left to the child’s observation of the parents, often the strength dissipates.

Stated Opinion

Blatantly informing a child of the parental opinion is a two-edged sword. A positive opinion reinforces strength. A negative opinion erodes it. Children have a natural desire for parental approval. Lacking such approval creates a morass of self-doubt which produces weakness.


Peer pressure is not child’s play since it extends into adulthood. Peers are the next largest social circle which influences how we view ourselves in the context of society. Stronger people will withstand peer pressure more easily than weaker ones. It is of note, not all strong people will apply positive peer pressure. Within the earliest peer circles, the practice of self-sacrifice becomes a personal norm, unlikely to change direction, but likely to intensify.



The smallest social circle is where the weakness shows the most impact. The self-sacrifice in marriage can be mild, giving up belief systems, religious or occupational pursuits, or monumental, succumbing to emotional and physical abuse. When self-sacrifice within a marriage is strictly to maintain the status of the marriage, rather than to strengthen it through personal growth, it is an insurmountable weakness.

The Big Picture

Once exposed to the society as a whole, the largest circles appear. National, political, religious, occupational and fraternal affiliations broaden our scope of tenets and ideals. Seeking unqualified acceptance into circles this large requires a level of self-sacrifice which is weakness.

How did it happen?

In our desire to be accepted into society, we can sacrifice our own ethical character to garner approval. The moment self-sacrifice turns from helping humanity to furthering social standing is when strength becomes weakness.


Unlike nature, the weakness created by self-sacrifice is not equally distributed between men and women. While men are not immune, women fall prey to weakness far more often than men. Beginning with the initial examples of parents, women are met with more pressures which erode their self-esteem.

  • Parental molding of what being a woman is
  • Peer pressure of other girls and their parents’ ideals
  • Society’s glorification of certain women/girls
  • Society’s disdain for certain women/girls
  • Stereotyping of beauty

In terms of abusive relationships, women are more often the physical victims, but men are just as likely to be emotional victims. Both sexes withstand the abuse to maintain the affiliation based on both familial and societal norms. They sacrifice their own health and well-being to meet someone else’s expectation of what they should be. If children are present, they become the parental example.


If you have missed the beginning of this series, visit the following links to catch up. The comments are important to understanding how we got to this post.

Strength & Weakness: Hers

Strength & Weakness: His

Strength & Weakness: His vs. Hers

Strength & Weakness: Theirs

Strength & Weakness: Nature


Which influence do you think is the most powerful? Which one is the easiest to overcome?


(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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  1. I think that the ‘most powerful and easiest to overcome’ influences change with time. Peer pressure/ media is definitely powerful to children/ teens… parental influences are just as powerful but may not manifest themselves until later … good post!

    • You are right; they do shift as we age. Glad you mentioned the shift in parental influence. Commonly referred as “The older I get, the smarter my parents get.” Glad to see you today! Red.

    • So agree. By college the outward low self-esteem vanished. so time does help. As does the entire ‘fake it till you make it’ ideal. Sadly, the inward feelings have never diminished.
      As the saying goes ‘the funniest person in the room is the loneliest’

  2. Peer pressure had no effect on me, except to make me more of an outsider as I did not fit into anything during school; too fat, too smart, no coordination, too sarcastic. Until college when I blossomed.
    Hmmmm maybe peer pressure did have an effect -grin-.

    I sincerely believe being an outcast (at an early age) does have the capacity to raise a child’s IQ (even with the 16 point deviation scale applied to recognized tests), by placing the child in a world by themselves, surrounded by nothing but books and a desire to learn and please -anyone. Particularly if the parents also ignore the child for the most part.

    It could have gone the other way though. The Nurture thing once again raises it’s head. If things had been different, and I fit in and my parents recognized I was alive -except as a ‘thing’ to brag about based on nothing but scholarly accomplishments- adult life may have been boring and devoid of new experiences, knowledge and thoughtfulness.

    I DO wonder if it would have had an effect on the clinical depression and eventual bi-polar problems. Is it just chemicals that make such a huge difference? Could nurture dampen these feelings and illness?

    Just a personal note based on experience.

    Digging your series. Thoughtful and as always insightful, both in your words and the thoughts it evokes.
    Many Thanks.

    • Oh… did I mention the 25 years I was bulemic? lmao. Okay going with the nature (genes) and nurture (advertising and peer pressure). Ohhh I LOVE it when someone else’s writing makes me think 😉

      • So, just maybe, there was a little more peer pressure in the early years. Makes me wonder if you found in books a different ideal than the one presented in person. Influences are not only the human ones… Keep thinking…Red

    • I like you talking about how the HS experience changed the college experience. Some of what we learn in one peer group affects how we respond in a subsequent group. Good observation!

