The Ripple Effect: 6 Ways Our Learned Behaviors Determine The Legacy We Leave

by Meg Lake

A hand-me-down, by definition, is something that has been passed on from another person.

Most likely, you’ll refer to that old coat with holes in it that never kept you warm in the winter, or the high heels in your mother’s closet that your 6-year-old feet prayed they'd one day fit inside.

It is the house that’s been in your family for generations, or that weird glass duck your mom keeps on the mantle, and no one really knows where it came from.

These things have value, so they're kept, maintained and passed down.

These are the attributes that have shaped you into the person you are today. It’s the ideals, beliefs and quirks we learned from people in our lives that had an impact far greater than a birthday gift.

A hand-me-down isn't just an object; it is something that makes you who you are.

It is your mannerisms: the way you move and gestures you make.

It’s why you always twirl your hair because your older sister did it when she was talking to boys.

It’s the nervous ticks you inherited from your mother because she hates public speaking, or the way you always talk with your hands because your family always had to show rather than tell you what they were talking about.

It is your voice, and the way it carries you through life.

The things we say and how we say them are learned behaviors. There's a reason you say certain words with inflections or twangs. You may hold your tongue and wait for others to speak, or tend to blurt out your thoughts without thinking of the repercussions.

Maybe you speak up when you see something wrong, or tend to sit back and take it all in.

It is the lesson you learn from the past.

Whether it be a day, a week, a month or years, people in our lives impact us. It’s because of that time you fell in love too quickly, and from then on, refused to show all your cards from the start.

It’s the friends who made you laugh, realizing you need those more than ones who will bring you down. It’s that man on the street who greets you every day, letting you know that the littlest bit goes the longest way.

It is your genetic makeup.

Or the reason why you dealt with curly hair through puberty when all the pretty girls had straight. It’s why your thighs are thicker and your waist is smaller. It’s why your face is longer and your nose is pointy, and the reason you can't digest dairy or are prone to alcoholism.

It’s all the things that make up who you are and remind you of where you came from.

As human beings, we are all walking examples of what has been handed down to us. We represent an amalgam of experiences, cultures, perceptions and memories, all of which affect how we act on a day-to-day basis, for both the good and the bad.

We will all pass these things down.

Just remember this fact the next time you don't say hi to that stranger on the street, talk down to someone without thinking of the effect it will have or go for the guy you think you can change when you’ve never been able to change any of them.

Recognize that how you speak, act and perceive the world has a ripple effect extending far beyond your closest friends. Make the effort to put out positive ripples into the world, passing down love, acceptance and equality.

It starts with you. What will you hand down?

Photo Courtesy: Tumblr