      As to what you wonder, I may explore this in greater detail, but the short form is no and yes. Glad you are enjoying your time here. Red.

  3. This one gets a WOW! Very well said. I had a very strong-willed sister and a hyper baby brother. My sister took whatever space… she wanted, my brother snuggled in taking up most of the rest and I sacrificed by taking as small a space as possible. It took a long time to learn that that kind of sacrifice is no good for anyone. So this kind of hit me in the face because of those issues in my past. I’ve never really found good words to explain that, but you did.

    “When the child is left to perceive what the parent thinks, assumption can lead down a rocky path.” This will definately spark a blog post. It goes well with my one on bullying because kids do tend to assume a LOT, and it can lead to some major problems. I tell my grandkids to flick that little devil off their shoulder who whispers things like, “She doesn’t love you or she wouldn’t”, “That’s not fair”, “Poor you”, etc. Unfortunately, we don’t always outgrow this tendency.

    Anyway, awesome post:) Angie 🙂

    • I am glad you got some good out of this one! No, sometimes we do not outgrow the shoulder angel/devil. Therein is the weakness of nurture. Truly, the only way to outgrow it is to be strong enough to trust one’s inner judgment, thereby silencing the shoulder devil.

      As always, I am humbled by your inspirations, Red.

  4. ‘Fifty Things to do Butt Naked’
    Now that caught my eye straight
    away on this posting so now we
    have established that this quote
    is 99% on the button what do I
    have to add about your posting? 🙂

    Well actually I rather like it Red
    indeed it is a very nice and well
    written posting 🙂

    Androgoth XXx

    • When the mind is full the eye still seeks, eh? Surely your societal influence is great. Have a wicked night, Andro. 😉 Red.

  5. awarewriter

     /  December 20, 2011

    You nailed this one Red. Actions rule. Mere words and opinions are meaningless without the validation of example.

    My family life, coupled with the strict Irish Catholic Church and schooling were the strongest influences, especially in my early years. And I think this pair have been the hardest to overcome.

    I’ve thought about these and all the other influences you mention and I see them all as script writers. They write the script you are expected to follow through life. When you follow another’s script you live your life based on their expectations. And they expect you to live your life to please them.

    It’s taken me most of a lifetime to grow big enough balls to rip up their scripts and write my own. Of course that script is constantly changing but that’s a large part of the deliciousness of life.

    Bottom line. To be truly happy you must discover and establish a loving relationship with your true self.


    • And as usual, dear friend, you see where the train heads despite the lack of itinerary. Have a wonderful evening, McD. Red.

  6. Bear

     /  December 21, 2011

    As a child of the 60s and 70s I was brought up to learn that sex was something that was NEVER discussed. Social political events were of one view-Dad’s “bigoted, damn commie, long hairs should all be shot” racial slurs, plenty of them. There were no warm fuzzies at my house. no sirree bob.

    Ok, so here’s what I learned, that I need to be me not what my father was or wanted me to be. My Dad later mellowed and had lost a lot of his hate by the time he passed away. In school, I was a fat kid who was made fun of and picked on and at one point in my young years, I came close to taking my own life. My Mom was too wrapped up in my sister to care about me. So, I was left to my own devises I became a loner, a trait which I still hang onto today. People tell me this is a bad trait, but it works for me only the people in my most inner circle know anything about me.

    Long gone are the days of self loathing, humiliation suffered at the hands of the others and so on. I became who I am because of my upbringing or lack of it. I learned what NOT to be by example. I always thought that was kinda strange. And last, I thought I was the only one brought up this way … Guess not

    • It appears that parenting style was popular throughout the last century. It makes me wonder if the changes in the marital landscape are the influence which has changed the pervasiveness of this style (albeit, not the eradication of it). Thank you for sharing such intimate details, Red.

  7. This is a very interesting post, absolutely yes – especially about assumption. And oh, man, don’t I know about STATED OPINION. My father’s stated opinion of me was disparaging, negative, expectant of the worst possible behaviour from a person and very clear that “WHEN (not if) you get pregnant, there will be no 11 Hiddleston for you to come back to.” The regrettable thing in this, is that I had not been taught how you get pregnant.

    Love the strength of your pages, Red.

    • Red

       /  May 9, 2012

      Good to see you today, Noeleen. This was a powerful series. I am glad you could identify with the points in it. You will like some of the others as well. They give a good basis to seeing how we chose where we currently stand and how to change those choices if need be. xxx

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